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2020 has been a horrifying year for many of us here in PNG and around the world. While the rest of the world is doing much to battle the dangers of Covid19, here in PNG gender based violence continues to be a serious concern.
The irony is that issues of gender based violence, TB and HIV have been in existence for so long yet nothing or not much has been done about it. But the swift actions of battling Covid19 has left some wondering what our priorities really are.
We don’t need to “Take Back PNG”, we need to “Take Forward PNG”!
To take PNG forward, requires appropriate laws and policies to drive the country to be safe from concerning issues like gender based violence, domestic, police brutality.
Much of the laws that have been enacted are somewhat reactive. Reactive to our shortcomings. For example, the declared State of Emergency. There is no way Papua New Guinea would have handled a Covid19 outbreak because of our under resourced hospitals hence the restrictions that came with it were understandable. But despite this incapability, it does not excuse our past Government as to why they had not provided or funded these facilities to an acceptable level.
We’ve gone as far as amending the Summary Offences Act to make betelnut chewing and spitting in public a criminal offence with fines at a staggering K10,000 or imprisonment for terms no more than three years. While the penalties do seem as a deterrent, they are undoubtedly unrealistic to our circumstances and not to forget, the enforcement itself is another concerning issue. This betelnut law has been enacted as a result of the unprecedented levels of filth in our city.
Even our laws to battle corruption have come about because of the escalating level of corruption. While the lawmakers should be commended for making such laws, there are once again questions on the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement?
Papua New Guinea has been too reactive to situations, that issues of concern are raised now and forgotten tomorrow.
So what should be done about our concerning circumstances for a better PNG?
Papua New Guinea needs to start introducing laws and regulations appropriate to our circumstances, relevant to our issues with a view of making Papua New Guinea a “safe” nation.
If we had to, using the current Government’s slogan – Rich Black Nation” (without the word “Black”), we should be looking to build our nation rich with respect, dignity and appreciation of each other.
Papua New Guinea now more than ever needs to be proactive in how we want to move on as a nation.
Our circumstances are at the lowest of levels, we need to start teaching our young on what is right and wrong and adapted to suit a modern PNG.
Education, is at the heart of how PNG should move forward.
Teachings must be at all levels whether it be at school, in the police force, the army and all systems we have in place. The grim reality is that our systems have failed us and we have adapted ourselves to take “advantage” of the loopholes in the systems to unjustly enrich and benefit from it.
A couple of years ago during the Easter break, a little boy, Timmy (aged 5) went Easter shopping with his parents. He excitedly grabbed one of the Easter eggs on display, and with a sense of enthusiasm to “dig into” the chocolate, he quickly unwrapped it. With a curios and wondering look in his eyes, he held the wrapper in his hand searching around for the closest bin to dispose off the wrapper.
Why can’t we adults be like this little boy and dispose off our litter the right way? Why can’t we teach our children the correct way to dispose of litter. Our situation is so bad that we need a law with a ridiculous K10,000 fine to make us do the “right thing”!
A law is only as effective as its enforcement and if our enforcement is as shoddy as our careless attitude towards rubbish disposal, the penalties serve no purpose. The whole law becomes useless, but our circumstances remain the same, if not, worse.
Our lawmakers need to start considering laws that take us forward from the horrific situations we are finding ourselves. We need to start making it compulsory for certain types of courses like gender equality, to be taught in schools with the aim of teaching our children about respect for another human.
We need to start grooming better citizens of Papua New Guinea. We can’t bring up the next best leaders unless we have a pool of better citizens to chose from.
If Covid19 has taught us how to wash our hands, use sanitizers in 2020, then it isn’t too late to embed at kindergarten, primary school etc about the importance of respecting one another regardless of gender, race and religion.
It’s not too late about teaching our young about proper rubbish disposal, why it’s important and the risks it poses to our environment and our future. Even about betelnut consumption, the littering of it, safe sex and more. There is so much to teach it should be compulsory by law to teach appropriate topics relevant to a child’s age.
We are so much focused on academic areas, that our ignorance on being a better human being is now eating away the true fabric of our society.
Some may argue that these lessons are best taught at home and that is indeed correct. But again, our current situation calls for a drastic overhaul of how we bring up our next lot of citizens. Even highly qualified professionals, the kind of people one would expect to help and educate young citizens, have been alleged to be perpetrators of heinous acts of crime. Even worse, some are even questioning the victims or justifying barbaric acts of violence.
Of course it’s easier said than done. And yes, it won’t be an overnight fix. Again yes, it will be impossible to eradicate every act of crime. But our situation begs and calls for something positive to be done immediately to take PNG forward from the sorry state we find ourselves in.
Our situation calls for some of the basic lessons in life to be taught at schools by qualified and well rewarded teachers in environments conducive to learning. We can’t continue to rely on existing laws to react to some of the horrific situations we’ve read in the paper. We need to start creating and enforcing appropriate laws designed to build better citizens.
That’s one way to “Take Forward PNG”!