By MALUM NALU
AMAZING shots of Down Town by my photographer mate, Milen Stiliyanov, show a city showered in golden glory as the sun comes up.
Stunning images of a growing metropolis that will host APEC 2018.
That’s up there where the air is rare, but on ground zero, it’s a completely different story.
The town is being painted bright red by buai (betelnut) spittle, rubbish is everywhere, the public transport system leaves much to be desired, and we denizens know better than to walk around as it’s a place that even angels fear to tread both during the day and at night.
The red spittle is ubiquitous with the entire place being painted red.
It’s a disgusting and insidious habit.
People – even those highly educated ones holding big jobs – spit everywhere without a care in the world.
We talk about corruption, crime, homebrew and marijuana, but the spitting of buai is just as bad.
Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea will host APEC 2018 in a few months’ time.
We are already laying the red carpet for our visitors, or so it seems.
The Economist Intelligence Unit last month disparaged Port Moresby as one of the “10 worst cities to live in the world in 2017.”
Tourism Promotion Authority chief executive officer Jerry Agus is disgusted with the spitting and littering habit in Port Moresby, particularly given the fact that this is done by well-educated people, who should be setting an example for the community.
This, needless to say, is portraying a very bad image of Port Moresby – and Papua New Guinea – on the eve of APEC 2018.
Agus says these well-educated people are spitting betelnut and throwing rubbish out of moving vehicles.
“If you go to traffic lights and see betelnut stains and all that, there are a good number of uneducated people from the settlements doing that, but sometimes you will be surprised to see working-class people, people who are educated with degrees like doctors or lawyers, are the ones,” he tells me.
“These are the basic things.
“It won’t cost you money.
“You can only change your attitude if you can really embrace the importance of living in this country.
“It’s all about taking ownership.
“You can say that I am a Papua New Guinean, I love my country, and so what can I do to make this place a better place?
“Don’t throw rubbish, don’t spit betelnut, because your kids, your wantoks, your relatives will follow what you do.
“If you start throwing rubbish, you start throwing betelnut, then what else do you expect people in the settlements to do?
“What do you expect the uneducated to do?
“All of us don’t have to think big, expecting the city authority to come up with policies and programmes to clean the city.
“You do your part.
“Everybody else will do theirs and the place will be completely transformed.”
The importance of Port Moresby can’t be overstated.
“Port Moresby plays a very important role in terms of the image of the country as well,”Agus says.
“If we can get Port Moresby right, we can get PNG right.
“We can’t promote Alotau, and we can’t promote Kokopo, Goroka and all these places as thriving tourism destinations without addressing Port Moresby.
“Port Moresby plays a very important part in terms of tourism development, in terms of anything.
“At the moment, anything and everything that happens in Port Moresby, sends a signal to the rest of the world as to whether we are a good city to live in or we are one of the worst cities to live in.
“They think that Port Moresby is Papua New Guinea.
“That’s how things are. If we can get things right in Port Moresby, that will send a positive image about Papua New Guinea as well.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit disparaged Port Moresby as one of the “10 worst cities to live in the world in 2017”.
The report released last month and on the eve of APEC 2018 which Port Moresby will host, ranked 140 of the “most – and least – liveable cities in the world”.
The index ranks cities worldwide by how “liveable” they are, awarding them points out of 100 according to stability, healthcare, culture/environment, education and infrastructure.
Port Moresby was ranked fifth with 39.6 out of 100 points, scoring lowest in terms of stability (just 30 points), but earned a higher percentage for education (50) and culture and environment (47).
“Personally, I think that there are far worse cities in the world than Port Moresby,” Agus says.
“Port Moresby is not as dangerous as what people perceive.
“You can’t be shot at Jackson Airport. Upon arrival there are no domestic terrorists moving around.
“It’s just that we get a lot of negative stories out to the media all the time.
“Sometimes there’s some truth in it, sometimes it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if we continue to get negative stories out there on a regular basis, then it appears that that place is very dangerous.”
Agus appeals to everyone to embrace Port Moresby as their city as “all of us spend most of our time in Port Moresby, we don’t go home, we have to take Port Moresby as our home.”
“We have to look after the city as well,” he says.
“Port Moresby is not the worst city.
“Port Moresby has problems which we can’t say are very difficult.
“We have issues that can easily be managed like settlements.
“If we can at least look for ways to put our settlements in the right places, provide opportunities for the people living in the settlements and all that, then I’m sure that all these things will surely calm down.
“We can’t get rid of all of it but I’m sure we can minimise some of the things that are happening.
“We are not the best city.
“We have the potential to change Port Moresby into one of the liveable cities.”
Back in 2015, I saw this beautiful picture book of Port Moresby put together by Dame Rachael Cleland and Post-Courier photographer Clive Hyde from the late 1960s, on display t at Vision City.
I was swept away by emotion after seeing pictures from the glory days of our capital and reading this wonderful poem extolling its virtues.
I love the bare brown hills
Surrounding Moresby Town,
I love its sparkling turquoise sea
And the glow when the sun goes down.
I love the white and dazzling beach
And the surf upon the outer reef
And the warmth of the sun for balm.
I love the pale gold hills
As they rise from the turquoise sea,
Where the white caps race as the trade wind spills
Its cooling strength on me.
And the children run and shout and sing
And the stroller strums his guitar,
And the cars rush by in an endless stream
And the Friar bird calls from afar.
I love the shapes of the tawny hills,
As they pile up against the sky.
Purple shadows stain their flanks
And the valleys where grass is dry.
And then at last I love the rain
Which falls on the thirsty earth,
And turns the hills a tender green
To celebrate joy in rebirth.