We need to take ownership of towns, cities


THERE is a general mentality among the public that keeping the streets of our cities, towns and villages clean and in order is a job for the authorities.
The idea that maintaining order and peace – and a balanced state – is somehow the public service’s responsibility is not only regressive but detrimental to progress.
Taking care of the public walkways, roads and areas used by people of all walks of life on a daily basis is not entirely the state’s sole responsibility.
The powers that govern at every level of society, whether it be at the ward, local level government, district or provincial, are there as regulators.
The people themselves must bear the weight of care.
But it takes two sides to make it a success.
Papua New Guinea’s major towns and cities are experiencing an unprecedented level of growth in terms of the expansion of the economy and the size of the population.
With these rapid changes come the need to instil in the people a sense of pride and unity.
These are abstract concepts but they are key to keeping order and ensuring that people contribute in a positive way to the communities they live in.
Port Moresby is the leader in growth and development and what the capital city’s political leadership under Governor Powes Parkop has been trying to do to bring about change in attitudes is commendable but by no means a solvable problem for the short term.
As an example, Parkop has been a staunch campaigner against betel nut chewing and the problems this widely practised habit has had on the city.
Bans, restrictions, messaging and controls have been tried since he entered office and by now, the governor must realise that regulating the people’s attitudes is not something can be done in a term of office or even two.
It is a generational change that will take place over time provided there is constant positive reinforcement of the right behaviour.
Earlier in the month, the NCDC deputy city manager, community and social services, Lulu Ted, had to call a media conference to reinforce the need for people to be responsible when dealing with the betel nut issue.
It is understood that the trading of betel nut helps people earn a living.
But when the people involved in this trade do it irresponsibly – it becomes a problem.
NCDC announced a campaign dubbed “Operation Klinim Mosbi” in August which was aimed at a safer and cleaner city. But unless the city residents take ownership of this programme, it will not work.
NCDC does not want to revert to the heavy-handed tactics that created plenty of problems and was a public relations nightmare for City Hall sometimes back.
Therefore, as residents who call Port Moresby home, everybody has a responsibility to do the right thing.
We can start by disposing the spittle and the rubbish in the right places and refusing to buy from vendors who are plying their trade at the wrong places.
But what has happened to the rubbish bins installed by NCDC at public places? They have disappeared. That is another challenge NCDC faces – people do not respect public property.
Those who live in Port Moresby need to take ownership of the city and embrace it as if it was their personal property because people have a tendency to take more care when something belongs to them.
It is an uphill battle but it is not a dilemma experienced by this city alone.
Every city and town on the globe has issues to deal with.
In many instances, the societies that have made headway in achieving peaceful, progressive and harmonious existence are those which have strong and effective policing and a sound, fair justice system.
Strengthening the system and reducing corruption is the means to this end while the question remains: Can the people at the top stay the course?

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