Violence will undo PNG’s economic gains

Editorial

THE Government’s intent to grow the economy through the national budget passed on Tuesday is to be applauded.
Through the 2018 budget, the State is going to put its money where its mouth is – to benefit the bulk of the population dependent on the agricultural sector.
Coupled with these increased budget allocations to stimulate investment in the sector, there is further good news that tree crops like coffee and copra would see a modest price hike in the near future.
This should motivate rural folks, who are just about abandoning their small plantations, to return to work on them in anticipation of improvements in world commodity prices.
There is also optimism in that the Department of Works will rehabilitate some of the vital roads to enable efficiency and improved production in the agricultural sector and other economic activities.
A day after presenting the
K14.7 billion budget the week before, Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister Charles Abel told the PNG Mining and Petroleum Conference in Port Moresby that there was optimism and a positive outlook for 2018.
Improvements in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors in general are the reason for such optimism.
The small-to-medium enterprise sector has also been given due recognition in the budget and some serious government intervention is expected, such as direct funding to the National Development Bank and a business incubation programme.
The Government’s objective in all this is poverty alleviation among the rural communities, job creation and – ultimately – national economic growth.
But the economic prosperity envisaged by the Government and its development partners would be pointless if PNG society is suffering from violence and social disorder.
Apart from investing in programmes to put money into people’s pockets to enable them to access quality products and services, it is simple common sense to also spend money to ensure peace and security in the communities.
Recent cases of violence against people suspected of practising sorcery and tribal enemies are worrying.
In one such case in Kainantu, Eastern Highlands, last Thursday, a group of 14 defenceless men were brutally attacked, hacked and a number of them burnt.
Such an attack is indicative of people who have no regard for the law and for human life. It is a backward step in a changing community and there can be no justification, not even long-standing tribal conflicts, for such atrocity
Following the attack, local MP and Mining Minister Johnson Tuke called on law enforcement agencies to arrest the perpetrators.
He suggested a combined force to round up the Onerungka villagers and take them to face the law for their crime.
The incident is yet another test for the strength of law enforcement in the country which is itself another area crying out for a major resource injection.
There is a whole lot more to crime and lawlessness in our rural communities and urban centres than what is reported in the media.
Many very serious crimes are never attended to because of a breakdown in law and order and lack of law enforcement.
In all cases of violence and crime, the public naturally expects police to step in and arrest the perpetrators.
However, when police manpower and resources are stretched it is quite futile to expect them to attend to crime and restore peace and harmony in communities.
There is a frightening rise in violence in the country, in some instances it is used in the name of justice to penalise wrongdoers or suspects.
Such violence also manifests itself in holding the State and investors to ransom over matters that could be settled by the use of established systems to seek redress.
This is totally unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
A change of mindsets is needed so we do not always expect law enforcement agencies to provide security and peace in communities. Instead of depending entirely on government agencies like police to be at all places at all times to react to crime and violence, the public need to be proactive.
We need to rid the sickening level of violence in families and communities.
Without peace and harmony, prosperity is pointless. In fact the absence of violence will be a catalyst to economic growth and a good quality of life.

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