By GABRIEL FITO
EAST Sepik province will observe a 41-day liquor sale ban this Christmas following a public outcry for authorities to get tougher on drink-related crimes.
The Dec 22-Feb 1 ban was announced yesterday by provincial administrator Samson Torovi.
The resolution to impose a complete ban on the sale of liquor was unanimously passed during the provincial liquor board meeting.
Mr Torovi told reporters that the administration had taken this measure because it did not want to see innocent men, women and children continue to suffer from people who abused alcohol.
He said liquor was contributing to the increase in HIV cases, domestic violence and deaths and, therefore, swift actions must be taken.
Mr Torovi, who is also chairman of the liquor board, said the ban would be strictly enforced by police with the exception of hotels and motels which could serve alcohol with meals.
He said during the period, only three hotels in Wewak and one in Maprik were allowed to sell alcohol, but the board could issue temporary licences for operators to serve certain interest groups during this period where there was a need.
Mr Torovi said the board had also resolved, among others, to review the current liquor law to include homebrew and create a proper database to monitor, control and regulate the sale of liquor in the province.
Provincial police commander Insp Charles Parinjo welcomed the board’s decision, saying that the ban would create space for police to clamp down on the production and consumption of homebrew.
He said police operations would start on Dec 23 and his men would not hesitate to arrest and charge trouble makers.
East Sepik chamber of commerce and industry president, Leslie Wungen, also supported the board’s decision but with some unwillingness because the ban would mean loss of money for business houses.
But Mr Wungen said because there would be more alcohol abuse this Christmas if liquor was not controlled, the chamber would accept the board’s decision.
Church representative on the board, Fr Lawrence Tanu, and women’s representative Sophie Mangai, also supported the ban saying it would reduce family violence and promote Christianity among families and the communities they live in during the festive season.