By GIBSON TORASO
Papua New Guinea’s anti-drug agency, the National Narcotics Bureau, under the leadership of director Nichodemus Mosoro is taking a new approach in fighting the abuse of alcohol and marijuana in the country.
Mosoro, who had been appointed recently to revive the defunct agency, believes strongly that reaching out to rehabilitating drug and alcohol abuse victims in the prisons and sending them back to the community to do awareness after serving their time is a strategic approach in educating the public, especially the youths about the impacts of abusing alcohol, homebrew and marijuana.
It was on the last Thursday of last month at the Bomana prison when prisoners, Correctional Services officers, Narcotics officers lead by Mosoro, CS Commissioner Michael Waipo, Dr Losavati Wilbur from Laloki Psychiatric Hospital and representatives from the National Capital District Commission gathered to witness the graduation of 20 prisoners. The graduation programme included song items, testimonies and dramas.
In one of the plays, the narrator explains about a group named Ragamapin XX Squad which is made up of youths including school dropouts and single mothers from Laloki area in Central. Located close to the National Capital District and along the Hiritano Highway, the place the group calls home and where they are involved in underworld activities, also hosts the country’s only psychiatric hospital. Lakoki, as a growing ghetto in the outskirts of Port Moresby, is known for its notorious criminal activities.
A group of prisoners from the women’s wing played the squad’s daily life involving consuming marijuana and homebrew. The drama was relevant to the topics in the rehabilitation programme that they underwent in a week-long training about drug and alcohol abuse delivered in partnership with the Bomana Prison management.
According to the narrator, a group of mothers and young girls puffing marijuana and consuming homebrew which is commonly known as paia wara were members of the Ragamapin XX Squad. The group is also involved in other criminal activities in the city out of Laloki.
To their surprise, according to the narrator, a police unit on patrol caught the group consuming or abusing alcohol and marijuana.
She said the group was picked up by the police unit and taken to the Boroko Police Station in Port Moresby where they were arrested and charged for consuming and being in possession of marijuana and paia wara and locked them in the cell awaiting court appearance.
A week later, the group appeared before a magistrate at the Boroko district court and each were sentenced to serve time in prison, explained the narrator. During the sentencing, the members of the squad were explained the rules and regulations to follow in the prison and how much time each would serve.
The play ended with members of the Ragamapin XX Squad repenting and giving their lives to Christ in a church camp hosted in the prison and walking out of Bomana after serving their time as changed persons.
The drama illustrated how youths in Papua New Guinea who were involved in substance abuse ended in prison and the long road of returning to freedom.
CS commissioner Michael Wapo said the partnership had been fruitful and that would see the prisoners come out of Bomana as changed people.
“I am happy to see you went through the programme and graduating as a changed person,” Waipo told the graduating prisoners.
“Drug is a crisis. We have been advocating in the communities but solutions to education about drug abuse is with us too.
“That’s why it’s good you are graduating after this programme. You can go back and be a good ambassador because when others talk about it, that won’t have a big impact.”
The commissioner said undergoing such aprogramme was another thing but spreading the message was another and with God’s help we have to work to help our citizens know the impacts of drug and alcohol abuse.
Waipo said going out from the prison and talking about the danger of marijuana and homebrew would have more impact on reduction.
Dr Losavati Wilbur of the Laloki Psychiatric Hospital told the prisoners that good mental health was related to good life as there is no good life without better mental health.
She said physical and mental health work hand in hand and good health is vital for all facets of life.
“Abuse of substance like marijuana and alcohol adds to mental illness for people,” Wilbur said, adding that mental health problems related to drug and alcohol abuse was a global issue.
“Alcohol and drug abuse adds to mental health problems as use is either intentional or unintentional.
“Substance abuse also leads to unsafe sex practice. No one will change you. It’s yourself. We will only educate and advice.”
Wilbur said personal development through such rehabilitation programmes would help drug abuse victims.
Deputy NCDC city manager Ted Lulu said the drug abuse in Port Moresby was a big issue that was contributing to social problems in the city.
“The city is investing in such programmes to change people for the better,” he said.
“Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem making city unsafe. All good depends on us and we are investing to change the mindset of our people to make Port Moresby safe.”
Lulu said the NCDC would continue to support such programmes that would change the mindset of city youths.
Director Mosoro was thankful to the partnership the prison command and management as well as the NCDC for delivering the rehabilitation programme.
Mosoro said the programme was part of the bigger plan that the Narcotics Bureau had in place to go to the prisons of the country and change the prisoners who were victims of alcohol and drug abuse to be better people through rehabilitation programmes.
“The Government is looking at increasing and changing the drug law penalty so now we are trying to help improve people understand the impacts of it,” he said.
“After rehabilitating the prisoners, they would help us carry out awareness to the communities. That would have bigger impact.
“Because they would share their life stories and how they become changed person after being convicted of drug and alcohol abuse.
“You will help us educate others. That’s what we would require of you. All you have to do is to serve your time and after that when you are out, we would need you to do that. Now that you are changed person.”
Moroso said with the changing of penalty for drug to be changed and increased to a maximum penalty, his office would be doing its best to educate as many people as it could about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
By GIBSON TORASO