Civic pride starts from the top

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday October 8th, 2015

 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, in society 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 use on a daily basis is not entirely the state’s 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 comes 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 far and away 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 practiced habit has had on the city.

Bans, restrictions, messaging and controls have been tried since he entered office six years ago 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.

News that Parkop plans to ask to restore the powers of the city’s urban safety officers to help maintain law and order is a positive move but is fraught with some risks.

Parkop said the National Capital Distrci Commission’s urban safety division officers were doing their best to maintain a clean and safe city but needed the support of the public hence his request to Police Commissioner Gari Baki for assistance in this endeavour.

“Our unarmed men work in a tough environment where they face people who get aggressive at them,” Parkop lamented.

“But they do their best to enforce betel nut bans and other duties.”

It is an uphill battle but it is not a dilemma experienced by this city. Every city and town on the globe has its own issues to deal with. 

Precious few cities and societies are spotless or untainted by the poor, don’t-care attitudes of the general populace.

In many instances, the societies that have made headway in achieving peaceful, progressive and harmonious existence are those that have strong and effective policing and a sound, fair justice system.

Parkop’s appeal is indicative of the state of the country where the means to handle the burgeoning population and its needs has outstripped its capacity.

The NCDC has always been understaffed when one considers the amount of work needed adequately cater for every suburb, street and home in the city.

The police themselves are also under-manned and have been in that position for a long time.

So what then should the solution be to addressing the problem of developing civic pride among the people?

“Our men are doing their jobs but people are not listening and following the laws,” Parkop said when explaining what his men were up against.

Has it occurred to Parkop that people are not listening because there are no role models to follow; that children are being brought up to fear and mistrust authority because that is what they see every day.

 How many police officers operate in a manner that makes it easy for a member of the public to trust them readily? What of the cases of brutality and intimidation that take place daily against the public? 

Gaining the trust, respect and admiration of the people is the first step in getting them on side.  

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.