The National, Tuesday February 4th, 2014
By MORTIMER YANGHARRY
SMUGGLING betel nuts over the fast-flowing Laloki River is high risk, particularly at this time of the year when the river is swollen from the constant rain. For some it means profit. For others, it is a means of survival.
Kevin Marr, 40, from Wabag, Enga, and living at Hohola 4 in the North-West electorate of Port Moresby told how he took his betel nuts into the capital city.
Marr said the Laloki checkpoint was the dead end for betel nuts brought in from Kerema and Mekeo.
The Laloki Bridge is the only way into Port Moresby, making it tough to try and transport bags of nuts into the capital city.
“Crossing the Laloki River during the rainy season is risky but that is the only chance for us (betel nuts smugglers) to cross the river because most of the city rangers and police officers do not pay much attention to monitor the area. Most officers do not keep watch during this time (rainy season),’’ Marr said.
“Last Saturday, I managed to cross over the fast-flowing river with a (30kg) bag of betel nuts. I had to hire a local for K100 to help me carry the bag across.
“When we reached the other shore, I told the local to lead me to the highway where I made phone calls to my mates about my successful trip to the other side of the river.
“I told the local to go and help my six friends who were waiting for my call.
“We had to get a 30kg bag each because it was impossible to cross the river with two bags. The river’s just too strong. While I waited for a friend to bring his truck, the local quickly went and led my six mates safely to shore.
“The truck arrived and we hopped on. We had to contribute and gave K400 to the vehicle owner. He dropped us at the Waigani-Morata bus stop.
“I stopped a cab and told the driver to drop me at the Hohola main bus stop area. There I sold betel nuts for K1 each. People flocked to the place I was sitting. I was the man of the moment.
“I sold the 30kg of betel nuts in 30 minutes. I was surrounded by a multitude of people who wanted to have a share of their favourite nuts. I was like a hero. It was the first time in my life to experience such a feeling.
“I made K700. I had bought the 30kg of betel nuts for K100. I paid K100 to the Laloki local and another K100 for transportation – a K300 profit is much for a simple man like me.”
Marr said that smuggling betel nuts over the Laloki was high risk, illegal it was worth taking the risk considering the profit.
“I support Governor Powes Parkop for banning betel nuts in the city but he must provide a proper marketing area for us to do our marketing. Both the Roburogo and Laloki betel nuts markets are incomplete. Where will we do our marketing?
“Because the new market places and the environment are not conducive for the trade to flourish, why will I waste my time sitting at Ruborugo and Laloki. I will not even make a profit.
“I will continue to smuggle betel nuts into the city as long as I make good money and am able to put food on the table for my family.” Marr said.