Hardline on vandalism needed

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday October 23rd, 2013

 VANDALISM is a serious blight affecting many parts of Papua New Guinea.

Unlike other acts of lawlessness that plague our urban and rural communities, vandalism has somehow steered clear of the long arm of the law.

While crimes like murder, robbery and rape continue to dominate the news headlines, we rarely hear of people being arrested, charged and jailed for vandalism.

It seems that vandals have become invisible, even immune, to our laws while they continue to cause much damage and destruction to private and public property.

The intentional destruction of property is popularly referred to as vandalism. 

It includes behaviour such as breaking windows, slashing tires, spray-painting graffiti on walls and fences, and destroying a computer system using a computer virus. 

Vandalism is a malicious act and may reflect personal ill-will, although the perpetrators need not know their victim to commit vandalism. 

The recklessness of the act imputes both intent and malice. Because the destruction of public and private property poses a threat to society, modern laws make vandalism a crime. 

The penalties on conviction may be a fine, a jail sentence, reparation, or all three.

A person who commits vandalism may be sued in a civil action for damages so that the damaged property can be repaired or replaced.

Two major organisations – Bank of Papua New Guinea and Telikom PNG – have now expressed grave concerns about the impact of vandalism on the banking and telecommunications industries in the country.

The central bank, as the regulator of the financial system in PNG, says it is concerned about the recent closures of several commercial bank branches and agencies in rural areas and towns.

The closures were all  at­­­tributed to continuous lawlessness and theft by inconsiderate and selfish individuals.

We agree with BPNG Governor Loi Bakani that the provision of these financial services has been a costly exercise for commercial banks. 

They are meant to ease the burden and reduce risks faced by people travelling long distances into towns and cities to access banking services.

Bringing these services into the rural areas create an opportunity for people to save and have access to other financial services offered by these institutions.

Theft and vandalism of financial services infrastructure is costly for the people and service providers. 

It represents a loss of development opportunities in the rural areas. 

It denies opportunities for people to participate in business and productive income-earning activities.

It discourages financial institutions and telecommunications companies from extending infrastructure and services to rural areas. 

We commend Bakani for his call to community leaders and people in rural areas to take ownership and protect these services and property from being vandalised and robbed.

Bakani can only speak for his industry but the onus is on the community and relevant government authorities, such as police, to take a hardline approach to vandals.

Telikom PNG is fed up with the constant vandalism and sabotaging of its telecommunication cables and is offering a K30,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the successful prosecution of the culprits.

It says the constant vandalism of its cable lines is a “deliberate action by certain individuals or a group of people”.

Law-abiding citizens can understand Telikom’s frustration after six of its lines were destroyed by suspected arsonists last month, halting internet, email and telephone services for businesses in the capital.

Telikom chairman Mahesh Patel summed up the dilemma: “Ongoing vandalism of such company properties affects a lot of innocent customers, business houses and public institutions, such as schools, by depriving them from receiving a daily vital service.”

However, the banking and telecommunications industries in PNG are not the only ones affected by vandalism.

Other businesses and individuals have been victims or continue to suffer at the hands of vandals and their malicious handiwork.

It is time to rid our cities, towns and rural areas of this menace.