Report and picturesby ANDREW ALPHONSE
A YOUNG man from Tari, Southern Highlands province, is fighting for his life at the intensive care unit at the Mt Hagen General Hospital.
He is suffering from serious brain injuries sustained after being attacked by a drunkard two weeks ago in Tari.
Nineteen-year-old Raymond Jim from Kikita One village in Tari, is a victim of the increase in lawlessness linked to widespread alcohol abuse in the Hela region.
His mother, Maria Akuni, recalled the incident on Dec 8 when Raymond, who just finished his Grade 12 at Tari Secondary School, went to witness the graduation at Kuluanda Primary School in Tari where his younger siblings are studying, when he was attacked.
Mrs Akuni had asked Raymond to attend the graduation while she was at work.
Two liquor outlets are located nearby and drunkards were already going on a drinking binge and after the graduation, Raymond and his siblings, while on their way home, were confronted by a drunkard at Gebi Stoa, the main road junction leading into Tari town.
The drunkard confronted the three of them and started to assault and harass them and while trying to defend his younger siblings, Raymond was struck in the head by a screwdriver that the drunkard allegedly pulled out.
Some men, who saw what happened, took Raymond to the Tari General Hospital where international medical team, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), immediately organised an Airlines PNG charter and had Raymond flown to Mendi General Hospital the same afternoon.
The doctors in Mendi managed to stabilise him for the night and Raymond was then transported by road to Mt Hagen General Hospital where he underwent surgery on his head for four hours under the care of a specialist.
Raymond is recovering but he can hardly sit up, eat or talk and is also bedridden.
He is being spoon-fed by his mother and another guardian.
A doctor told him that only through sheer luck would he be able to regain full body movement as the damage to the brain has severely affected his motor coordination.
Raymond’s plan to study political science at the University of PNG next year is now in question.
He is another victim of a town where alcohol abuse and violence is rampant.
“Each day in Tari, drunkards run riot,” community leader Eric Marabe said.
He said these drunkards attack and assault innocent members of the travelling public.
He said some alcohol-related brawls had escalated to full scale tribal war in Tari and Hela.
Mr Marabe said there were more than 15 liquor outlets, far too many for a small town like Tari.
“Beer is sold like any trade store commodity and even school-age children under the age of 15 are gulping bottles of beer in public without any regard for the law,” he said.
“Drunkards take advantage of the understrength local Tari police who not only lack manpower but also vehicles, logistics and other resources,” he said.
Eight members of the international medical team MSF were evacuated from Tari last week after intoxicated youths attacked them and stormed the hospital to terrorise their patients and damage their properties.