People’s power power in Madang

Focus, Normal

Madang is the only province in Papua New Guinea where the dreaded poker machines are banned.
People power prevented the gambling gadgets from being introduced in the early 1990s.
When powerful politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen rallied to introduce the gaming machines to the peaceful province, people of all walks of life rose up and opposed the move.
Ordinary people, community leaders, NGOs and churches all joined hands, rallied and stopped the gambling machines from entering a province that is renowned for its conduciveness to families and natural tranquility.
Today, thanks to all those sensible and visionary people who fought hard against the high and mighty nearly 20 years ago, there are children and mothers in this town who have food on the table, are clothed and accommodated and enjoy a relatively better family life than many of their ilk in Port Moresby, Lae, Goroka or Mt Hagen.
Lives of many families in other urban centres have been shattered by parents and other family members gambling away their earnings, savings and investments at the pokies parlours.
There are even stories of pokies addicts involved in corrupt and evil activities to get money to finance their addiction and the nightclub life that goes with it.
Madang is also spared from the wrath of the bedfellow of poker machines – the nightclubs.
There is only one that was set up few years ago amidst opposition from various quarters.
Just this year, a tin shed in an industrial area was converted into a night-spot and neighbours are said to be complaining about the loud music and disturbance.
While other urban centres reel under the weight of these socio-economic menaces that have mushroomed everywhere with impunity, Madang town copes with two.
Madang also has two betting shops – one less from few years ago. With the closure of the third betting shop, Madang residents again can put up with two.
Gambling on horse races require a bit of skill in reading the history of the horses and riders, etc, and many Madang residents do not have time for that.
Instead, the two venues are left in the hands of the bikpla pes (regular) punters.
Even the two night-clubs are left to the bikpla pes and out-of-towners while everyone else recline to the company of their families and relatives at home when evening falls.
When ordinary people of Madang are standing up and peacefully marching to the provincial government headquarters asking for answers to issues, they know something is not right.
The people of Madang have rallied and spoken out over resource development projects in recent times.
Now they are speaking up over a serious break-down in law and order, particularly in Madang town.
So far, the small people of Madang have forced the politicians and bureaucrats in the province to act.
The provincial executive council (PEC) had an urgent meeting last week and approved a series of measures including a call for a curfew, liquour ban, eviction of squatter settlers and neighbourhood watch and policing among others.
The lesson from Madang is that when the ordinary people and citizen organisations rise up and peacefully and legally demand authorities to come to their senses and act, they do.
This approach has saved so many families in Madang from the miseries of poker gambling addiction that has wrecked havoc elsewhere in the country.
We hope it can save many from the deadly jaws of crime.