Punishment works


THERE is a possibility of fines up to K10,000 and jail terms up to three years as penalties for people who break the rules on chewing betel nuts, smoking and spraying paint in public places.
An amendment to the Summary Offences Bill was tabled in Parliament earlier this month and if passed, the above penalties will be imposed on the offenders.
While individuals have the right to chew betel nut, it is the discarding of the husk and spittle that is forcing authorities to react in this manner.
For the National Capital District, it has become a mammoth task for the authorities as they battle with ridding the town of betel nut stains and the filth that comes with it.
Today, Port Moresby’s streets are again stained by the blood-red spittle that chewing produces and discarded husks clog the gutters.
It is an eyesore and a very unpleasant view to see red spittle over pavements, bitumen, flower gardens and everywhere.
The red spittle has defaced these public infrastructures.
Another contributing factor to the defacing of infrastructure is graffiti, which is getting out of hand.
Such arrogant attitude and shallow thinking has left authorities with no option but to push for harsh penalties.
Many countries today have laws that ban smoking in public places because it affects non-smokers as well.
Papua New Guinea is a signatory to the WHO Convention on Tobacco Control. PNG signed up in 2004 and smoke-free legislations have since been developed to prohibit smoking in public places which includes public transport, health facilities, restaurants and universities, among others.
This means we are one of those countries that have laws in place that prohibit smoking in public places.
Some may say the penalties are too harsh but how else can the message asking all citizens to be responsible be emphasised?
Bans, restrictions, messaging and controls have been tried since Governor Powes Parkop entered office and by now the governor has realised that regulating the people’s attitudes is not something that can be done in a term of office or even two.
This task will not be easy but someone has to crack the whip without fear or favour.
Most of our 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 come the need to instil in the people a sense of pride and unity.
It is a generational change that will take place over time, provided there is constant positive reinforcement of the right behaviour.
The ban is beneficial to human and environmental health as well as to formalise trading activities, instil good moral perception and remove free-rider problems associated with the cleaning up of trash.
The idea that maintaining order and peace and a balanced state is somehow the public service’s responsibility is not only regressive but detrimental to progress.
The penalties in a way will help correct the wrong way of doing things – of chewing and spitting betel nut and the respect for non-smokers in public places.