Riwo makes fresh start for the better

Panutibun female kayak competitors preparing for the race.
Cyclists getting set at the starting line.

PAPUA New Guineans continue to fuss about economic and other forms of dependencies that still exist despite the country’s 44 years of independence. But one wonders how much is done rather than said.
This article tells of an average community in Madang that has done something to show its resolved to change for the better. It has identified, and is uprooting what it considers to be barriers to true independence. It is quite a simple but rewarding concept.
There used to be noise! And by noise I mean the very loud and irritating type; they compete for the loudest boom boxes at odd hours, the clanking of knives or other metallic items against each other, and off course the human howling (whether indicating help, aggression or even fear) strongly associated with drinking. That was how it used to be in the last couple of months for Riwo Village, a fairly populous semi-urban village in Madang’s indigenous Bel society.
Alcohol and drug abuse had over the years marred this once peaceful coastal community surrounded by lush mangroves facing the pristine blue ocean dotted with sandy-beached and palm-fringed islands. All such beauty has not been in a long time appreciated with some sense of freedom by people of Riwo and its visitors.
But the 2019 independence celebrations is one occasion that will be remembered by many as it set the pace for many good things to come (God willing), signaling real freedom and independence. Firstly, it was an event that observed a zero alcohol-related incident which in the past would have interrupted a spectacular three-day mini show. Even those that attended as guests applauded organisers and the people of Riwo for a job well done. It was truly uniting, they say.
The three to four-hundred meters waterfront between Riwo and the outlying Panutibun Island came alive on Saturday, Sept 14 with the hosting of all aqua events; canoe racing (both single and dual paddlers), kayak racing and swimming for male and female compeititors. It was a test of strength and charisma for the people of Nagada, Riwo, Malmal and Pau who make up North Ambenob’s Ward 6 council area. The second day, Sunday, Sept 15 had bicycle racing as the highlight of the day which involved more than 20 male riders and half a dozen females in their respective categories.
The race kicked off in Riwo, onto the main North Coast highway, turning off at Banglang using the so-called ‘ring road’ which adjoins Riwo. The celebration on the third and final day, Monday, Sept 16 was massive. Dances and other entertainment like bamboo bands which Riwo is well known for, kept people all psyched up right through to the evening. All these transpired without a single hiccup, thanks to a more sober enjoyment this time.
The event was an initiative of the newly-elected Ward 6 councillor Simon Sil who wanted to gather people of his ward area to celebrate the country’s 44th independence anniversary in unity. And that he achieved by engaging the people in various activities and ensuring through his organising committee that nothing got in the way of the three-day independence celebrations.

Ward 6 Member Simon Sil (second from left) and community elders with the illegal homebrew production kits. -Pictures by DAVID WAPAR

“I want to see people gather together and celebrate this year’s independence peacefully.” That was part of Sil’s intention.
Among the guests was acting provincial administrator, Marcus Kachau who was spot on when he addressed the occasion on Sept 16.
“We must work in unity to develop our community and country,” he said when sharing the Madang provincial government’s development aspirations.
They are big dreams (of the government) – ones that can only be achieved if the ‘little people’ are organised by way of eradicating agents of disorder such as illegal homebrew and drugs.
And mind you, Riwo is proud to have given considerable effort in doing so in the last couple of weeks where the results look promising.
In fact, nothing would have set the stage better than the youths’ bold move to surrender the illegal homebrew production kits on Sept 9. It was the ultimate drive needed by village elders and parents alike. It was then that Sil and his executives received 17 illegal homebrew production kits from 48 youths from the Ward 6 area – an act signifying a fresh start for the council area as it embarks on a new development mission. The occasion was witnessed by parents and other ward members who gathered in numbers to pledge their support to stamp out illegal drug and homebrew production.
The independence celebrations speak volumes about that. Mothers and young women this time moved in the true spirit of freedom without fear of abuse and harassment from drunkards that used to steal the show with their unruly behaviour! Such is freedom, dignity and patriotism enjoyed at the highest level.
For the people of Madang and others, you can now be assured that the next generation of Papua New Guineans in this part of the country has given away ‘the bad for the good’. They want education and employment opportunities. Indeed that is something Sil and his committee members cannot single-handedly mount on their already weary shoulders.
Just as it was expressed in the spirit of Papua New Guinea’s 44th independence celebrations in Riwo, such issues must be given collective attention.
Sil, a two-term ward member is well aware of this and as the fanfare of Riwo’s independence subsides, he is contemplating on involving the corporate sector and other development partners in addressing unemployment and education in Ward 6.
It is off course a mammoth task for achieving true independence and one worth supporting.
Until then, usop Ziwo ute!

  • David Wapar is a freelance writer.

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