The village doesn’t hold all the answers


THERE is a growing class of people living in our urban areas, such as Port Moresby, who are finding it increasingly difficult to survive without resorting to breaking the law.
Besides the rising population of unemployed youths in the city, mostly in the settlements, whose parents cannot afford to educate and train them for useful employment, there is also a regular flow of others coming in from other provinces with the hope of a promising future in the urban centres.
Add to those the many former workers who have been pushed out of the formal sector because of varying factors and we are faced with a huge army of fortune-seekers struggling to survive.
Survival for many such people may mean breaking the law as is evident in the generally failed betel nut ban imposed recently.
Enforcing the ban has led to many unpleasant confrontations between the city authorities and illegal vendors.  There have even been deaths resulting from it.
Survival for others may also mean resorting to very serious crime, too.
One such case went before Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika this week when a man was convicted and sentenced for falsely obtaining someone else’s property.
In sentencing the accused, the judge said unemployed people in Port Moresby should return to their home villages if they cannot cope with the demands of city life.
Crimes of such a nature require careful planning and are well executed, the judge said, adding that the crime of false pretence was rampant because people lacked good morals.
The judge’s suggestion for unemployed people or those struggling to live in the city to return to their village has merit.  However, on the flip side, some of the unemployed and semi-educated may not fit in back in the village, or rather their parents’ village. It is doubtful whether young people born in Port Moresby who have seldom or never been to their village will find settling down there any easier than living in Port Moresby – unless they are properly trained and are equipped to do so.
Some may even become misfits in the traditional homes of their parents because they have never been trained in the ways of the village.
Furthermore, in some rural communities, land has become scarce because of population growth.
Although a young man born in Port Moresby can legitimately claim ownership over customary land back in the village by virtue of his clan or extended family links, the reality on the ground is that he may not find space for a plot of cocoa or coffee to survive on.
There is a serious problem of a growing class of unemployed people who may also find themselves landless in their own rural communities if they are asked to return to their village.
The call to enforce the Vagrancy Act to address the huge influx of people from rural communities must be seriously considered now before the situation gets out of hand.
But that alone cannot succeed.
The root cause of the movement of people is basically the search of a better life.
People are moving away from their traditional homes in search of basic necessities such as health, education, electricity, clean water and, of course, a reliable and sustainable source of income.
Bring those basic services to where people are then there should be little reason for people to move elsewhere.
The next phase of development in the country should therefore be directed towards that.
National dreams such as providing electricity to 70 per cent of the country by 2030 and connecting major centres through a trans-national highway or even an international highway to Indonesia will certainly bring such change in the history of PNG.
Current efforts by government and the private sector are simply inadequate to provide for the ever-increasing population.
Some time sooner rather than later, the trend in population growth will have to be controlled to enable a decent life for all – now and in the future.
Without that we will always be playing catch-up with the pressure of population growth and may never be able to succeed in achieving that dream.