Victims of crime: 10 officers attacked in Madang over 24 months

For the past 12 months, the media’s attention has focused on Madang, not as a tourist destination, but as a hotspot for crime.

At Jomba station, where the provincial headquarters is located, Provincial Police Commander, Manuc Rubian, reveals that the crime statistics are worrying. A lot of it stems from widespread alcohol abuse and a general breakdown in law and order.

“In a month, we get between 50 and 60 alcohol related crimes,” he says. “It’s not just the adults who are drinking ‘homebrew.’ It’s kids as well. And when they drink, they don’t stay at home. They go out on the road and start harassing people.”

But it is not just the citizens of Madang who are bearing the brunt of this surge in crime.

Being on the frontline, police officers are also being targeted by criminals and opportunists. Up to 10 policemen in Madang have been attacked in the last 24 months.

Their situation is compounded by a critical housing shortage that remained largely unaddressed for a decade.

“For 10 years, I lived with my in-laws at the Nagada settlement. People broke into my house and later when we tried to address the problem, I was attacked. It was difficult for my family. We had to move around a lot,” says Senior Constable Solomon William, the taskforce commander in Madang.

He was later moved from a settlement where he resided to a condemned house at the Kusbau Police Barracks.

Outside, another taskforce member shows the injuries he got when he was attacked earlier this month. His head is still bandaged and he shows the tear in the uniform where his attackers tried to stab him with a sharp bamboo.

At Nagada settlement, Constable Tika Aso, shows the scars from an attack earlier this year when he was stabbed and slashed by a mob after he and two other officers tried to arrest troublemakers drunk on steam at a school graduation.

“I was lucky that I was wearing a vest and the knife did not go through as far as it could have. I was cut on the hand and the face and I received several stitches. We were outnumbered.”

He and his family face an impending eviction by the Madang Provincial Government.
“I worry about my family. We don’t live in a barracks and sometimes I have to sleep in the office so I can attend the jobs that we do early in the morning. Most times, my wife isn’t happy. I can’t focus,” Constable Aso said.

About two weeks after the attack on Constable John Solala, another constable, Franko Horake, was stabbed the Mildas Market about 100 meters behind the Provincial Police Headquarters and the Madang Governor’s office.

Constable Horake later died in hospital and his death triggered a police raid on the Wagol settlement whose residents were accused of harboring the suspects.

Despite the negatively against Madang police, there is also a lot of sympathy for them. The critical shortage of manpower, resources and accommodation has been burdensome on police work.

“We can’t stop work,” says Senior Constable Solomon William. “We are supposed to work for eight hours a day. But we know, that’s not going to happen. We work up to 16 hours a day. If we don’t do it, who will?

“We have people willing to work. All we need are good vehicles, fuel, a boat, housing and additional manpower.”

Eastern Highlands mushrooms could soon hit PNG markets

Usually the mushrooms we get in Papua New Guinea are expensive and the technology behind is a mystery to many. But in Goroka, a provincial government project backed a team of Chinese scientists from the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU) are teaching Eastern Highlanders how to grow their own mushrooms.The mushroom production is being managed together with a rice project.It’s a simple operation that uses mostly local materials for building and mushroom growing.One of the first things you see when you enter the small research compound tucked away in North Goroka, is the tall grass planted in rows. The grass variety of the local pitpit but the stalks are thicker and leaves are bigger.They call it Lin grass after the Chinese professor from the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University who has been leading the mushroom and rice research since 1998. The grass brought from Southern China is central to an interdependent agricultural system being adopted by farmers in the Eastern Highlands.“The grass is suitable to grow here. You have a lot of local materials here and your climate it suitable for the grass to grow. The yield is very high and one hectare can produce 800 tons of fresh grass.”The primarily use of Lin grass is in the creation of growing material for a highland mushroom variety farmers have been cultivating in their villages.Lin Yinxing, an agronomist who first came to Papua New Guinea in 1998 to work on mushroom research is the lead scientist. He says it took a lot of experimentation and time to develop a suitable method of mushroom growing and the Eastern Highlands climate is perfect.“With these kinds of mushroom, you can grow it in Eastern Highlands all year round. Dry season or wet season, every season you can plant these mushrooms. So it’s very suitable for Eastern Highlands province.”When the grass grow to about 8 meters, they are harvested and put out to dry in the sun. The stalks are then crushed and ground into a pulp. This is what they use as a substrate – the dry material from which the mushrooms grow.This project has a 20 year history. In 1998, the Eastern Highlands Provincial Government signed a sister province cooperation agreement with the Fujian province. The Governor of Fujian then, was Xi Jingping, who is now the President of China.This relationship paved way for the transfer of simple technologies and skills that, in the long run, won’t need ongoing donor support.“We also got China Aid support of K15 million for three years,” says Frank Wanguapi, the Natural Resource Advisor with the Eastern Highlands Provincial Administration. “This is a project that is meant to raise incomes and strengthen food security.”In the mushroom incubation center – a small structure built of bamboo and Lin grass stalks – plastic tubes loaded powdered grass stalk and inoculated with mushroom spores, are stacked from the ground up. The Chinese scientists, used mostly local materials to build the mushroom incubation center.“Apart from the plastic sheeting, we don’t use imported material. In China, we plant mushrooms in buildings because during winter, the temperature is too cold and in summer, it’s too hot. Your climate is good. It doesn’t get too hot or too cold,” Lin Yinzing explains.Mushrooms are a low volume, high value crop. Because they are fast growing, farmers stand to make higher profits in a much shorter time. Farmers begun selling mushrooms after four months of training.The demand for mushrooms is very high in Goroka with one kilogram selling for K30.Eastern Highlands Governor, Peter Numu, support from the Provincial Government stems from the desire to reduce the dependence of people on food imports and government support.“People are growing their own rice to eat and with the mushrooms, they won’t need to buy food from stores. We will also commercialize the rice production. We want to package it, label it and sell it. This will be done by the Provincial Government’s business arm.“People are already empowered. If the government of Prime Minister, James Marape, is talking about reducing food import dependence, I want to say, the Eastern Highlands is already implementing a solution.”