7 Oct 2013

Port Moresby governor says betel nuts could return, under strict conditions

6:18 pm on 7 October 2013

The Governor of Papua New Guinea's National Capital District says there's a possibility betel nut sales could eventually be re-introduced into the city, but only under strict conditions.

The ban on the sale of betel nut in Port Moresby, and chewing and spitting it in public, began on Tuesday, though penalties for breaches will not be enforced until October 28.

Vendors will eventually be moved out of the city to sell betel nut, and chewing and spitting can only take place in private.

The Governor of National Capital District, Powes Parkop, told Leilani Momoisea that sale and public hygiene issues with betel nut has been too difficult to regulate under current circumstances.

POWES PARKOP: In the long run, betel nut is to be now a regulated, licensed activity. That's the plan we have for the long run. If we are going to introduce it back into the city, it will bu under license and there will be conditions attached to that license. Any seller must meet those licenses. We will be announcing those initiatives in about two weeks time, but in the mean time the strategy is to relocate the selling and the consumption outside of the city boundary. In the city people can still chew, but they don't chew in public places, especially the street. It's a disgusting habit - spitting in a public place. It's zero tolerance. They can chew and spit at home, so they can dispose of the rubbish and the spittle in a hygienic way. We are doing this as an interim period measure so that in the future we control it. My objective is to have a win-win. People can still chew, but it's not a menace to the city in terms of its image, it's not a health hazard or contributing to the rise of TB in our city.

LEILANI MOMOISEA: And when do you think you might begin introducing those licenses for licensed betel nut vendors?

PP: Definitely it has to be next year, because we are almost at the end of the year. That initiative cannot be done as it is now because with betel nut being sold in the city it's very difficult to regulate them. People just sell anywhere anytime and the chewing part is just an ugly, filthy habit that people have been getting away with for too long. So this is why it's become necessary for us to shut it down in the city, lock it outside hopefully, and then we're going to reintroduce it back gradually under license, under strict condition of health and hygiene. And that's the outcome that I also want. I'm not trying to prevent people from chewing or people from earning income, I just want to do it in a way that it's a win-win for everyone. Right now in the city, before yesterday, we spent more money on cleaning it up and the city was filthy everywhere and it was a nightmare.

LM: And have you noticed a difference already just in the cleanliness of the city?

PP: A very big difference starting from yesterday. Our challenge now is to sustain. Our vendors, of course they will be clever and try to find ways of beating the law. Port Moresby is not a big city. I know everything that is taking place, who's trading, who is not trading. It's easy for us to work this out.

Fines for those breaching the bans range from community service, to US$3,800.