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Papua New Guinea Domestic airlines and ships are becoming a safe haven to smuggle bags of betelnut and mustard into the city undetected.

Despite the commission’s concerted efforts to control betelnut in the city, obviously, traders and others have capitalised on terminals and seaports which lack proper detection facilities or they have colluded with security and cargo officers.

Several incidences have been reported to the commission which is concerned that this activity has gone unabated and bypassed the approved control measures in place in the city.

City Manager, Bernard Kipit has formally expressed this concern in a letter to the National Airport Corporation management alerting them about the lapse in security at the airport facilities.

The National Airport Corporation and seaport authority and other entry points into the city were partnered to monitor the movement of betelnut into the city when the ban came into place.

Mr. Kipit reiterated in the letter the reason for the ban on the sales and consumption of betelnut in the city as a means to address negligent littering caused through betelnut including the unhygienic and ugly spittle that was considerably defacing the city.

He mentioned that the NAC’s support was overwhelming at the start, but decreased in intensity overtime and consequently, ‘now the occurrence of large bulks of betelnut shipment through airfreight.’

Close to a fortnight later after the letter was delivered, the commission’s reserve police were tipped by the airport securities on February 5, 2019 that cargo containing Daka (mustard) bound for Port Moresby from Popondetta was confiscated at the Jackson’s Airport in 7-Mile.

Reserve Police Supervisor, Tom Pali, whose work covers the Moresby North-East Electorate, and his men immediately responded and confiscated the cargo.

15 boxes containing mustard with an estimated street value of almost K80, 000 was impounded and brought to the Tarpot at 4-Mile and was destroyed immediately in the presence of betelnut traders.

Pali told the betelnut traders that it is illegal to smuggle betelnut into the city.

“You are not allowed to buy and trade on your own wish. Defying the ban will only result in punishment,” he said.

Pali added that the punishments will now be severe with the recent amendments by the National Parliament to the Summary Offences Act to outlaw selling, buying and chewing of betelnut in public places.

The confiscation of the cargo came at a time when the popular betelnut trade in the city was facing severe shortage. Vendors are forced to sell two mustards for K5 at designated markets.

This situation has resulted in betelnut vendors searching far and wide, and even beyond the city to smuggle mustard to make quick bucks.
The police unit is aware of this and are working around the clock with the support of airport officials and securities to apprehend suspected passengers.

The impounding of the cargo was the result of good networking with stakeholders Mr Kipit established.

Those wishing to bring betelnut and mustard into Port Moresby should seek clearance from the office of the City Manager, his letter said.
He appealed to the public particularly those deliberately smuggling betelnut and mustard into the city to rethink their actions.

NCDC is working in partnership with the relevant agencies at all entry points to monitor the shipment and transportation of betelnut and mustard into the city and anyone who thinks of smuggling betel nut and mustard will not get away with it easily.

He urged the public to do the right thing by cooperating with the city authority.

Meanwhile, Mr Kipit reiterated that all betelnut cargo bound for Port Moresby should only be allowed into an aircraft by the commission and “be granted clearance only by my office.”

“This arrangement is currently applicable for all transportation of betelnut into the city including by air. Any other arrangements for the shipment of betelnut as applied in your operations are deemed illegal and must cease as of this notification,” the letter read.

Picture caption: A backhoe crushing confiscated mustard at NCDC's 4-Mile Tarpot as officers watch

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