Pubdate: Mon, 26 Oct 2009
Source: National, The (New Guinea)
Copyright: 2009, The National
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


HEALTH Minister Sasa Zibe's definition for the mentally  ill must be
different from his own department's  understanding of the same.

At least that is what he seemed to be telling  Parliament when
answering questions from Telefomin MP  Peter Iwei last week.

For the minister, drug users do not qualify. He told  Parliament last
week that some 90% of the patients at  Laloki Psychiatric Hospital
outside Port Moresby are  not genuine and that they were drug abusers.

We agree. That does preclude 90% of all psychiatric  patients in the
country. But we disagree with the  minister that drug abusers do not
qualify as  psychiatric patients.

The level of chronic drug abuse is so high in the  country that many
addicts have just had their brains  eaten out by marijuana. They
become essentially  vegetables. They need their own hospital, not just
for  their own sake and for humanitarian considerations but  for the
safety and welfare of the rest of society as  well.

Many drool and stare off into space but many more  become reckless and
violent and are prone to violent  fits and suffer other rages which
include the tendency  to cook and eat human flesh as has been reported.

Mr Iwei told Parliament that the Laloki hospital was  crowded and that
more such hospitals ought to be  considered for other parts of the
country. Mr Iwei  should know. He lives right next to the hospital and
  has observed the conditions at the hospital and the  behaviour of the

Mr Zibe's answer seems curious at best, downright  insensitive at
worst. It seems to underline the general  attitude of the Government
towards the issue of drugs  and guns in the country.

The National Narcotics Bureau exists in name only. Its  annual
budgetary allocation is miniscule to the point  of it being useless.
It is seriously understaffed.  Government policy in the area does not
exist or if it  does, it has never been announced.

Nobody knows which ministry or department is  responsible for the
Narcotics Bureau. Laws governing  trafficking and use of drugs are
lax. As a result, the  operations of the Narcotics Bureau are negligible.

Yet, drug use and abuse, as a proportion of the social  and law and
order problems in the country, has reached  emergency

Drug trafficking is certainly a big industry and big  money. We hear
rumours of drugs for guns trafficking  all the way up and down the
border area and even off  the coast of the capital city where banana
boats go out  to meet darkened ships at night.

Years ago, reports emerged as far away as the west  coast of United
States about certain illicit cargo  called New Guinea gold, referring
to marijuana from  PNG.

The related gun issue too seems to fall on deaf ears.  Except for
three MPs - Justice Minister Dr Allan Marat,  Enga Governor Peter
Ipatas and Dei MP Puri Ruing -  nobody discusses the subject or raises
any alarm that  the guns report is missing after it was handed to the
Prime Minister and the Internal Security Minister.

Yet between the two - drugs and guns - pose the greater  challenge to
law keeping, social order, good governance  and development than any
dozens of other issues taken  together.

Drugs do put people in mental hospitals and worse. So  do guns.
Nobody, least of all those in leadership  positions with all the
resources of Government  available to do something, ought to shrug it
off as if  it were nothing. That would be the height of

Finally, to suggest that the hospital caters for people  who might not
be ill at all is also an indictment upon  the hospital's management
and the health department,  whose political head is Mr Zibe. This is
an insult to  the dedicated staff who work in conditions that are far
more gruelling and hazardous that in most ordinary  hospitals.

The mentally retarded do not wait patiently for their  medicine as do
other patients. They wander about  constantly.

Often the mental hospital worker is part medical worker  and part
prison warder. He or she has to keep the  patient under constant care
and medication and at the  same time, the more violent among them have
to be kept  safe from harming themselves, hospital staff and even
outsiders should they escape.

We think Mr Zibe's remarks are a flippant and  insensitive answer to a
very serious situation that is  increasingly becoming a problem and a
threat to  society.

If, on the other hand, the minister is correct with his  information,
then the big question is: why are they  still there?
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D