A partial ban had been in place since October while local authorities built dedicated markets for buai sellers on the city's outskirts.
Port Moresby's Governor Powes Parkop has been leading the campaign and says it's already been a huge success.
Presenter: Sam Bolitho
Speaker: Powes Parkop, Port Moresby's Governor
PARKOP: It has exceeded my expectations, since the first of October when we declared a ban and passed the law, the city has never looked better since. So I'm very pleased with the outcome, people have responded well, but still there's some section of the population who keep on becoming a nuisance to everyone else. And this is why the exception or the temporary markets that we allow we have to shut it down now, because it has posed some challenges as well in terms of containing the negative impact of betel nut chewing and spitting. That's why we are now declaring a total ban, enforcing it on the 1st of January.
BOLITHO: Ok so can you please explain from January 1 how do the rules change from what it is currently?
PARKOP: Since the 1st of October we've allowed some wholesale of betel nut in the city, in a number of markets, because the markets that we were going to build outside of the city were not ready yet. So betel nuts were still coming into the city and as a result some abuses again were taking place. So now the markets are not fully ready those that are outside of the city, but we have no choice but to impose a total ban, meaning no wholesale and no retaining of betel nut in the city, either in public place, private place, residential area, in the market...anywhere. We are going to shut them down on the 1st of January. We'll only allow the wholesale markets seven days after the 7th of January to sell off all their stocks, so new supplies won't come into the city as from the 1st.
BOLITHO: Now I've seen on Facebook there have been photos of market sellers hiding betel nut in egg cartons and things like that. Have you had trouble trying to enforce these laws, what's it been like?
PARKOP: Yes we have been having problems, some challenges imposing the law, but that's also because we have allowed temporary sales to take place in the city. So when we impose the total ban that means zero tolerance, that means in whatever form, in whatever shape, wherever they are we will have them with a spot fine, or if they don't want to pay the fine then we subject them to two hours of community service, cleaning the streets or cleaning the neighbourhood and so on. And if they refuse those two offers, they'll be arrested and charged.
BOLITHO: Are you expecting people to abide by these rules, or are you expecting some resistance?
PARKOP: Up till now the majority of citizens have been cooperating and adhering to the additions that were made, so I expect the majority of the residents of the city will be supportive and will accept the changes. There will be a few pockets who will continue to be a problem, and we will deal with them. But it's a situation where their options are limited or otherwise there's no other option. Our people over the decades have taken this privilege to an extent where they've abused it. Betel nut chewing is not done on a customary basis anymore, it's purely commercial and people are chewing 24/7, and that's why it's become a problem. If it was purely a customary practice we wouldn't have a problem, but now it's become purely commercial. I believe Sam that eventually they'll get used to the idea of driving out of the city and enjoying the betel nut outside of the city. Our people should not think too much about this. They're over-thinking it. It's not that we're depriving them totally and absolutely of enjoyment of the betel nut. We're just relocating the sale and chewing point. If they don't think too much about it and over-think it, they will find that it's still there for their enjoyment, and those who rely on it for income will continue to make an income.
BOLITHO: That's one point I wanted to raise with you, what do you say to those market vendors that say they're supporting their lifestyle, they're relying on income from selling betel nut to pay for school fees and things like that?
PARKOP: Some of them should get another life, they shouldn't make excuses, using those points is an excuse to litter our city with filth and ugly images and health problems. So they've had it so good for too long, they should blame themselves for the situation that we are facing. So over the years we have tried to manage it, talk to them, educate them, tried to regulate this to get them to cooperate, they don't want to do that, they don't want to have their cake and eat it as well. So they can't complain, they should accept the responsibility and blame for this situation and cooperate. That's why I'm saying to them that they shouldn't over-think it, it's not totally depriving them of their income, and the benefit and enjoyment of the nut. It's a short ride out of the city and it'll be there for them.