Provincial Police Commander, Chief Inspector Jeffrey Lemb is concerned that a lot of drugs are coming down from the Highlands through the new Kikori- Southern Highlands highway since opening last year.
“Some of the drugs are transported further up to Kerema and to NCD for cash trade. However, most we believe are exchanged with illegal firearms from neighbouring Western Province and locals as well,” said PPC Lemb.
“The other drug routes we see are from Eastern Highlands and Morobe through the mountain routes on foot and through waterways straight onto the Gulf highway where they meet buyers from NCD at certain points.”
PPC Lemb stated that he has proposed to build a highway patrol base at Kaiam border with Southern Highlands and one at Alika swamp along the Gulf Highway, close to the Central-Gulf borders.
He said, “These are projects undertaken this year. The Provincial government is in full support with funding assistance this year. Those projects when up and running will help greatly in minimizing the drug problems in the province.”
Last week, the Kerema District Court sentenced 13 men for being in possession and conveying of marijuana or cannabis. Out of the 13 men, 11 were from the Highlands region (Southern Highlands and Jiwaka provinces).
The penalties ranged from 1 year Good Behaviour Bond to 21 years 11 months, making it the highest for Gulf Province. Twelve men were charged under the new Controlled Substance Act 2021.
The highest sentencing imposed was on four men, who received 21 years and 11 months hard labor. All prisoners will serve their time at the Bomana Correctional Service prison in Port Moresby.
According to police, the Controlled Substances Act 2021 is a fairly new law and the arrests made thus far was a test of that law but the District Court at Kerema found all those defendants guilty and imposed very severe penalties.
PPC Lemb said the penalties will send a message to the people who are in the business of dangerous drugs and controlled substances.
“People must be aware of the new Act in place and must know that the penalties are very severe. They need to think long and hard before getting into the illicit drug business,” added PPC Lemb.
Meantime, Gulf Provincial and Local level Government Assembly chairman, Charles Maiu has appealed to Highlands leaders to discourage their young people from smuggling drugs into Gulf province.
“The Highlands to Gulf road is built for development and use it wisely; and not for illegal activities for personal interests,” said Maiu.
He warned that if drug trafficking continues, this will result in closing off the Kikori to Simberigi (SHP) road indefinitely until a boom gate is built to monitor the influx of people travelling in and out of Kikori.