Stop betelnut trips, says Manus Police boss

Life is important and safety is paramount especially when travelling on dinghies in the open seas.

Manus’ acting Provincial Police Commander, senior inspector David Yapu made these comments when appealing to betelnut traders in the province to stop making the trip to Wewak for betelnut after three people were rescued between Manus and Wewak on Tuesday morning by an overseas container vessel.

The three rescued are 42-year-old John Passingan from New Hanover New Ireland Province, 23-year-old Aitape man Anis Ravia and 30-year-old Yoki Polihau from Lawes, Manus Province.

The PPC said the men left Manus last week Thursday (Jan 12) on a 23 foot dinghy, powered by two 40 horse powered motors to Wewak to buy betelnut.

However, while returning to Manus, they ran out of fuel and drifted in the open sea after one of the 40 horse powered outboard motors encountered some problems.

While drifting at sea between Wewak and Manus with 26 bags of betelnut, they were sighted by the container vessel around 6am on Tuesday (Jan 17) where they were picked up.

They arrived at the Lombrum Naval base at 6:30 on Tuesday evening.

PPC Yapu said the men are now safe, however he stressed that safety is paramount especially when travelling out at sea during bad weather and rough seas.

“The three people were lucky to be rescued by the vessel; otherwise they could have ended up in open sea or lost their lives,” he said.

PPC Yapu said a similar incident occurred in February last year where nine people went missing during their betel nut trip from Manus to Wewak. They are yet to be found.

He also appealed to the Manus Provincial Administration to start enforcing the small craft act and penalised boat operators and owners for non-compliance of the Act.


(Loop PNG file picture of Sepik betelnut being sold at the Lorengau market.) 

Sally Pokiton