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State and Society in Papua New Guinea

State and Society in Papua New Guinea: The First Twenty-Five Years OPEN ACCESS

R. J. MAY
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbkfq
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  • Book Info
    State and Society in Papua New Guinea
    Book Description:

    On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975 there were many – both within the country and outside – who predicted political anarchy, with the possibility of an army coup or authoritarian single-party dominance, and economic collapse. Such fears appeared to have been justified when in 1975 both the North Solomons (Bougainville) and Papua unilaterally declared their independence. In fact, however, PNG achieved a smooth transition, and in its first decade as a new state enjoyed a high degree of political and economic progress. It remains one of the few post-colonial states that has maintained an unbroken record of democratic government. This volume brings together a number of papers written by the author between 1971 and 2001 which address issues of political and economic development and social change in Papua New Guinea. Dr R.J. May is a senior fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at The Australian National University. He was formerly a senior economist with the Reserve Bank of Australia and later foundation director of IASER in PNG (now the National Research Institute). In 1976 he was awarded the Independence Medal for his services to banking and research in PNG.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-05-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. FOREWORD (pp. v-viii)
    Rt Hon Sir Michael Somare

    A 25th, or silver, anniversary tends to be an occasion for both celebration and reflection. Both activities are apt when, as on the occasion of Papua New Guinea’s 25th anniversary of independence, silver itself has contributed significantly both to national revenue, as the third most valuable metal export, and to one of our greatest national tragedies, the violent conflict in Bougainville between 1989 and 1997.

    The broad scope of this book on state and society in Papua New Guinea enables the author, Dr R.J. (Ron) May, to draw attention both to some of Papua New Guinea’s greatest strengths and achievements...

  2. On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975 there were many – Papua New Guineans, resident expatriates, and overseas observers – who were sceptical about the future of an independent Papua New Guinea. While people in the New Guinea highlands were apprehensive of being dominated by better educated coastal and Island people, and Papuans around the capital, Port Moresby feared being swamped by immigration from the highlands, well informed commentators, looking to the experience of post-colonial states elsewhere, spoke of the likelihood of political anarchy, an army coup or authoritarian single-party dominance, and of economic collapse. Australian journalist...

  3. In September 1985 Papua New Guinea celebrated its first decade as an independent nation. The occasion was not without its detractors. Amongst residents in the national capital, Port Moresby, there were complaints that the festivities – stage-managed by a long-serving expatriate – were geared primarily to foreign visitors and neglected ordinary Papua New Guineans. Amongst the foreign visitors some Australian former residents left with a feeling that the place was not what it used to be in their day; they spoke of the scruffiness of Port Moresby, of the high security fences which have gone up around urban residences in...

  4. In recent writing about contemporary politics in Melanesia one frequently comes across the term style. The suggestion seems to be that there is, if not a unique, at least a distinctive Melanesian style (or styles) of politics. Hegarty, for example, speaks of an ‘essentially accommodative political and governmental style’ in Papua New Guinea (1979c:110) and Quiros (1979) speaks similarly of a ‘conciliatory style of political leadership’ in that country. (Also see Standish 1978:29 and Herlihy 1982:575.) Melanesian political leaders themselves frequently talk about doing things ‘in the Melanesian Way’ (for example, see Lini 1980).

    This paper seeks to identify some...

  5. One of the most remarkable aspects of social and political change in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s and early 1970s was the proliferation of spontaneous local movements, differing in their origins and specific objectives but sharing a broad concern with the achievement of economic, social and political development through communal action. Some of the movements emerged from a background of local cult activity; others were established ostensibly to organise local opposition to particular policies of central government but came to assume wider objectives; still others were specifically motivated by a desire to achieve development through local community action;...

  6. Before both the 1964 and 1968 general elections in Papua New Guinea, the Australian colonial administration embarked on a programme of political education intended to acquaint voters with some of the broader aspects of the political system it was introducing and thus to increase their appreciation of what the election was all about (Bettison 1965:53-69, Parker and Wolfers 1971:41-45). There was widespread criticism of both programmes, both for what they sought to do and for what they failed to achieve. Reviewing the achievements of the education programme which preceded the 1968 election, in mid-1968 an inter-departmental committee recorded a general...

  7. Political parties were slow to emerge in Papua New Guinea and in 1984 – 20 years after the first general elections – it still requires some stretch of the imagination to speak of a party system in Papua New Guinea. This paper seeks to answer the questions: why has a party system been slow to develop? Is the (further) development of a party system inevitable? And, if so, what are the likely bases (Class? Ethnicity? Regionalism?) for the articulation of party interests? Behind these three fairly specific queries lies a larger question. In both the more ‘orthodox’ liberal approaches to...

  8. This paper is narrow in its geographic focus and modest in its scope. And it is concerned more with politics than with law. But the question it addresses is, I believe, significant and of some relevance to other Pacific states facing demands for local autonomy. That question is twofold: what is the substance of ‘decentralisation’ as embodied in the Papua New Guinea Constitution and Organic Law on Provincial Government; does the political reality of decentralisation correspond to the concept elaborated by the ‘founding fathers’?

    In the course of planning the Constitution, the Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC) made an early decision...

  9. Local governments were established in Papua New Guinea during the colonial period. By the time of independence in 1975 a new tier of sub-national bodies, area authorities, had been created to provide some coordination of local government activities at the administrative district level.¹ Following independence a system of provincial government was introduced, within a unitary constitution. In each of the former administrative districts, renamed provinces, an elected provincial assembly was established, and substantial powers were transferred to the provincial governments, though the national government maintained overriding authority.

    From the outset, however, provincial governments came under attack, both from local government...

  10. In the 1960s and 1970s, what most people knew – or at least thought they knew – about Papua New Guinea’s ‘traditional’ societies was that they were essentially egalitarian: excepting a few societies which possessed hereditarial chieftaincies, leadership was typically by ‘bigmen’, who achieved their status through competition, and community decision making was predominantly consensual. Although challenged by a number of scholars from the mid 1970s, this stereotypical view still has a good deal of currency. In recent years, however, stimulated by a series of reviews of the provincial government system and attempts to nurture new local-level political structures, it...

  11. The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) has been through difficult times in recent years. A gradual deterioration in standards of equipment, training and discipline, and its failure to contain the rebellion on Bougainville which began in 1988, have severely lowered morale. The national government’s decision in 1996-97 to employ foreign mercenaries in a covert operation against the rebel leadership on Bougainville resulted in a ‘quasi-coup’, in which the PNGDF commander, Brigadier General Jerry Singirok, intervened to terminate the contract with Sandline International and call for the resignation of the prime minister and two of his colleagues. The ‘Sandline Affair’...

  12. In his address to the nation on 17 March, in which he called on the prime minister, deputy prime minister, and defence minister to resign, Brigadier General Singirok claimed to be acting ‘as senior citizen and a responsible Departmental Head’. But it is clear from his statement that Singirok’s primary concern was, as commander of the PNGDF, with the terms of the contract between the government and Sandline International. ‘As a professional military officer’, he said:

    I have kept quiet and followed orders from this government as I would for any serving government of the day without questioning their orders...

  13. Sharing borders with Indonesia, Australia, the Solomon Islands and Micronesia, Papua New Guinea looks west and north to Asia, south to its former colonial administrator, and east to the island Pacific. Though it has experienced occasional tensions along its land boundary with Indonesia and, recently, in the waters which separate it from the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea’s geographical location has left it relatively free from external security concerns, able to follow what was initially stated to be a ‘universalist’ foreign policy and to maintain an open economy while continuing to enjoy a ‘special relationship’ with Australia.

    For some years,...

  14. The Bougainville mine, in Papua New Guinea’s North Solomons (formerly Bougainville) Province, is one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines. In recent years it has accounted for around 40 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s exports and between 17 and 20 per cent of government revenue. Ever since mining exploration began on Bougainville in the 1960s, however, the presence of the mining company has been a source of resentment amongst the local people in the Panguna area, as well as for many Bougainvilleans not directly affected by the mining operations. Opposition to mining development was a major factor...

  15. In October 1986 the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea signed a Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Cooperation. Under the terms of this treaty the two countries agreed not to threaten or use force against one another and not to cooperate with others in hostile or unlawful acts against each other or allow their territory to be used by others for such purposes. Provision was made also for consultation and negotiation in the event of any dispute. The treaty was hailed by President Suharto as ‘another milestone in the history of both countries,’ while Papua New Guinea’s...

  16. The island of New Guinea was one of the last parts of the globe to be subjected to European colonisation,¹ and when the eastern half of the island became independent as Papua New Guinea, in 1975, the extent of colonial penetration remained limited.

    In the latter part of the nineteenth century there was some land alienation and development of European plantations in the territories that were to become Papua New Guinea, principally in the New Guinea islands (New Britain, New Ireland and Bougainville) and along parts of the north and south coast. Much of the commercial interaction between Europeans and...

  17. For some time students of comparative politics, as well as aid donors and international agencies such as the World Bank, have been concerned with the poor performance of many states in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and more recently Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This has been reflected in the proliferation of such terms as ‘weak states’, ‘collapsed states’, and (going back some years) ‘broken-backed states’. Since the appearance of Joel Migdal’s Strong Societies and Weak States (1988) the ideas of weak states and strong (and weak) societies have been employed frequently in analyses of Southeast Asian and island...

  18. Much of the literature on decolonisation suffers from a tendency to overgeneralise, in particular to portray the colonial power as monolithic and its motives as simple. This propensity tends to vary directly with commentators’ distance in time and space from the decolonisation process. Increasingly, I read references to decolonisation in Papua New Guinea which describe events that, as someone involved on the margins of the decolonisation process, I have difficulty recognising. In fact, in virtually all decolonisation processes different actors, both colonisers and colonised, occupy a range of positions, from opposing independence to being in its vanguard. This was true...

  19. Slowly, often reluctantly, Australians are coming to realise that Papua New Guinea is an emerging nation with its own cultures, its own history, and its own ability to express its views on its own future. The development of independent expression in the political sphere (though not at first encouraged by the Australian government) has already made itself felt in the formulation of administration policies and, gradually but inevitably, in Australia’s official attitudes to the development of Papua New Guinea towards independence. There is little awareness outside Papua New Guinea, however, (and not all that much inside) of the groundswell of...