Setting the scene Papua New Guinea 2009
With thanks to Wikipedia
Independent State of Papua New Guinea is a country in Oceania, occupying the
eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands (the
western portion of the island is a part of Indonesian provinces of Papua and
West Papua). It is located in the south western Pacific Ocean, in a region
defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. Its capital, and one of
its few major cities, is Port Moresby. It is one of the most diverse
countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many
traditional societies, out of a population of just under 6 million. It is
also one of the most rural, with only 18 per cent of its people living in
urban centres. The country is also one of the world's least explored,
culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and
animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.
majority of the population live in traditional societies and practise
subsistence-based agriculture. These societies and clans have some explicit
acknowledgement within the nation's constitutional framework. The PNG
Constitution (Preamble expresses the wish for traditional villages and
communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society, and for
active steps to be taken in their preservation. The PNG legislature has
enacted various laws in which a type of tenure called "customary land title"
is recognised, meaning that the traditional lands of the indigenous peoples
have some legal basis to inalienable tenure. This customary land notionally
covers most of the usable land in the country (some 97% of total land area);
alienated land is either held privately under State Lease or is government
land. Freehold Title (also known as fee simple) can only be held by Papua
New Guinea citizens.
country's geography is similarly diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A
spine of mountains runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a
populous highlands region. Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and
coastal areas. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop
transportation infrastructure. In some areas, planes are the only mode of
transport. After being colonised by three external powers since 1884, Papua
New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975.
remains have been found which have been dated to about 50,000 years ago.
These ancient inhabitants probably had their origins in Southeast Asia.
Agriculture was independently developed in the New Guinea highlands around
9,000 years ago, making it one of the few areas of original plant
domestication in the world. A major migration of Austronesia speaking
peoples came to coastal regions roughly 2,500 years ago, and this is
correlated with the introduction of pottery, pigs, and certain fishing
techniques. More recently, some 300 years ago, the sweet potato entered New
Guinea having been introduced to the Moluccas from South America by the
then-locally dominant colonial power, Portugal. The far higher crop yields
from sweet potato gardens radically transformed traditional agriculture;
sweet potato largely supplanted the previous staple, taro, and gave rise to
a significant increase in population in the highlands.
was known in the West about the island until the nineteenth century,
although traders from Southeast Asia had been visiting New Guinea as long as
5,000 years ago collecting bird of paradise plumes and European explorers
had encountered it as early as the sixteenth century. The country's dual
name results from its complex administrative history prior to Independence.
The word Papua is derived from a Malay word describing the frizzy Melanesian
hair, and "New Guinea" (Nueva Guinea) was the name coined by the Spanish
explorer Inigo Ortiz de Retez, who in 1545 noted the resemblance of the
people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa.
northern half of the country came into German hands in 1884 as German New
Guinea. During World War I, it was occupied by Australia, which had begun
administering British New Guinea, the southern part, as the re-named Papua
in 1904 once Britain was assured by the federation of the Australian
colonies that Queensland, with its equivocal history of race relations,
would not have a direct hand in the administration of the territory. After
World War I, Australia was given a mandate to administer the former German
New Guinea by the League of Nations. Papua, by contrast, was deemed to be an
External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth, though as a matter of law
it remained a British possession, an issue which had significance for the
country's post-Independence legal system after 1975. This difference in
legal status meant that Papua and New Guinea had entirely separate
administrations, both controlled by Australia.
territories were combined into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea after
World War II, which later was simply referred to as "Papua New Guinea". The
Administration of Papua was now also open to United Nations oversight.
However, certain statutes continued (and continue) to have application only
in one of the two territories, a matter considerably complicated today by
the adjustment of the former boundary among contiguous provinces with
respect to road access and language groups, so that such statutes apply on
one side only of a boundary which no longer exists.
independence from Australia, the de facto metropolitan power occurred on
September 16, 1975, and close ties remain (Australia remains the largest
bilateral aid donor to Papua New Guinea).
secessionist revolt in 1975-76 on the island of Bougainville resulted in an
eleventh-hour modification of the draft Constitution of Papua New Guinea to
allow for Bougainville and the other eighteen districts of pre-Independence
Papua New Guinea to have quasi-federal status as provinces. The revolt
recurred and claimed 20,000 lives from 1988 until it was resolved in 1997.
Autonomous Bougainville recently elected Joseph Kabui as president.
unicameral Parliament enacts legislation in the same manner as in other
jurisdictions having "cabinet," "responsible government," or "parliamentary
democracy": it is introduced by the executive government to the legislature,
debated and, if passed, becomes law when it receives royal assent by the
Governor-General. Most legislation is actually regulation implemented by the
bureaucracy under enabling legislation previously passed by Parliament.
ordinary statutes enacted by Parliament must be consistent with the
Constitution and the courts have jurisdiction to rule on the
constitutionality of statutes, both in disputes before them and on a
reference where there is no dispute but only an abstract question of law.
Unusually among developing countries, the judicial branch of government in
Papua New Guinea has remained remarkably independent and successive
executive governments have continued to respect its authority.
"underlying law" that is, the common law of Papua New Guinea consists of
English common law as it stood on September 16, 1975 (the date of
Independence), and thereafter the decisions of PNGs own courts. The courts
are directed by the Constitution and, latterly, the Underlying Law Act, to
take note of the "custom" of traditional communities, with a view to
determining which customs are common to the whole country and may be
declared also to be part of the underlying law. In practice, this has proved
extremely difficult and has been largely neglected. Statutes are largely
adopted from overseas jurisdictions, primarily Australia and England.
Advocacy in the courts follows the adversarial pattern of other common law
Guinea is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth II is
the head of state. It had been expected by the constitutional convention,
which prepared the draft constitution, and by Australia, the outgoing
metropolitan power, that Papua New Guinea would choose not to retain its
link with the British monarchy. The founders, however, considered that
imperial honours had a cachet that the newly independent state would not be
able to confer with a purely indigenous honours system the Monarchy was
thus maintained. The Queen is represented in Papua New Guinea by the
Governor-General, currently Sir Paulias Matane. Papua New Guinea is unique
among commonwealth realms in that the Governor-General is effectively
selected by the legislature rather than by the executive, as in some
parliamentary democracies within or formerly within the Commonwealth whose
non-executive ceremonial president is similarly chosen and as would have
been the case had the link with the monarchy been severed at independence
such that the governor-general was an autochthonous head of state.
executive power lies with the Prime Minister, who heads the cabinet. The
unicameral National Parliament has 109 seats, of which 20 are occupied by
the governors of the 19 provinces and the NCD. Candidates for members of
parliament are voted upon when the prime minister calls a national election,
a maximum of five years after the previous national election. In the early
years of independence, the instability of the party system led to frequent
votes of no-confidence in Parliament with resulting falls of the government
of the day and the need for national elections, in accordance with the
conventions of parliamentary democracy. In recent years, successive
governments have passed legislation preventing such votes sooner than 18
months after a national election. This has arguably resulted in greater
stability though, perhaps, at a cost of reducing the accountability of the
executive branch of government.
in PNG attract large numbers of candidates. After independence in 1975,
members were elected by the first past the post system, with winners
frequently gaining less than 15% of the vote. Electoral reforms in 2001
introduced the Limited Preferential Vote system (LPV), a version of the
Alternative Vote. The 2007 general election was the first to be conducted
Guinea is divided into four regions, which are not the primary
administrative divisions, but are quite significant in many aspects of
government, commercial, sporting and other activities.
nation has 20 province-level divisions: eighteen provinces, the autonomous
province of North Solomons (Bougainville) and the National Capital District.
Each province is divided into one or more districts, which in turn are
divided into one or more Local Level Government areas.
462,840 km² (178,704 sq mi), Papua New Guinea is the world's fifty-fourth
largest country (after Cameroon). It is comparable in size to Sweden, and
somewhat larger than the US state of California.
Guinea is mostly mountainous (highest peak: Mount Wilhelm at 4,509 m; 14,793
ft) and mostly covered with tropical rainforest, as well as very large
wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. Papua New Guinea is
surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch to preserve them.
country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision
of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes and
eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes
accompanied by tsunamis.
mainland of the country is the eastern half of New Guinea Island, where the
largest towns are also located, including the capital Port Moresby and Lae;
other major islands within Papua New Guinea include New Ireland, New
Britain, Manus and Bougainville.
Guinea is one of the few regions close to the equator that experience
snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts of the mainland.
Guinea is part of the Australasia ecozone, which also includes Australia,
New Zealand, eastern Indonesia, and several Pacific island groups, including
the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Geologically, the island of New Guinea is a northern extension of the
Indo-Australian tectonic plate, forming part of a single landmass
Australia-New Guinea (also called Sahul or Meganesia). It is connected to
the Australian segment by a shallow continental shelf across the Torres
Strait, which in former ages had lain exposed as a land bridge
particularly during ice ages when sea levels were lower than at present.
jungle of Papua New Guinea bears a stark contrast to the nearby desert of
Australia. Consequently, many species of birds and mammals found on New
Guinea have close genetic links with corresponding species found in
Australia. One notable feature in common for the two landmasses is the
existence of several species of marsupial mammals, including some kangaroos
and possums, which are not found elsewhere.
the other islands within PNG territory, including New Britain, New Ireland,
Bougainville, the Admiralty Islands, the Trobriand Islands, and the
Louisiade Archipelago, were never linked to New Guinea by land bridges, and
they lack many of the land mammals and flightless birds that are common to
New Guinea and Australia.
and New Guinea are portions of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which
started to break into smaller continents in the Cretaceous era, 13065
million years ago. Australia finally broke free from Antarctica about 45
million years ago. All the Australasian lands are home to the Antarctic
flora, descended from the flora of southern Gondwana, including the
coniferous podocarps and Araucaria pines, and the broad leafed southern
beech. These plant families are still present in Papua New Guinea.
Indo-Australian Plate (which includes landmasses of India, Australia, and
the Indian Ocean floor in-between) drifts north, it collides with the
Eurasian Plate, and the collision of the two plates pushed up the Himalayas,
the Indonesian islands, and New Guinea's Central Range. The Central Range is
much younger and higher than the mountains of Australia, so high that it is
home to rare equatorial glaciers. New Guinea is part of the humid tropics,
and many Indo Malayan rainforest plants spread across the narrow straits
from Asia, mixing together with the old Australian and Antarctic floras.
Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, but exploitation has been
hampered by rugged terrain, the high cost of developing infrastructure,
serious law and order problems and the system of land title, which makes
identifying the owners of land for the purpose of negotiating appropriate
agreements problematic. Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for
85% of the population. Mineral deposits, including oil, copper, and gold,
account for 72% of export earnings. Former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta
tried to restore integrity to state institutions, stabilize the kina,
restore stability to the national budget, privatize public enterprises where
appropriate, and ensure ongoing peace on Bougainville following the 1997
agreement which ended Bougainville's secessionist unrest. The Morauta
government had considerable success in attracting international support,
specifically gaining the backing of the IMF and the World Bank in securing
development assistance loans. Significant challenges face the current Prime
Minister Sir Michael Somare, including gaining further investor confidence,
continuing efforts to privatize government assets, and maintaining the
support of members of Parliament. The third quarter (September, 2004)
Reserve Bank Report by the Governor of Bank of PNG showed positive economic
stance by the Government, with inflation at zero. However, in March 2006 the
United Nations Committee for Development Policy called for Papua New
Guinea's designation of developing country to be downgraded to
least-developed country because of protracted economic and social
3% of the land of Papua New Guinea is alienated; it is privately held under
99 years State Lease or it is held by the State. There is virtually no
freehold title; the few existing freeholds are automatically converted to
State Lease when they are transferred between vendor and purchaser.
Unalienated land is owned under customary title by traditional landowners.
The precise nature of the seisin varies from one culture to another. Many
writers portray land as in the communal ownership of traditional clans;
however, closer studies usually show that the smallest portions of land
whose ownership cannot be further divided are held by the individual heads
of extended families and their descendants, or their descendants alone if
they have recently died. This is a matter of vital importance because a
problem of economic development is identifying who the membership of
customary landowning groups is, and thus who the owners are. Disputes
between mining and forestry companies and landowner groups often devolve on
the issue of whether the companies entered into contractual relations for
the use of land with the true owners. Customary property usually land
cannot be devised by will; it can only be inherited according to the custom
of the deceased's people.
Guinea is one of, if not the most heterogeneous nations in the world. There
are hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the majority
being from the group known as Papuans, whose ancestors arrived in the New
Guinea region tens of thousands of years ago. The others are Austronesia's,
their ancestors having arrived in the region less than four thousand years
ago. There are also numerous people from other parts of the world now
resident, including Chinese, Europeans, Australians, Filipinos, Polynesians
New Guinea has more languages than any other country, with over 820
indigenous languages, representing twelve percent of the world's total.
Indigenous languages are classified into two large groups: Austronesia
languages and non-Austronesia (or Papuan languages). There are three
official languages for Papua New Guinea. English is an official language,
and is the language of government and the education system, but it is not
widely spoken. The primary lingua franca of the country is Tok Pisin, in
which much of the debate in Parliament is conducted, many information
campaigns and advertisements are presented, and until recently a national
newspaper, Wantok, was published. The only area where Tok Pisin is not
prevalent is the southern region of Papua, where people often use the third
official language, Hiri Motu. Although it lies in the Papua region, Port
Moresby has a highly diverse population which primarily uses Tok Pisin, and
to a lesser extent English, with Motu spoken as the indigenous language in
outlying villages. With an average of only 7000 speakers per language, Papua
New Guinea has a greater density of languages than any other nation on earth
the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific region and is the
fourth country in the Asia Pacific region to fit the criteria for a
generalised HIV/AIDS epidemic. Lack of HIV/AIDS awareness is a major
problem, especially in rural areas.
of Papua New Guinea is multi-faceted and complex. It is estimated that more
than a thousand different cultural groups exist in PNG. Because of this
diversity, many different styles of cultural expression have emerged; each
group has created its own expressive forms in art, dance, weaponry,
costumes, singing, music, architecture and much more.
these different cultural groups have their own language. People typically
live in villages that rely on subsistence farming. In some areas people hunt
and collect wild plants (such as yam roots) to supplement their diets. Those
who become skilled at hunting, farming and fishing earn a great deal of
Sepik River, there is a famous tradition of wood carving, often in the form
of plants or animals, representing ancestor spirits.
shells are no longer the currency of Papua New Guinea, as they were in some
regions sea shells were abolished as currency in 1933. However, this
heritage is still present in local customs; in some cultures, to get a
bride, a groom must bring a certain number of golden-edged clam shells as a
bride price. In other regions, bride price is paid in lengths of shell
money, pigs, cassowaries or cash; elsewhere, bride price is unknown and it
is brides who must pay dowry.
the highlands engage in colourful local rituals that are called "sing
sings". They paint themselves, and dress up with feathers, pearls and animal
skins to represent birds, trees or mountain spirits. Sometimes an important
event, such as a legendary battle, is enacted at such a musical festival.
national sport, although not official, is considered to be rugby league. In
a nation where communities are far apart and many people live at a minimal
subsistence level, rugby league has been described as a replacement for
tribal warfare as a way of explaining the local enthusiasm for the game (a
matter of life and death). Many Papua New Guineans have become instant
celebrities by representing their country or playing in an overseas
professional league. Even Australian rugby league players who have played in
the annual (Australian) State of Origin clash, which is celebrated
feverishly every year in PNG, are among the most well known identities
throughout the nation. The Papua New Guinea national rugby league team
usually play against the Australian national rugby league team each year in
Port Moresby. It is such a popular fixture that thousands of people can't
get into the ground once it's full, causing people to climb onto the stadium
roof or up trees outside the ground in order to see the match. The limited
capacity of the stadium for this fixture often sparks riots. Spectators
clashed with riot police during this fixture in 2006.
Australian Rules football has experienced considerable growth over the past
decade, now being Papua New Guinea's second most popular sport. They also
boast the second highest number of players in the world. The Papua New
Guinea national Australian rules football team competed at both the 2002 and
2005 International Cups and were runners-up both times (to Ireland and New
Zealand respectively). AFL-PNG is the governing body of the sport in Papua
New Guinea. Mal Michael is a famous Papua New Guinean footballer in the AFL,
and his popularity has helped increase awareness of the game in his
major sports which have a part in the PNG sporting landscape are soccer,
rugby union and, in eastern Papua, cricket. The national rugby union team
have in the past attempted to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, but have yet
courts and government practice uphold the constitutional right to freedom of
speech, thought, and belief, and no legislation to curb those rights has
been adopted, though Sir Arnold Amet, the immediately previous Chief Justice
of Papua New Guinea and an outspoken proponent of Pentecostal Christianity,
frequently urged legislative and other curbs on the activities of Muslims in
census showed 96 percent of citizens were members of a Christian church;
however, many citizens combine their Christian faith with some pre-Christian
traditional indigenous practices. The census percentages were as follows:
Catholic Church (27.0%)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (19.5%)
Seventh-day Adventist Church (10.0%)
Evangelical Alliance (5.2%)
Church of Papua New Guinea (3.2%)
religions include Jehovah's Witnesses (20,000) and the Baha'i Faith (15,000
or 0.3%), while Islam in Papua New Guinea accounts for approximately 1,000
to 2,000 or about 0.04%, (largely foreign residents of African and Southeast
Asian origin, but with some Papua New Guinean converts in the towns).
Non-traditional Christian churches and non-Christian religious groups are
active throughout the country. The Papua New Guinea Council of Churches has
stated that both Muslim and Confucian missionaries are active, and foreign
missionary activity in general is high.
Traditional religions were often animist and some also tended to have
elements of ancestor worship though generalisation is suspect given the
extreme heterogeneity of Melanesian societies.
in Papua New Guinea is heavily limited by the country's mountainous terrain.
Port Moresby is not linked by road to any of the other major towns and many
remote villages can only be reached by light aircraft or on foot. As a
result, air travel is the single most important form of transport. Papua New
Guinea has 578 airstrips, with 557 of them being unpaved.