(pg) A parliamentary democracy on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea.
Country in the SW Pacific, comprising the eastern part of the island of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and part of the Solomon Islands.
The British monarch is the formal head of state, represented by a resident governor-general. The governor-general appoints the prime minister and cabinet, who are drawn from and responsible to the parliament.
The constitution from 1975 provides for a single-chamber legislature, the National Parliament, consisting of 109 members elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, 89 representing local single-member constituencies and 20 provincial constituencies. Although Papua New Guinea is not a federal state, it has 20 provincial governments with a fair degree of autonomy.
New Guinea has been inhabited for at least 50,000 years, probably by people arriving from the E Indonesian islands. Agricultural economy dates back some 6,000 years. In the Western Highlands, a permanent system with drainage and garden tools was established 2,500 years ago. The sweet potato, introduced 1,200 years ago, became the staple crop of the highlands, the yam and taro being grown in lowland areas. The first European to reach New Guinea was probably the Portuguese explorer Jorge de Menezes in about 1526, who named it “Ilhas dos Papuas”. It was visited by several Dutch traders in the 17th century, and by the Englishman William Dampier 1700, who named the island of New Britain. French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville was in the area 1768. The Dutch East India Company took control of the western half of the island, and in 1828 it became part of the Dutch East Indies. In 1884 the southeast was claimed by Britain, the northeast by Germany. The British part, Papua, was transferred to Australia 1905. Th
e German part was transferred after World War I, when Australia was granted a League of Nations mandate and then a trusteeship over the area.
Freed from Japanese occupation 1945, the two territories were jointly administered by Australia and, after achieving internal self-government as Papua New Guinea, became fully independent within the Commonwealth 1975.
The first prime minister after independence was Michael Somare, leader of the Papua New Guinea Party (PP). Despite allegations of incompetence, he held office until 1980, when Julius Chan, leader of the People's Progress Party (PPP), succeeded him. Somare returned to power 1982, but in 1985 he lost a no-confidence motion in parliament and was replaced by Paias Wingti, leader of the breakaway People's Democratic Movement, with former prime minister Chan as his deputy. In 1987 Prime Minister Wingti returned to power with a slender majority of three votes. He announced a more independent foreign policy of good relations with the USSR, US, Japan, and China.
In 1988, following shifts in coalition alliances, Wingti lost a no-confidence vote and was replaced as prime minister by the former foreign minister and PP's new leader, Rabbie Namaliu. Somare became foreign minister in the new six-party coalition government. In Oct 1991 governor general Vincent Serei Eri was dismissed by Queen Elizabeth II after his refusal to remove deputy prime minister Ted Diro, who had been found guilty of corruption, from office. Wiwa Korowi was elected to replace Eri Nov 1991. Wingti again became premier 1992. The 1994 elections were won by the PPP and Julius Chan became prime minister.
The government imposed a state of emergency on Bougainville island from June 1989 because of the growing strength there of the guerrilla separatist movement. The guerrillas had forced the closure a month earlier of the island's Panguna copper and gold mine, which provided 40% of the country's export revenue.
The government withdrew its troops from the island March 1990. In May 1990 the secessionist Bougainville Revolutionary Army issued a unilateral declaration of independence, to which the government responded by imposing a blockade. Several unsuccessful attempts to achieve lasting peace failed until a final agreement was signed Sept 1994.
After a slump 1989–90 caused by the closure of the Bougainville mine and falling world prices for its coffee and cocoa exports, Papua New Guinea enjoyed an economic boom, with gold production doubling 1990–92 as a result of the discovery of huge new deposits.