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Papua New Guinea

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini) (PNG), officially the 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 the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua). It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of just under seven million. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18% of its people live in urban centres. The country is 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.
The 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 5(4)) 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.
After being ruled by three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975. It remains a Commonwealth realm of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Papua New Guinea. Many people live in extreme poverty, with about one third of the population living on less than US$1.25 per day.

History of Papua New Guinea

Human remains have been found which have been dated to about 50,000 BC although this is an estimate. These ancient inhabitants probably had their origins in Southeast Asia, themselves originating in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago. New Guinea was one of the first landmasses after Africa and Eurasia to be populated by modern humans, with the first migration at approximately the same time as that of Australia.

Agriculture was independently developed in the New Guinea highlands around 7000 BC, making it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. A major migration of Austronesian speaking peoples came to coastal regions roughly 500 BC, and this is correlated with the introduction of pottery, pigs, and certain fishing techniques. More recently, in the 18th century, the sweet potato entered New Guinea having been introduced to the Moluccas from South America by the 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.
Although headhunting and cannibalism have been practically eradicated, in the past they occurred in many parts of the country. For example, in 1901, on Goaribari Island in the Gulf of Papua, a missionary, Harry Dauncey, found 10,000 skulls in the island’s Long Houses. According to the writer Marianna Torgovnick, "The most fully documented instances of cannibalism as a social institution come from New Guinea, where head-hunting and ritual cannibalism survived, in certain isolated areas, into the fifties, sixties, and seventies, and still leave traces within certain social groups."

Little was known in the West about the island until the nineteenth century, although Portuguese and Spanish explorers such as Dom Jorge de Meneses and Yñigo Ortiz de Retez respectively had encountered it as early as the sixteenth century. Traders from Southeast Asia had also been visiting New Guinea as long as 5,000 years ago collecting bird of paradise plumes. The country's dual name results from its complex administrative history before independence. The word papua is derived from pepuah, a Malay word describing the frizzy Melanesian hair, and "New Guinea" (Nueva Guinea) was the name coined by the Spanish explorer Yñigo Ortiz de Retez, who in 1545 noted the resemblance of the people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa. The 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. 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. This difference in legal status meant that Papua and New Guinea had entirely separate administrations, both controlled by Australia.
The New Guinea campaign (1942–1945) was one of the major military campaigns of World War II. Approximately 216,000 Japanese, Australian and U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen died during the New Guinea Campaign. The two 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". However, certain statutes continued 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.
The administration of Papua became open to United Nations oversight and a peaceful independence from Australia occurred on September 16, 1975, and close ties remain (Australia remains the largest bilateral aid donor to Papua New Guinea). Papua New Guinea was admitted to membership in the United Nations on 10 October 1975.

A secessionist revolt in 1975–76 on Bougainville Island resulted in an eleventh-hour modification of the draft Constitution of Papua New Guinea to allow for Bougainville and the other eighteen districts to have quasi-federal status as provinces. The revolt recurred and claimed 20,000 lives from 1988 until it was resolved in 1997. Following the revolt, the autonomous Bougainville elected Joseph Kabui as president. He was succeeded by deputy John Tabinaman, who remained leader until the election of December 2008, with James Tanis emerging as the winner.
Anti-Chinese rioting, involving tens of thousands of people, broke out in May 2009. The initial spark for this was a fight between Chinese and Papua New Guinean workers at a nickel factory which was being built by a Chinese company; the underlying reason for the protest was a resentment against the number of small businesses being run by Chinese.

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Politics of Papua New Guinea

As a Commonwealth realm, Papua New Guinea's head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. 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 Commonwealth realms 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 by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, currently Michael Ogio. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are unusual among Commonwealth realms in that Governors-General are selected by the legislature rather than by the executive branch.
Actual executive power lies with the Prime Minister, who heads the cabinet. The current Prime Minister is Peter O'Neill. The unicameral National Parliament has 109 seats, of which 20 are occupied by the governors of the 19 provinces and the National Capital District (NCD). Candidates for members of parliament are voted upon when the prime minister asks the Governor-General to call 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.
Elections 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 using LPV.

Law of Papua New Guinea

The unicameral Parliament enacts legislation in the same manner as in other jurisdictions that have "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.
All ordinary statutes enacted by Parliament must be consistent with the Constitution. 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. Unusual 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.
The "underlying law" – that is, the common law of Papua New Guinea – consists of principles and rules of common law and equity in England common law as it stood on September 16, 1975 (the date of Independence), and thereafter the decisions of PNG’s 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 adapted from overseas jurisdictions, primarily Australia and England. Advocacy in the courts follows the adversarial pattern of other common law countries.
This national court system used in towns and cities is supported by a village court system in the more remote areas. The law underpinning the village courts is 'customary law' and these courts are discussed further on the Law of Papua New Guinea page.