Papua New Guinea: New Hope for Peace?
Suter, Keith, Contemporary Review
PAPUA New Guinea (PNG) was once hailed as one of the success stories of decolonization. But now it is mentioned mainly in the context of how a developing country can squander its opportunities. Indeed, PNG's social indicators show a country in decline, such as a high rate of infant mortality. This article, after giving some background to the problems of PNG, looks at the five main features which have determined PNG's troubled history since independence in 1975: geography, national identity, political instability, economic stagnation, and crime. It ends with a study of the Bougainville rebellion, which began ten years ago and which may now be on its way to a peaceful resolution as a result of a New Zealand-brokered peace agreement in May 1998.
PNG is the eastern half of the world's second largest island (after Greenland). The western half was annexed by the Netherlands in 1848, which simply proclaimed the area west of 141 degrees east to be Dutch territory, and it is now part of the troubled country of Indonesia (the province of Irian Jaya/West Papua). The border was artificial in that it suited the needs of the imperial map-makers (who had to draw lines somewhere to represent the eastern end of the Dutch empire) rather than fitting the ethnic characteristics of the people or geographical land marks (such as a river) in that part of the island.
The area to the east remained in a state of imperial limbo (not that the indigenous peoples would have noticed or cared). The vacuum was later filled by the freshly united Germany which was, as the late-comer to the race for empire, looking for land not yet claimed by Europeans. As imperial powers went, Germany was not that bad. Germany lost its Pacific empire after World War I and the League of Nations mandate countries all probably did a worse job (from the point of view of the indigenous peoples) than did Germany. Australia got German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the German Solomons (which included Bougainville), Japan got German Micronesia islands north of the Equator, New Zealand got German Samoa and Nauru went to the `British Empire' (effectively Australia, New Zealand and Britain).
Germany's interest in the …
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Publication information: Article title: Papua New Guinea: New Hope for Peace?. Contributors: Suter, Keith - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 273. Issue: 1590 Publication date: July 1998. Page number: 14+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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