Modern Papua New Guinea

By Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi | Go to book overview

Sinclair Dinnen


LAW, ORDER, AND STATE

LAW AND ORDER ISSUES feature prominently in public debate in Papua New Guinea. Concerns centre around criminal violence and the limited effectiveness of state controls. High levels of interpersonal violence are apparent in the activities of criminal gangs, known locally as rascals, the tribal fighting occurring in parts of the Highlands as well as in everyday gender relations throughout the country. The continuing escalation of disorder in many areas is indicative of the limitations of state authority in PNG, as is most dramatically demonstrated in the bloody and unresolved secessionist conflict on Bougainville (May and Spriggs1990; Spriggs and Denoon1992). Burgeoning corruption among elements of the political and administrative elite provides another significant strand to current debate.

Addressing a National Crime Summit in Port Moresby in1991, then-Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu stated that law and order problems were the greatest threat facing PNG (The Australian, 12 February 1991). Almost five years later, the incumbent, Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, declared1996 to be ‘the year of law enforcement’, claiming that his government would lead Papua New Guinea out of its ‘crime nightmare’, reduce fear and violence, and invigorate public and investor confidence in the country (Post-Courier, 16 January1996). Despite these bold pronouncements, 1996 ended with the imposition of a nationwide curfew following a series of violent and highly publicised crimes.

Popular concerns with personal security manifest themselves in the elaborate security precautions adopted by individuals, households,

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