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Papua New Guinea

Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook

The Independent State of Papua New Guinea, often referred to by just the initials PNG, is a country in Oceania , occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (the other half is the Papua province of Indonesia). It is in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and west of the Solomon Islands. Its capital is Port Moresby and by some historians it is called the "last frontier". Central Papua New Guinea is mostly highlands, while the coasts are humid tropical climate, giving way to rainforests. The population has grown in recent years, now 5.7 million. Inflation is 7.5%, and the GDP growth is 2.3%. Papua New Guinea has many languages, with 3 languages spoken per adult. It is also hard to get around; flying on planes is the most widespread way foreigners and high ranking officials get around, and there are 599 airports. Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975 and since then, has been called a developing nation, but has made many strides.

Archeological evidence indicates that humans arrived on New Guinea at least 60,000 years ago, probably by sea from Southeast Asia during an iceage period when the sea was lower and distances between islands shorter. For an overview of the geological history of the continent of which New Guinea is a part, see Australia-New Guinea.

The first Europeans to sight New Guinea were probably the Portuguese and Spanish navigators sailing in the South Pacific in the early part of the 16th century. In 1526-27, Don Jorge de Meneses accidentally came upon the principal island and is credited with naming it "Papua," a Malay word for the frizzled quality of Melanesian hair. The term "New Guinea" was applied to the island in 1545 by a Spaniard, Ynigo Ortis de Retez, because of a fancied resemblance between the islands' inhabitants and those found on the African Guinea coast. Although European navigators visited the islands and explored their coastlines for the next 170 years, little was known of the inhabitants until the late 19th century.

With Europe's growing desire for coconut oil, Godeffroy's of Hamburg, the largest trading firm in the Pacific, began trading for copra in the New Guinea Islands. In 1884, Germany formally took possession of the northeast quarter of the island and put its administration in the hands of a chartered company.In 1899, the German imperial government assumed direct control of the territory, thereafter known as German New Guinea. In 1914, Australian troops occupied German New Guinea, and it remained under Australian military control through World War I, until 1921. The British Government, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, assumed a mandate from the League of Nations for governing the Territory of New Guinea in 1920. It was administered under this mandate until the Japanese invasion in December 1941 brought about the suspension of Australian civil administration.

Following the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, civil administration of Papua as well as New Guinea was restored, and under the Papua New Guinea Provisional Administration Act, 1945-46, Papua and New Guinea were combined in an administrative union. The Papua and New Guinea Act of 1949 formally approved the placing of New Guinea under the international trusteeship system and confirmed the administrative union of New Guinea and Papua under the title of "The Territory of Papua and New Guinea." The act provided for a Legislative Council (established in 1951), a judicial organization, a public service, and a system of local government. A House of Assembly replaced the Legislative Council in 1963, and the first House of Assembly opened on June 8, 1964. In 1972, the name of the territory was changed to Papua New Guinea.

Elections in 1972 resulted in the formation of a ministry headed by Chief Minister Michael Somare, who pledged to lead the country to self-government and then to independence. Papua New Guinea became self-governing on December 1, 1973 and achieved independence on September 16, 1975. The 1977 national elections confirmed Michael Somare as Prime Minister at the head of a coalition led by the Pangu Party. However, his government lost a vote of confidence in 1980 and was replaced by a new cabinet headed by Sir Julius Chan as prime minister. The 1982 elections increased Pangu's plurality, and parliament again chose Somare as prime minister. In November 1985, the Somare government lost a vote of no confidence, and the parliamentary majority elected Paias Wingti, at the head of a five-party coalition, as prime minister. A coalition, headed by Wingti, was victorious in very close elections in July 1987. In July 1988, a no-confidence vote toppled Wingti and brought to power Rabbie Namaliu, who a few weeks earlier had replaced Somare as leader of the Pangu Party.

A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville claimed some 20,000 lives. The rebellion began in early 1989, active hostilities ended with a truce in October 1997 and a permanent cease-fire was signed in April 1998. A peace agreement between the Government and ex-combatants was signed in August 2001. A regional peace-monitoring force and a UN observer mission monitors the government and provincial leaders who have established an interim administration and are working toward complete surrender of weapons, the election of a provincial government and an eventual referendum on independence.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Papua New Guinea".