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Global

Spotlight Papua New Guinea O’Neill’s big clean up When Prime Minister Peter O’Neill launched an ambitious drive to root out corruption, he didn’t expect the finger of suspicion to point primarily at him Phil Mercer In Papua New Guinea, politics can be ruthless and mystifying. In a country that once had two rivals claiming to be Prime Minister at the same time, a corruption-busting leader – labelled a tyrant by his critics – has responded to allegations of massive fraud by sacking the Attorney-General and deputy police commissioner. The star of this Melanesian drama is a former businessman, Peter O’Neill, the son of an Australian magistrate. Since August 2011 his government has controlled a complex nation of almost seven million people that covers the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. It is a rich and vivid place blessed with more than 800 indigenous languages and gilded with reserves of copper, gold and oil that promise unparalleled wealth. This year the country reached a critical economic milestone when it started to export natural gas for the first time. But Papua New Guinea (PNG) is also scarred by poverty, violence and disease, as well as a political class seemingly unable to offer strong leadership, according to Jenny Hayward-Jones, Melanesia programme director at the Sydney based Lowy Institute for International policy. “Instability is the great normality in Papua New Guinea politics,” she explains. “Papua New Guinea is destabilised by its wealth of natural resources that politicians fight over, particularly now with the liquefied natural gas. The revenue is only going to increase, so I think the competition for political power in Papua New Guinea will only get greater. “I think it is going to get more difficult to really keep a handle on corruption and to vote people in who are genuinely interested in the good of the country rather than benefiting themselves.” Peter O’Neill promised a new style of leadership, free from corruption four 28 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2014 global © APEC Creative Commons by 2.0


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