034_G19_Spotlight_PNG

Global

Spotlight Papua New Guinea The rural population of PNG is keen to embrace imported knowledge from the West, to help combat disease for example, but within the framework of tribal heritage Goroka Show every September, drawing visitors from afar. “It is the glue that is actually holding the country together,” says Alexander Rheeney, the editor of PNG’s Post-Courier newspaper, of his country’s diversity. “Papua New Guineans are entrenched in their cultural roots. Most will identify with their tribal affiliations rather than PNG as a state in itself. That is the challenge: how do you continue to unite citizens with their tribes rather than the nation?” In the late 19th century Britain established a protectorate over the south-eastern parts of the island of New Guinea, while Through history 1500 China and the Malay Empire send ships to trade with islanders Germany annexed the northern areas. Papua New Guinea later became an Australian colony, while the western half of the island remains under Indonesian control. On 16 September 1975 Papua New Guinea became an independent nation, and its disparate people were brought together under a common flag and government. But such rich and pronounced cultural variation has, according to Dr Victoria Stead, a research fellow at Deakin University, been both a blessing and an obstacle to national unity. “It is accurate to say that the diversity does cause strain – it puts pressure on 1884 Britain establishes a protectorate over southeast New Guinea, while Germany annexes the north 1526 Portuguese sailor Jorge de Meneses is the first European to visit the islands, naming one of the islands ilhas dos Papuas or “land of fuzzy-haired people”. 1906 Control of New Guinea is transferred from Britain to Australia and renamed Territory of Papua 1933 Gold-prospectors discover more than a million people living in fertile mountain valleys in the highlands, their way of life apparently unchanged since the Stone Age connections within the modern nation state. We often see this in post-colonial countries where a group of people, who in many ways are culturally quite distinct, are bound together in an enclosed political entity,” she explains. PNG’s national fabric was shaken in the late 1980s by an armed campaign against the government in Port Moresby by separatist fighters on the island of Bougainville, known as the Bougainville Rebels. They proclaimed “republic of Bougainville” amid anger at the environmental impact of an Australian-owned copper mine and the profits that were leaving the island. 1973 The country, renamed Papua New Guinea (PNG) two years earlier, is granted self-governance and Michael Somare, Chief Minister in an interim coalition government, is sworn in as head of the Executive Council 1961 Elections involve the indigenous population for the first time four 34 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2014 global 


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