Crawford House Publishing
State and Society in PNG The First Twenty-Five Years

On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, there were many – within the country and outside – who predicted political anarchy, with the possibility of an army coup or authoritarian single-party dominance, and economic collapse. Such fears appeared to have been justified when in 1975 the North Solomons (Bougainville) and Papua unilaterally declared their independence. PNG, however, achieved a smooth transition, and in its first decade as a new state enjoyed a high degree of political and economic progress. It remains one of the few postcolonial states that has maintained an unbroken record of democratic government. Nevertheless, from the mid-1980s a number of adverse tendencies became apparent, including: a decline in government capability; increasing problems of urban and rural lawlessness; poor economic management, with growing evidence of nepotism and corruption; environmental degradation associated with mining and logging, and increasing pressure on land; and, from 1988, a rebellion on Bougainville. PNG now faces instability on its western border with the Indonesian province of West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), and on its eastern border with Solomon Islands.

In September 2000, PNG celebrated twenty-five years as an independent nation. This volume marks the occasion by bringing together a number of papers written by the author over this period, and which address topics of central political concern. Most of the papers have been written in the past few years, but a few provide historical perspectives on issues of contemporary debate. They include reviews of the first decade of independence, of political economy up to the late 1990s, and of internal and external security issues to 1998, and analyses of class, ethnicity, regionalism and political parties, micronationalism, decentralisation and provincial-government reform, the changing role of the PNG Defence Force and its involvement in the ‘Sandline Affair’, the emergence of ‘chiefs’ in contemporary politics, the origins of the Bougainville crisis, and PNG’s relations with Indonesia over their common border. Historical chapters look at the role of the Reserve Bank of Australia, under Governor H.C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs, in PNG’s decolonisation, at pre-independence efforts towards ‘political education’, and at the emergence of nationalist literature in the early 1970s. A comparative chapter examines state, society and governance in PNG and the Philippines. Against this background, an introductory chapter provides an assessment of where PNG stands at the beginning of its next twenty-five years.


Dr R.J. May


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Portrait; softcover; viii + 450 pages


204 x 135 mm



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