Papua New Guinea. After a few chaotic years in politics, Parliament voted twice during the year to extend the ban on declaring mistrust of the government. First, the time limit was set at 30 months after a government’s entry, and then the time was extended to 36 months.
The increasing violent crime led to a hot political debate, which resulted in the death penalty being re-used. The cruel customs of so-called witch-burning continued. In February, a young woman was burnt alive, accused of causing the death of a boy through black art. In May, two women were reportedly beheaded after allegations of black art against a teacher who passed away. In both cases, police arrived at the scene but were attacked by a mob and prevented from intervening.
According to Countryaah, the murders of alleged witches were often carried out by young men and boys who acted according to village instructions and were affected by alcohol and drugs.
Amnesty International urged Papua New Guinea to work vigorously against perceptions of witchcraft and to repeal the so-called Witchcraft Act. The 1971 Act treated witchcraft as a criminal offense and accepted charges of witchcraft as a defense in murder trials.
In May, Parliament repealed the disputed law but at the same time decided that the country should begin the death penalty for a series of serious violent crimes, including for murders with allegations of black magic. The death penalty had been reintroduced in 1991 due to increased violent crime, but no one had been executed since then. According to the government, the death penalty would also be used against the domestic burning and cultivation of cannabis as well as against corruption and extensive theft.
Amnesty described it as “horrific” that the government was trying to end a form of violence by introducing a constantly state-sanctioned violence.
In July, Papua New Guinea agreed to Australia’s request to receive the boat refugees trying to make their way to Australia. Papua New Guinea was promised assistance equivalent to nearly SEK 3 billion, against refugees being allowed to seek asylum in the country. They were to be housed in an asylum center on the island of Manus, which, according to the UNHCR, had a lack of resources and skills for handling asylum. The political opposition went to court to have the agreement with Australia tested against the constitution.
Parliament decided in September that the state would take over 100% of the ownership of the large gold and copper mine Ok Tedi in the west. This happened after a long conflict with a development fund that controlled most of the shares on behalf of the local population. At the same time, a twelve-year-old immunity that protected the mine’s former owner, Australian-British BHP Billiton, was revoked from lawsuits for environmental damage. BHP Billiton is the world’s largest mining company, which has been accused of dumping millions of tons of toxic mining sludge into the river system. The state takeover of the mine was challenged by the Development Fund in court.
Rich nature, modest development
The territory of New Guinea and the adjacent islands is very rich in mineral resources (precious metals, oil, copper), forest (for which, however, there is the risk of reckless and excessive exploitation) and marine resources, while agriculture and livestock are scarce. developed and almost absent is the industry; there are few communication routes, although rivers can be used for many trips, which are mostly navigable.
The population is decidedly sparse compared to the surface, even if it is increasing at a fairly rapid rate; a large part of the state is practically depopulated. The residents are mainly Papua; however Melanesians (in the islands) and other ethnic groups constitute sizeable minorities. Even among the Papuans, however, the differences are not few: there are about 700 dialects spoken in the state, the human communities are small and isolated and still today strong contrasts often oppose the populations of the mountains to those of the plains as a result of ancient rivalries or for the control of hunting grounds.
The urban centers are few and modest: except for the capital Port Moresby (254,000 residents) And the city of Lae (73,000 residents), The administrative capitals are small towns.
The main obstacles to modern development in Papua New Guinea are the shortage of population – too small to feed a viable internal market – and communication difficulties, and therefore the isolation of the various parts of the state.
In these conditions, the ‘colonial’ model of an economy entirely based on the export of raw materials continues to prevail: but it is a slow and insufficient type of development, which leaves most of the wealth produced in the hands of very few people. and, often, of foreign companies.