August 2023 | Violence engulfs highlands region
A wave of violence between the Mupapalu and Nenei tribes in Enga Province over a land dispute has claimed around 150 lives and left thousands displaced in the month of August, although the lack of official infrastructure in the region and limited police presence means the total scale of the violence remains unclear. While tribes have historically used regulated forms of combat to settle grievances in parts of Papua New Guinea, local police say the latest wave of violence is unique due to a flood of weapons and mercenaries into the region. The International Committee for the Red Cross credited “the breaking down of traditional hierarchies and rules, the loss of some traditional values such as respect for women and children, and an influx of modern weapons” with the severity of the violence.
June 2023 | Government-Bougainville independence talks at a standstill
The government of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville accused the national government of obstructing the region’s agreed-upon path to independence on 25 June. The national government has promised to take up the results of a 2019 Bougainville referendum in which over 97 per cent of voters voted for independence. While the national government argues it is within the power of parliament to accept or reject the result under the terms of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, and that granting the autonomous region independence requires a two-thirds-majority, the region’s government argues that parliament can only endorse the results and must grant the region independence between 2025 and 2027. The two governments remain at an impasse, with concerns that a parliamentary vote without proper preparations could lead to a clear “no” vote.
March 2023 | Bribery investigation sparks state probe
Prime Minister James Marape announced an internal government probe in response to a joint Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Australian Broadcasting Corporation investigation into the state-owned ports company. The investigation documented millions of dollars of payments to an Australian consultant from the winning bidder for lucrative contracts. The consultant then used the money to finance personal expenses of the senior officials at the ports company. Marape admitted to having played golf with the consultant but denied significant knowledge of his background or business.
December 2022 | Population mystery raises governance questions
An unpublished study by the United Nations Population Fund suggested Papua New Guinea’s population may be twice the official number of 9.4 million. Prime Minister James Marape suggested the number was more likely between 9 and 11 million but did not know the precise size of the population. Experts quoted in media reports were not convinced the UN figure was accurate but agreed that a new census was needed to ensure that millions of citizens were not being denied access to key services or the right to vote. The country’s next census is scheduled for 2024.