The National Party (originally the New Guinea National Party) was formed in November 1970 by Thomas Kavali (Western Highlands) and a group of university students. The NP was the only highland party which supported early Independence. Kavali and Iambakey Okuk and several sympathizers who stood as Independents were successful candidates in the 1972 elections. The NP held four portfolios in the 1972 National Coalition Government. Okuk, who joined the NP after the election as deputy leader, became Minister for Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries and subsequently Transport and Education. The party split in 1976 when Kavali and Okuk were dismissed from their ministries by Prime Minister Somare but other NP members elected to stay with Somare’s governing coalition. The 1982 election manifesto included reform of the public service, regional (as distinct from provincial) governments, relaxation of the laws covering foreign investment and the establishment of joint foreign and PNG state enterprises.
After the 1982 election Edward (Ted) Diro brought his Papua New Guinea Independent Group into the NP. Okuk, who had been leader of the party, was defeated, and he bestowed party leadership on Diro. Diro handed the leadership back to Okuk when he was returned to parliament in a by-election in 1983. The party split again in 1986 when Diro took his group into the People’s Action Party. The NP campaigned poorly in 1987 and split in 1988 with members in both Government and Opposition. In 1992 and 1993 the NP had only two parliamentary members. The party’s fortunes have been adversely affected by changes in leadership. Since 1980 the NP has been led by Okuk (1980-82), Edward (Ted) Diro (1982-83), Okuk (1983-84), Stephen Tago (1984-85), Okuk (1985-86), Michael Mel (1987-1992) and Paul Pora (1992- ).