National Party

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- ).

Pangu Pati

Papua New Guinea Union or PANGU, PNG’s most successful political party, was founded in June 1967. In 1967 the platform included: early limited self-government (“home rule”) leading to ultimate independence; an increase in the number of PNGans in the Public Service; improved educational and communication facilities; and development of the modern economy. By December 1967 PANGU had eight branches, the support of 12 members of the House of Assembly and Albert Maori Kiki as a full-time secretary. From 1970 until 1972 Pangu produced Pangu Pati Nius, the first PNGan-initiated newspaper.

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Papua Besena (PB)

Papua Besena (“hands off Papua”) was a secessionist movement established in Central District in 1972 to fight for self-government for Papua. It was founded and led by Josephine Abaijah, the first, and one of only three women, elected to the national parliament, and the only woman to lead a political party. During a series of meetings in 1973, Abaijah and a white advisor Dr Eric Wright, argued that Papua would become dominated by New Guinea if it were forced into a political union, Australia should continue to provide aid to support an economic development plan as compensation for past neglect and Papuans should retain Australian citizenship until they could govern themselves.

People’s Action Party

In the early 1980s the ex-Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Edward (Ted) Diro formed the Papuan-based PNG Independent Group. This group joined the National Party in 1982 but defected in December 1986 to form the People’s Action Party (PAP) to participate in the 1987 election as a party with strong Papuan regional appeal. The 1987 election platform included improvement in the conditions of the army, free education, law and order and a promise to fight corruption. Diro was a Minister in the Wingti cabinets formed in 1985 and 1987. In 1988 Diro was charged with perjury arising from his appearance at an enquiry into corruption in the forestry industry. The charges were dismissed but, when Wingti refused to reinstate him as a Minister, Diro used his PAP numbers to bring down the Wingti Government and returned to the ministry with the PAP supporting a PANGU coalition. In 1989 the PAP, with 16 members, was the third largest party in the Government. In the first session of the House of Assembly after the 1992 election, the PANGU-PAP alliance lost to Wingti’s People’s Democratic Movement-People’s Progress Party alliance 55:54 on the casting vote of the Speaker. In May 1993 a major PAP faction led by the Speaker Bill Skate broke with the PAP to form the People’s National Congress. In October 1993 the PAP had four parliamentary members.

People’s Democratic Movement

In December 1984 Paias Wingti and his faction within the PANGU Pati lost out in a reshuffle of Michael Somare’s cabinet. In March 1985 Wingti resigned from PANGU and challenged Michael Somare’s Prime Ministership in a vote of no confidence. The motion was defeated and the 14 PANGU members who had supported it were expelled. On 28 March 1985 the expelled members formed a new political party, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), under the leadership of Wingti with Nahau Rooney as Acting General Secretary. Any differences in ideology or policy between the PDM and PANGU were not apparent to outsiders. In November 1985 Somare was defeated in a vote of no confidence. Wingti became Prime Minister and his PDM headed a five-party coalition.

In 1987 the PDM fought on a platform of support for agriculture and an appeal to the highlanders to keep a highlander as Prime Minister. Wingti retained the Prime Ministership after the 1987 elections but lost to PANGU’s Rabbie Namaliu in a vote of no confidence in July 1988. In July 1992 Wingti defeated Namaliu (55:54) and formed a Coalition Government of the PDM, People’s Progress Party, the League for National Advancement and Independents. The PDM’s policies in 1992 included revitalization of commercial agriculture, improved rural services, an open economy actively involved in international trade, increased participation of PNGans in the modern economy, privatization of statutory bodies, promotion of manufacturing, free primary school education and commitment to ”good government”. In October 1993 the PDM had 25 parliamentary members.

Political Parties in Papua New Guinea

In the lead-up to PNG’s independence, the Australian Administration progressively, if perhaps somewhat belatedly, established the institutions of an essentially Westminster parliamentary democracy. A part-elected, part-appointed House of Assembly was created in 1964, replacing an appointed Legislative Council, and further elections were held in 1968 and 1972, the latter producing the country’s first wholly elected Parliament.

Initially, there was little enthusiasm for political parties. As late as 1967, Australia’s External Affairs Minister, Charles Barnes, suggested that ‘the Territory would be better off without [political] parties’, and this view was shared by many field officers of the Australian Administration, who tended to be wary of any indigenous political organisation and disparaging of attempts to establish political parties. Recalling his unsuccessful electoral campaign in 1967, Albert Maori Kiki said:

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People’s Progress Party

The People’s Progress Party (PPP) was established in the second half of 1970 by Julius (later Sir Julius) Chan, expatriate Warren Dutton, and nine parliamentarians. After general elections in 1972 and 1977 the PPP’s parliamentary members voted for Michael Somare as Prime Minister and joined the PANGU Pati in coalition governments. In November 1978 the PPP left the coalition claiming that the Prime Minister had failed to consult their leader, Chan, over proposed amendments to the Leadership Code and a Ministerial reshuffle. Chan was elected Prime Minister following a no confidence vote in March 1980 and the PPP formed a Coalition Government with the National Party, the United Party, the Melanesian Alliance, the Papua Party and Independents.

At the 1982 elections the PPP campaigned for an honest, strong, stable and “progressive” government and relied upon Chan’s personality and reputation for capable financial management. The PPP won 14 seats and Chan chose to take minority party status in Opposition rather than join the Opposition coalition. In 1985 the party backed Paias Wingti (People’s Democratic Movement [PDM]) to oust Michael Somare (PANGU) as Prime Minister. The PPP won only six seats in the 1987 election and joined a Government coalition led by Wingti until he was voted from office in July 1988. The PPP remained with the PDM in Opposition. By 1992 the PPP fortunes had improved dramatically. The party won 20 seats, joined Wingti’s PDM to form a Government and the PPP leader Chan became Deputy Prime Minister.

Secessionist and Separatist Movements in Papua New Guinea

There have been serious secessionist or separatist movements in the North Solomons, Papua, and East New Britain. In the North Solomons the movement was triggered by the colonial Administration’s failure to consult the Bougainvillians about mining exploration (1964) and a copper mining agreement (1967). In September 1968 a meeting of North Solomons parliamentarians, public servants and students, formed the Mungkas (Black Skin) Society to fight for secession. In 1969 a secessionist political group was formed on Bougainville. In 1973 Chief Minister Michael Somare was forced to agree to the establishment of a North Solomons Interim Provincial Government. In September 1975 political activists unilaterally declared an independent Republic of North Solomons and sent a delegation to the United Nations to seek recognition of the new state. These events were non-violent and the national government took no action. The United Nations did not recognize the republic. A nationally recognized North Solomons provincial government was elected in 1976. However, many Bougainvillians continued to feel that they were not receiving adequate returns from the mine. In 1988 militants formed the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) which forced the closure of the mine in 1989 and took over the province. On 17 May 1990 Francis Ona, leader of the BRA, unilaterally declared the North Solomons to be the Republic of Bougainville. There has been no international recognition of the new ”state”. By mid-1993 the national government had regained much of the province. Continue reading “Secessionist and Separatist Movements in Papua New Guinea”