Papua New Guinea is a country that is located in the East region of Papua Island. This beautiful country has West Papua as its neighbor on the west while the Australia continent and Oceanic countries are neighbors to it on the south, east, and the north. Port Moresby, one of its largest cities, is the capital of the country. Papua New Guinea is arguably one of the most heterogeneous countries with more than 800 local languages. Papua New Guinea is an amazing country but do you know the story of its establishment?
The ancient occupants of Papua New Guinea are believed to have been present in the country from 500 to 600 centuries ago from Southeast Asia. Those originating from Africa are also said to have come to the land from 500 to 700 centuries ago. Papua New Guinea is one of the first lands to be occupied by modern humans after Africa and Eurasia. However, Austronesian speaking people only came to its coastal areas about 2,500 years ago. This migration is what correlates with the introduction of fishing techniques, potteries, and pigs to its people.
The Story about The Name
There is a unique story behind the name “Papua New Guinea”. The word “Papua” rooted from “Pepuah”, a Malay word, which refers to the frizzly hair of Melanesian people. As interesting as the former, “New Guinea” emerged from a navigator from the Spanish imperium who recorded the similarity between the people of Papua New Guinea and those he saw along the coast of Guinea, Africa. We may not be surprised since we know Africans are the ancestors of the people of Papua New Guinea, as just said earlier.
Colonialism to Independence
Papua New Guinea has come a very long way. In the past, it was ruled under the control of many European countries. In 1899, Germany started occupying the northern region for the sake of fulfilling the growing need for coconut oil in Europe and went with the name “German New Guinea”. During this period, many local workers are exploited to work on cocoa and copra plantations for them at a cheap price. In return for the concessions that they have received, they paid for the local governmental institutions.
Australian troops, then, took possession of German New Guinea in 1914, when the first World War started. The plantations were then given to the war veterans of Australia. In 1920, the League of Nations gave The Commonwealth of Australia a mandate for ruling the northern side of the country, which had formerly been the territory of German New Guinea.
It was not long until Japan operated its invasion on the land in 1941 and took control. The Japanese made their major base in Rabaul, the capital of the German New Guinea. Japanese army finally surrendered after an intense fight with Australian forces.
After the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, the civil administration of Papua and New Guinea was brought back and they came administratively into the union under The Papua New Guinea Provisional Administration Act. The Papua New Guinea Act 1949 confirmed their union under the name of The Territory of Papua New Guinea. The Act provided for any services a country needs such as a legislative council, a public service, a judicial organization, and a system of local government. In 1972, the name was changed to Papua New Guinea, which remains up to now.
The story of Papua New Guinea’s independence started from the election held in 1972. As a result of the election, Michael Somare served as the prime minister who eventually headed the formation of the ministry with a promise to bring the country to self-government and independence. December 1st, 1973 is when Papua New Guinea finally became self-governing. Only about 3 years after that, Papua New Guinea achieved its independence on September 16th, 1975. Following its independence, it became a member of the United Nations on October 10th, 1975.
Papua New Guinea Now
Papua New Guinea is a parliamentary country and is now led by the 8th Prime Minister, James Marape. The 7th, Peter O’Neill resigned on May 26th, 2019 after leading the country for 7 years. He pointed the former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan to take over the role before the current Prime Minister was assigned the position by the parliamentary on May 30th, 2019.
There are currently about eleven million inhabitants in the country. They mainly speak English, Hiri Motu and Tok Pisin. However, there are about 1.000 different languages are spoken on the land as there are almost a thousand different tribal groups.
Papua New Guinea is dominated by the Christian religion. There is also animism and ancestor worship even though they often occur less openly. While Islam is the major religion in the neighboring country, Indonesia, it is not as popular in Papua New Guinea. There, Islam only counts for about 5,000 followers. Freedom of religion is established in Papua New Guinea as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others
Papua New Guinea has a long story behind its establishment and still has an even longer journey ahead. It shows us how rich Papua New Guinea is in history.