Papua New Guinea

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Papua New Guinea

(păp`o͞oə, –yo͞oə, gĭn`ē), officially Independent State of Papua New Guinea, independent Commonwealth nation (2015 est. pop. 6,672,000), 183,540 sq mi (475,369 sq km), SW Pacific. It encompasses the eastern half of the island of New GuineaNew Guinea
, island, c.342,000 sq mi (885,780 sq km), SW Pacific, N of Australia; the world's second largest island after Greenland. Politically it is divided into two sections: the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua in the west and the independent country of Papua New
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, as well as the Bismarck ArchipelagoBismarck Archipelago,
volcanic island group, 19,200 sq mi (49,730 sq km), SW Pacific, a part of Papua New Guinea. The group includes New Britain (the largest island), New Ireland, the Admiralty Islands, the Mussau Islands, New Hanover, the Vitu Islands, and the Duke of York
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, the Trobriand IslandsTrobriand Islands
, small volcanic island group off SE New Guinea, part of Papua New Guinea. Kiriwana is the largest of the group's 22 islands. Yams, pearl shell, and trepang are the major products. The islands were made famous in the writings of anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.
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, SamaraiSamarai
, small island (59 acres/23.9 hectares), at the southeastern tip of Papua New Guinea, New Guinea island. It is a commercial and shipping center and a port of entry. An important European settlement before World War II, it was destroyed by Japanese bombing in 1942.
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 Island, Woodlark Island, D'Entrecasteaux IslandsD'Entrecasteaux Islands
, volcanic group, SW Pacific, SE of New Guinea, part of Papua New Guinea. Comprising the Fergusson, Goodenough, and Normanby islands, the group, with a total land area of c.
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, the Louisiade ArchipelagoLouisiade Archipelago
, SW Pacific, part of Papua New Guinea. The archipelago comprises c.10 volcanic islands and numerous coral reefs. The major islands are Tagula (the largest), Rossel, Misima, and Panaeati. The inhabitants are Papuans.
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, and the northernmost Solomon Islands of Buka and BougainvilleBougainville
, volcanic island (1990 est. pop. 154,000), c.3,880 sq mi (10,050 sq km), SW Pacific, largest in the Solomon Islands chain. With Buka and smaller neighboring islands, it forms an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea. Bougainville is rugged and densely forested.
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 (which form an autonomous region). The capital is Port MoresbyPort Moresby
, town (1990 pop. 193,242), capital of Papua New Guinea, on New Guinea island and on the Gulf of Papua in the National Capital District. Rubber, gold, copra, and natural gas are exported. Port Moresby was founded by Capt. John Moresby, who landed there in 1873.
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; other important cities include RabaulRabaul
, town (1990 pop. 17,044), on New Britain island, Bismarck Archipelago, a part of Papua New Guinea. Situated within an active caldera surrounded by volcanoes, the city has long been vulnerable to volcanic eruptions.
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, LaeLae
, town (1990 pop. 88,172), Papua New Guinea, on NE New Guinea island, at the head of the Huon Gulf. Lae is an important administrative and commercial center. Founded in 1927 to serve air transport into the Morobe gold fields in the mountainous interior, Lae continues to
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, MadangMadang
, town (1990 pop. 27,181), Papua New Guinea, on NE New Guinea island. A seaport on Astrolabe Bay, Madang exports copra and gold. It was an important Japanese air base during World War II. Madang was formerly known as Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen.
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, Mt. Hagen, and Goroka.

Land and People

Papua New Guinea is a wild, rugged region, with limited communications. The climate is tropical, and the largely mountainous country is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The highest point is Mt. Wilhelm (14,793 ft/4,509 m), in the Bismarck Mts. in central Papua New Guinea. The native population is largely Melanesian and Papuan but is divided into many distinct cultures. Some 800 different languages are spoken in the country. Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin) is the lingua franca, and it and the much less widely spoken English and Hiri Motu (a Malayo-Polynesian language that was a lingua franca in the southeast) are official languages. About two thirds of the population is Christian, with Roman Catholics and Lutherans the largest churches; the rest follow traditional beliefs.


Subsistence agriculture supports most of the population; sweet potatoes constitute the main food crop. Agricultural exports (notably palm oil, coffee, cocoa, coconut products, rubber, and tea) are increasing, but mineral and oil, deposits account for the majority of export earnings. Copper, gold, and silver are mined, and oil and natural gas are produced. Timber is another import source of revenue, but logging, largely by foreign companies, is often done without regard for laws designed to promote sustainable yields from the country's rain forests. Pearl-shell and tortoise fisheries dot the coast, and crayfish and prawns are exported. Most industry involves the processing of agricultural and wood products; there is also petroleum refining, construction, and some tourism. Machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, and chemicals are imported. Australia is by far the largest trading partner, followed by Singapore and Japan.


Papua New Guinea is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1975 as amended. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the head of state and is represented by the governor-general. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the governor-general. The unicameral National Parliament consists of 109 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 20 provinces, the autonomous region of Bougainville, and the National Capital District.


Papua, the southern section of the country, was annexed by Queensland in 1883 and the following year became a British protectorate called British New Guinea. It passed to Australia in 1905 as the Territory of Papua. The northern section of the country formed part of German New Guinea from 1884 to 1914 and was called Kaiser-Wilhelmsland. Occupied by Australian forces during World War I, it was mandated to Australia by the League of Nations in 1920 and became known as the Territory of New Guinea. Australian rule was reconfirmed by the United Nations in 1947.

In 1949 the territories of Papua and New Guinea were merged administratively, but they remained constitutionally distinct. They were combined in 1973 as the self-governing country of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Full independence was gained in 1975. In the late 1980s a violent secessionist movement broke out on Bougainville. A cease-fire, monitored by Australian troops, went into effect in 1998, and a peace accord that granted the island broad autonomy was signed three years later.

Proposed cuts in defense forces as result of economic reforms demanded by Australia and international organizations sparked a weeklong mutiny in 2001; the government rescinded the cuts and promised to review the mutineers' concerns over foreign economic influences. Sir Michael SomareSomare, Sir Michael Thomas
, 1936–, Papua New Guinea political leader. He was a teacher and radio journalist before his 1968 election to the territorial House of Assembly.
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, of the National Alliance party, became prime minister in 2002. In 2004, Australian police officers were deployed in PNG as part of an aid package designed to help end gang violence and restore law and order in the country, but after the supreme court ruled the following year that the officers' immunity from prosecution and other aspects of the deployment were unconstitutional Australia withdrew the contingent.

In late 2006 PNG's government and its relations with Australia were roiled by the Moti affair. Julian Moti, an Australian lawyer of Fijian descent had been appointed attorney general in the Solomon Islands, was wanted in Australia on child sex charges, and Australia sought Moti's extradition from PNG, where Moti was arrested (Sept., 2006) while in transit. Moti managed to flee with apparent help from PNG officials. An investigation into the incident implicated the prime minister in Moti's flight from PNG, a charge Somare denied; Somare subsequently disbanded the board of inquiry, which issued its report to Somare in Mar., 2007. Elections in June–July, 2007, returned Somare to office, leading a reorganized coalition. The defense minister rejected the board of inquiry report in Oct., 2007, on the grounds that the board had not been legally constituted.

Somare's government subsequently suffered from a number of scandals, including some involving the prime minister's finances. Although he survived a number of no-confidence votes, in Dec., 2010, he faced an investigation by a leadership tribunal over financial allegations. Somare stepped aside as prime minister, and his deputy, Sam Abal, became acting prime minister (and again in April); Somare returned to office in Jan., 2011.

In March, Somare was found guilty of failing to file his financial information properly and was suspended from office for two weeks in April; in June, his son announced his retirement for health reasons (following an April heart operation), but constitutionally it was not an official resignation. In August, an alliance of opposition members and disgruntled government coalition members voted in Peter O'NeillO'Neill, Peter Charles Paire,
1965–, Papua New Guinea political leader, grad. Univ. of Papua New Guinea, 1986. A businessman before he was first elected to parliament in 2002, he became leader of the People's National Congress in 2004.
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, the works and transport minister and former finance minister, as prime minister; the supreme court ruled that the move was unconstitutional in Dec., 2011. The ruling created a constitutional crisis and a contest for power, with O'Neill's government backed by parliament and generally maintaining control while Somare's continued to be backed by the supreme court.

Elections in June, 2012, resulted in a plurality for O'Neill's People's National Congress, and he became prime minister in August with the support of Somare. In 2014 O'Neill was implicated in a corruption investigation, and in June an arrest warrant was issued in order to question him. The prime minister fought the warrant in court, and subsequently dismissed high-ranking police officers and the anticorruption task force, sparking a political crisis. The attorney general was also dismissed, but for opposing constitutional changes proposed by the government.

By July, 2016, anticorruption cases or investigations involved the prime minister, finance minister, new attorney general, and a supreme court justice, and protests calling for the prime minister to resign, which had begun with students, had spread beyond the universities. O'Neill's government, however, survived a confidence vote that the supreme court had required be held; the government was accused of threatening to withhold development funding from electoral districts to insure a vote of support. After the 2017 elections, O'Neill again formed a coalition government and continued as prime minister. In Dec., 2017, the 2014 arrest warrant for O'Neill was dismissed by the supreme court.

A strong and deadly earthquake in Feb., 2018, caused significant destruction in mountainous W central Papua New Guinea. In May, 2019, O'Neill lost support in parliament and resigned as prime minister; James MarapeMarape, James,
1971–, Papua New Guinea political leader. First elected to parliament in 2007 as a member of the National Alliance party, he served as education minister (2008–11) under Prime Minister Michael Somare.
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, a former finance minister, was elected to succeed him. A referendum in Bougainville in Dec., 2019, required under the peace accord signed two decades before, produced an overwhelming vote in favor of independence for the autonomous region. In late 2020 Marape survived an opposition attempt to oust him after he resecured the support of a sufficient number of members who had switched their allegiance to the opposition.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Papua New Guinea


a state in the southeastern Pacific. Population, 2.6 million (1972). Papua New Guinea comprises the eastern part of the island of New Guinea with adjacent islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, the northern part of the Solomon Islands, the D’Entrecasteaux Islands, the Louisiade Islands, the Trobriand Islands, Woodlark (Murua) Island, and about 200 other islands. The total area is 461,700 sq km. The capital is the city of Port Moresby.

The indigenous population numbers about 670,000, approximately 570,000 of whom are members of various Papuan peoples, while about 100,000 belong to various Melanesian groups. The remainder of the population is primarily Anglo-Australian. Many Papuan languages are spoken, the most important being Huli, Mendi, Kewa, Wiru, Koriki, Kerewa, Orokolo, and Toaripi. The Melanesians speak Malayo-Polynesian languages, among which the Hiri Motu language is widely used as an inter-group form of communication. The official language is English. More than 90 percent of the population is Christian, to a considerable extent only nominally; the remaining 10 percent primarily adheres to traditional tribal beliefs.

At the time of the European colonization, Papua New Guinea was inhabited by Papuans and Melanesians. In 1884 a British protectorate was established over the southeastern part of the island of New Guinea, which was named Papua, while Germany claimed the northeastern part. Great Britain declared Papua a British colony in 1888 and transferred it to the Commonwealth of Australia in the early 20th century. During World War I, Australian troops occupied the northeastern part of the island. In 1920 this part, which became known as New Guinea, was given to the Commonwealth of Australia as a mandated territory of the League of Nations. After World War II, New Guinea remained under the administration of the Commonwealth of Australia as a trust territory of the United Nations. In 1949 the Australian authorities united Papua and New Guinea in an administrative union. Papua New Guinea became internally self-governing in December 1973. Since September 16, 1975, it has been an independent state in the Commonwealth. The country’s most influential political party is the Pangu Pati, founded in 1966.

Based on agriculture, the economy is dominated by Australian capital, and the best lands belong to Anglo-Australians. The Anglo-Australians cultivate such commodity crops as the coconut palm (136,000 tons of copra and 715,000 tons of nuts in 1972), rubber plants (5,300 tons), coffee, and cacao. They began cultivating tea, oil palms, and pyrethrum in the 1960’s. Sorghum, taro, yams, and sweet potatoes are grown on the near-subsistence farms of the local population. Animal husbandry is mainly aimed toward meat-production (95,000 head of cattle in 1972). There is fishing and logging. Industry employs 4,700 people (1970), and its main branches are woodworking and food processing. Gold, copper, and zinc are mined. There are 16,200 km of roads (1972) but no railroads. The principal seaports are Port Moresby, Rabaul, Lae, and Madang. There are major airports in Port Moresby and Lae.

Papua New Guinea exports copra, coconut oil, coffee, tea, cacao beans, lumber products, rubber, gold, and copper. From 40 to 50 percent of exports goes to Australia, and 25 to 30 percent to Great Britain. Major imported goods are foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco, machinery and equipment, and industrial products. [19–477–3; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Papua New Guinea

Official name: Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Capital city: Port Moresby

Internet country code: .pg

Flag description: Divided diagonally from upper hoist-side corner; the upper triangle is red with a soaring yellow bird of paradise centered; the lower triangle is black with five white five-pointed stars of the Southern Cross constellation centered

National anthem: “O Arise All You Sons”

Geographical description: Oceania, group of islands including the eastern half of the island of New Guinea between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia

Total area: 178,710 sq. mi. (462,860 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight sea­sonal temperature variation

Nationality: noun: Papua New Guinean(s); adjective: Papua New Guinean

Population: 5,795,887 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Melanesian, Papuan, Negrito, Micronesian, Polynesian

Languages spoken: Melanesian Pidgin serves as the lingua franca, English spoken by 1%-2%, Motu spoken in Papua region; more than 800 indigenous languages spoken (over one-tenth of the world’s total)

Religions: Indigenous religions 34%, Roman Catholic 22%, Lutheran 16%, Presbyterian/Methodist/London Mission­ary Society 8%, Anglican 5%, Evangelical Alliance 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1%, other Protestant 10%

Legal Holidays:

Boxing DayDec 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Holy SaturdayApr 23, 2011; Apr 7, 2012; Mar 30, 2013; Apr 19, 2014; Apr 4, 2015; Mar 26, 2016; Apr 15, 2017; Mar 31, 2018; Apr 20, 2019; Apr 11, 2020; Apr 3, 2021; Apr 16, 2022; Apr 8, 2023
Independence DaySep 16
New Year's DayJan 1
Queen Elizabeth II BirthdayJun 13, 2011; Jun 11, 2012; Jun 10, 2013; Jun 9, 2014; Jun 8, 2015; Jun 13, 2016; Jun 12, 2017; Jun 11, 2018; Jun 10, 2019; Jun 8, 2020; Jun 14, 2021; Jun 13, 2022; Jun 12, 2023
Remembrance DayJul 23
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Papua New Guinea

a country in the SW Pacific; consists of the E half of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, the W Solomon Islands, Trobriand Islands, D'Entrecasteaux Islands, Woodlark Island, and the Louisiade Archipelago; administered by Australia from 1949 until 1975, when it became an independent member of the Commonwealth. Official language: English; Tok Pisin (English Creole) and Motu are widely spoken. Religion: Christian majority. Currency: kina. Capital: Port Moresby. Pop.: 5 836 000 (2004 est.). Area: 461 693 sq. km (178 260 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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