Law and order issues feature prominently in public debate in Papua New Guinea. Concerns centre around criminal violence and the limited effectiveness of state controls. High levels of interpersonal violence are apparent in the activities of criminal gangs (rascals), the tribal fighting occurring in parts of the Highlands, as well as in everyday gender relations throughout the country.
The continuing escalation of disorder in many areas is indicative of the limitations of state authority in Papua New Guinea, most dramatically demonstrated in the bloody and unresolved secessionist conflict on Bougainville. Burgeoning corruption among elements of the political and administrative elite provides another significant strand to current debate.
Widespread concern with personal security manifests itself in the elaborate security precautions routinely adopted by individuals, households and businesses. National planners, on the other hand, have been preoccupied with the serious economic repercussions of law and order problems, notably their effects on investor confidence, as well as their impact on Papua New Guinea’s fledgling tourist industry.
In 1993 the Asian Development Bank bluntly warned that failure to secure an improvement in peace and order will have a major adverse impact on the performance of the economy over the next few years.
This paper outlines the principal law and order concerns and the policies thus engendered in Papua New Guinea since Independence in 1975. The first section looks at state responses, while the second examines specific areas of concern.