British annexation of southeast New Guinea in Archaeological evidence indicates that humans first arrived in Papua New Guinea around 42, to 45, years ago. They were descendants of migrants out of Africa, in one of the early waves of human migration. This has been correlated with the introduction of pottery, pigs, and certain fishing techniques.
In the 18th century, traders brought the sweet potato to New Guinea, where it was adopted and became part of the staples. Portuguese traders had obtained it from South America and introduced it to the Moluccas. Sweet potato largely supplanted the previous staple, taro , and resulted in a significant increase in population in the highlands.
Although by the late 20th century headhunting and cannibalism had been practically eradicated, in the past they were practised in many parts of the country as part of rituals related to warfare and taking in enemy spirits or powers. Traders from Southeast Asia had visited New Guinea beginning 5, years ago to collect bird of paradise plumes.
The word papua is derived from an old local term of uncertain origin. In , he noted the resemblance of the people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa. The name is one of several toponyms sharing similar etymologies , ultimately meaning "land of the blacks" or similar meanings, in reference to the dark skin of the inhabitants.
New Guinea from to Germany and Britain controlled the eastern half of New Guinea. In the nineteenth century, Germany ruled the northern half of the country for some decades, beginning in , as a colony named German New Guinea. In after the outbreak of World War I , Australian forces landed and captured German New Guinea in a small military campaign and occupied it throughout the war. After the war, in which Germany and the Central Powers were defeated, the League of Nations authorised Australia to administer this area as a League of Nations Mandate territory.
The southern half of the country had been colonised in by the United Kingdom as British New Guinea. With the Papua Act , the UK transferred this territory to the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia , which took on its administration. In contrast to establishing an Australian mandate in former German New Guinea, the League of Nations determined that Papua was an External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth; as a matter of law it remained a British possession.
The difference in legal status meant that until , Papua and New Guinea had entirely separate administrations, both controlled by Australia.
These conditions contributed to the complexity of organising the country's post-independence legal system. Approximately , Japanese, Australian, and US servicemen died. This was later referred to as "Papua New Guinea".
The natives of Papua appealed to the United Nations for oversight and independence. The nation established independence from Australia on 16 September , becoming a Commonwealth realm , continuing to share Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.
It maintains close ties with Australia, which continues to be its largest aid donor. A renewed uprising on Bougainville started in and claimed 20, lives until it was resolved in The native peoples felt they were bearing the adverse environmental effects of the mining, which poisoned the land, water and air, without gaining a fair share of the profits.
The autonomous Bougainville elected Joseph Kabui as president in , who served until his death in He was succeeded by his deputy John Tabinaman as acting president while an election to fill the unexpired term was organised. James Tanis won that election in December and served until the inauguration of John Momis, the winner of the elections.
As part of the current peace settlement, a referendum on independence is planned to be held in Bougainville sometime before mid Preparations were underway in Chinese merchants became established in the islands before European exploration.
Anti-Chinese rioting involving tens of thousands of people broke out in May The initial spark was a fight between ethnic Chinese and Papua New Guinean workers at a nickel factory under construction by a Chinese company.
Native resentment against Chinese ownership of numerous small businesses and their commercial monopoly in the islands led to the rioting.
The Chinese have long been merchants in Papua New Guinea. Various nations from Oceania, Australia , the Philippines , and Timor-Leste immediately sent aid to the country. Queen Elizabeth II is its sovereign and head of state. The constitutional convention, which prepared the draft constitution, and Australia, the outgoing metropolitan power, had thought that Papua New Guinea would not remain a monarchy. The founders, however, considered that imperial honours had a cachet.
Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are unusual among Commonwealth realms in that governors-general are elected by the legislature, rather than chosen by the executive branch.
The Prime Minister heads the cabinet , which consists of 31 MPs from the ruling coalition, which make up the government. The current prime minister is Peter O'Neill. Candidates for members of parliament are voted upon when the prime minister asks the governor-general to call a national election, a maximum of five years after the previous national election. In the early years of independence, the instability of the party system led to frequent votes of no confidence in parliament, with resulting changes of the government, but with referral to the electorate, through national elections only occurring every five years.
In recent years, successive governments have passed legislation preventing such votes sooner than 18 months after a national election and within month of the next election. In December , the first two of three readings were passed to prevent votes of no confidence occurring within the first 30 months. This restriction on votes of no confidence has arguably resulted in greater stability, although perhaps at a cost of reducing the accountability of the executive branch of government.
Elections in PNG attract numerous candidates. The general election was the first to be conducted using LPV. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.
October In there was a constitutional crisis between the parliament-elect Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill voted into office by a large majority of MPs and Sir Michael Somare , who was deemed by the supreme court in a December Opinion, 3: The stand-off between parliament and the supreme court continued until the July national elections, with legislation passed effectively removing the chief justice and subjecting the supreme court members to greater control by the legislature, as well as a series of other laws passed, for example limiting the age for a prime minister.
The confrontation reached a peak, with the Deputy Prime Minister entering the supreme court during a hearing, escorted by some police, ostensibly to arrest the Chief Justice. There was strong pressure among some MPs to defer the national elections for a further six months to one year, although their powers to do that were highly questionable. The parliament-elect prime minister and other cooler-headed MPs carried the votes for the writs for the new election to be issued, slightly late, but for the election itself to occur on time, thereby avoiding a continuation of the constitutional crisis.
The crisis was tense at times, but largely restricted to the political and legal fraternity, plus some police factions. The public and public service including most police and military stood back. It was a period when, with increased telecommunication access and use of social media notably Facebook and mobile phones , the public and students played some part in helping maintain restraint and demanding the leadership to adhere to constitutional processes.
They insisted on having the elections so that the people could say who should be their legitimate representatives for the next five years. Under a amendment, the leader of the party winning the largest number of seats in the election is invited by the governor-general to form the government, if he can muster the necessary majority in parliament. The process of forming such a coalition in PNG, where parties do not have much ideology, involves considerable horsetrading right up until the last moment.