Papua New Guinea. The year was marked by bitter power struggles and ended in political chaos. According to COUNTRYAAH, Papua New Guinea has a population of 8.606 million (2018). The Supreme Court forced the corruption-accused Prime Minister Michael Somare to step aside and ruled that the renewal of Governor Paulias Matanes’s mandate was contrary to the constitution. Parliament had appointed Matane without a closed vote. In both offices, appointed substitutes were deployed.
The Ombudsman’s office came in March with a report in which Somare and several prominent politicians, officials and militants were identified as involved in a four-year-old scandal. Somers would have agreed that a prominent Australian citizen should be helped to escape extradition to Australia, where he was charged with rape. Somers refused, but according to leaked documents he had ordered the flight of the Australians to the Solomon Islands.
The Prosecutor General was forced to resign in May after he accused the government of wanting to weaken the Ombudsman’s office, which is tasked with fighting corruption. At the same time, Somers was forced to apologize after describing anti-corruption activists as mentally retarded.
Several ministers and MPs left the government side in July and joined the opposition. They accused Somare and his son Arthur Somare of corruption and abuse of power – the son was a minister and was considered to inherit power from the father.
The Prime Minister passed a vote of no confidence, but when the opposition demanded a new one, the President looked to postpone the negotiations. Then riots erupted in Parliament, members shouted “dictatorship” and someone insulted Somare and his son. Somers was then heard shouting to one of the opposition members “I’ll kill you”. Somers claimed that his words fell in the political sense, not physically.
The year before, the government had engaged Parliament from July to November to stop a vote of no confidence. Now Parliament was engaged for almost four months, and Somare appointed eight new ministers to his government.
At the end of the year, Somare was forced by the Supreme Court to leave his post as head of government for the time being, while old corruption charges against him would be investigated by prosecutors. Somers was suspected of bribery, and for several years he had failed to declare personal assets and business transactions. Before Somare stepped aside, he carried out a controversial government transformation, so that not a rival but a close ally, Foreign Minister Sam Abal, became his deputy as prime minister. Michael Somare also made sure that his son Arthur Somare was allowed to retain the post of Minister for Government Companies in charge of multi-billion projects in the gas industry.
During the year, a natural gas extraction project was launched, estimated to cost US $ 15 billion and looked to be the largest of its kind in the world. It was estimated to be able to double Papua New Guinea’s GDP and deliver liquid gas for three decades. Among the customers were China and Japan.
But foreign investment and high world market prices for commodity exports mainly benefited the elite, while the nation as a whole was ranked 148th in the UNDP Development Index, two places lower than Bangladesh.
Like the year before, xenophobic moods flared up. In September, young people attacked stores owned by Asians, who were forced to flee the city of Kainantu in the eastern highlands. The violence erupted when Prime Minister Somare reiterated his political support to major investors Malaysia and China. There is a widespread notion that foreign businessmen are guilty of corruption and financial injustice.
In hard-to-reach areas of the country’s jungles, researchers found many animal species that were previously unknown. In October, discoveries of more than 200 new species were presented in Papua New Guinea, including a white-tailed mouse and a small, two-centimeter, long-nose frog.