Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Globalization, Corrupt Government, and Ubiquitous Violence: Papua New Guinea

Nothing terribly new here. However, if one is looking for an example of how governmental institutions and international big business contribute to civilian exploitation and increase the likelihood of violence across societal domains, take a look at Papua New Guinea.

Extensive ethnic conflict tore apart PNG throughout the 1990s due to mining companies' oppressive work conditions. Now,
IRIN News reports how the law has been re-structured, such that indigenous persons cannot assert their land rights when the government colludes with private "developers.":

Papua New Guinea’s indigenous people have lost their right to challenge developers and the state over deals involving their land and resources.


The changes remove the rights that Papua New Guineans have had for years to protect their property from environmental harm and the right to sue for compensation for environmental damage and the customary rights to claim compensation for environmental harm.

Disputes concerning land and resource rights between indigenous groups, the government and corporate entities are not uncommon in PNG. While figures vary significantly, more than 5,000 people lost their lives on the island of Bougainville off the east coast of PNG between 1989 and 1999 following a bitter fight over compensation between Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), an Australian-owned mining company, and the hundreds of indigenous landowners it displaced in Panguna.

The conflict escalated into a bloody civil war between members of the indigenous population and government troops.

The PNG state is further bolstered and protected by a violent police force, that
according to the United Nations, utilizes torture to control prisoners:

The expert said the standards of hygiene at Mount Hagen Police Station were “beyond description,” and detainees were forced to urinate and defecate in bottles and plastic bags, which were then picked up by female detainees and piled up in the small common space.

Mr. Nowak was also concerned that “prisoners who escape are subjected to severe punishment, amounting to torture, including through brutal beatings with bush knives and gun butts, shooting detainees at close range and cutting their tendons with axes and bush knives after they are apprehended, with the intent of disabling them.

“The victims are usually kept in punishment cells, without any medical treatment, which sometimes even led to their death,” he added.

Considering that the state utilizes violence to extract the country's natural resources and control resistent members of the population, it is hardly surprising that family violence and violence against women is high in PNG.

The concept of "structural violence" suggests that those who are oppressed tend to utilize the same forms of oppression committed against them, upon others. This is because in experiencing their own oppression, they learn how to best acquire power from their oppressors, in this case through highly violent means. However, since they do not have the means to revolt against their oppressors, they use their oppressors' tactics on those less powerful, in this case women and children:

Of course since PNG is a small country in the Pacific, these cases of ubiquitous violence that stem from macro structural exploitation, generally stay off the international media radar.


  1. Tell the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister what you think about his terrible amendments to the Environment Act - http://www.actnowpng.org/content/action-alert-email-prime-minister-and-register-your-protest

  2. I think that your ideas can change the life of people in Papua New Guinea , I want to have the opportunity to read more of your ideas, you must write a book!