Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Law and Order in a Weak State

Law and Order in a Weak State: Crime and Politics in Papua New Guinea

Copyright Date: 2001
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Law and Order in a Weak State
    Book Description:

    Twenty-five years after independence, Papua New Guinea is beset by social, economic, and political problems: poverty and inequality, a young and expanding population, a stagnant economy, corruption, and rising crime. The state has not only failed to contain these problems but has become progressively implicated in their persistence. Escalating levels of violence and lawlessness are seen by many as the most serious challenge facing the young country. This book examines these problems of order in light of Papua New Guinea’s remarkable social diversity and the impact of rapid and pervasive processes of change. Three original and strategic case studies involving urban gangs, mining security, and election violence form the core of the work. Each case study looks at particular forms of conflict, and the responses these engender, across different socioeconomic contexts and geographic locations. Empirical data are analyzed through a common framework that employs material, cultural and institutional perspectives, allowing readers to view the three cases through different theoretical prisms, identify linkages between them, and, in the process, build a larger picture of the post-colonial social order. Law and Order in a Weak State charts not only the problems of crime and lawlessness in Papua New Guinea but also the possibilities for constructive, pragmatic solutions. It will be of great interest to scholars, aid and policy officials, and others concerned with understanding the social complexities and challenges of contemporary Papua New Guinea.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6329-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Australian territory of Papua New Guinea became the independent state of Papua New Guinea on 16 September 1975. As elsewhere in Melanesia, the state had external origins. Papua New Guinea’s territorial borders derived from partitioning by European powers in the late nineteenth century, a process that had taken little account of existing social and political groupings. When Australia finally relinquished control, these borders contained a widely dispersed population of two and a half million people, speaking over eight hundred languages. A relatively short and uneven experience of central administration, and the absence of any unifying anticolonial struggle, meant that...

  6. Chapter 2 Order in Papua New Guinea: A Historical Overview
    (pp. 11-39)

    This chapter outlines the ways in which challenges of order have been viewed during the transformations of recent PNG history, showing how issues of law and order are integrally bound up with wider processes of social, economic, and political change. This inevitably selective review provides essential background for readers unfamiliar with Papua New Guinea and introduces a number of key themes relevant to the case studies that follow.

    The first section discusses the social and political systems of “stateless” Melanesian societies, identifying certain features that have proven remarkably resilient in the face of rapid change. The second deals with colonial...

  7. Chapter 3 Perspectives on Crime and Disorder
    (pp. 40-54)

    The three broad perspectives—materialist, culturalist, and institutionalist—that make up the analytical framework used for the case studies have been proposed in various ways by both observers of Papua New Guinea and PNG citizens themselves. Although those perspectives inevitably draw on wider intellectual traditions, their immediate source lies in the growing volume of official documentation, academic writing, and popular representations of law-and-order issues, including what key participants themselves have to say. Between them, they represent reasonably well the range of views applied to these issues. Each perspective will be used to illuminate particular aspects of the object of study....

  8. Chapter 4 Rot Bilong Raskol: Passing through Crime
    (pp. 55-110)

    The concept of the “gang” has become central in law-and-order discourse in Papua New Guinea, where the problem of criminal violence is often reduced to one ofraskolgangs. The concept itself tends to be taken for granted and is rarely subject to critical scrutiny. The phenomenon of urbanraskolism,¹ its development in recent years, the impact of state controls, and the organization of criminal groups are examined in this chapter. A detailed description of a particular gang surrender is followed by discussion of the material, cultural, and institutional dimensions of criminality in Papua New Guinea.

    Despite its current notoriety,...

  9. Chapter 5 The Politics of Mining Security
    (pp. 111-150)

    The forcible closure of Bougainville’s Panguna mine in 1989 vividly demonstrated the vulnerabilities of large-scale mining in Papua New Guinea. A number of initiatives have since been taken to improve security at mining and petroleum projects. Among them was the establishment of the Rapid Deployment Unit in 1992, a special police squad to protect project installations in the Highlands. This chapter charts the fluctuating fortunes of the Rapid Deployment Unit and its short-lived successor, the Police Tactical Force. The story of these measures provides important insights into the workings of the postcolonial state and its relations with private international capital....

  10. Chapter 6 Fighting and Votes: Violence, Security, and the 1992 National Elections
    (pp. 151-181)

    According to official assessments, the 1992 national election was largely trouble free. Deputy Police Commissioner Bob Nenta, commander of the security operation, said that it had been “most successful”¹ with few incidents of serious violence.² Commissioner Geno agreed that it had been “the most peaceful we ever had in Papua New Guinea.” Echoing the sentiments of his police colleagues, the electoral commissioner stated that “the 1992 National Election has indeed brought the desired results; that of one of the most peaceful and orderly elections in our history” (PNGEC 1993). The election was more peaceful than anticipated, but violence did play...

  11. Chapter 7 From Disintegration to Reintegration?
    (pp. 182-202)

    Papua New Guinea’s problems of order have emerged in their present form against a broader background of decolonization, state formation, and integration into the global economy. Each of the case studies has been analyzed in the context of these larger transformations. The explanatory perspectives have been used as heuristic devices for highlighting the key material, cultural, and institutional dimensions in each case. Using them in a creative way has illuminated the complex interactions between these broad dimensions of aggregate change in the shaping of the postcolonial social order.

    The apparent scale and gravity of Papua New Guinea’s problems have contributed...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 203-216)
  13. References
    (pp. 217-240)
  14. Index
    (pp. 241-248)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-254)