Damning report into state of Papua New Guinea released

Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape, June 2019. Photo: PNG PM Media

A human rights organisation has released a damning report into the state of Papua New Guinea, where a change of prime minister has done little to tackle rampant violence and corruption.

Human Rights Watch’s annual report reveals rates of violence, domestic abuse, corruption and foreign debt haven’t improved over the past year, where weak enforcement and a lack of accountability fostered a culture of impunity and lawlessness.

Its deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said despite a change in prime minister, progress was still slow and the key findings were dire.

“We are talking about a very desperately poor country. One where there is a lot of violence that’s committed with impunity … where women are particularly affected, as well as children.

“Forty percent of the population still lives in poverty, and this is a very resource-rich country. Twenty five percent of the children are not in school, and our estimate is that one in 13 have died of preventable disease.”

The report found more than two-thirds of women and girls were subjected to domestic violence, while 75 percent of children surveyed across 30 communities experienced violence at home.

“PNG has an underfunded health system and children are particularly vulnerable to disease. An estimated one in thirteen children die each year from preventable diseases, and large numbers of children experienced malnutrition resulting in stunted growth,” it said.

There was little chance of redressing it with the culture of corruption and impunity that had been fostered, the report said, with corruption convictions rare and prosecutions for brutality at the hands of the state and military few and far between.

To date, no police officers had been prosecuted for killing 17 prison escapees in 2017 and four prison escapees from Buimo prison in Lae in 2018, the report noted. Police officers who killed eight student protesters in Port Moresby in 2016 had also not been held accountable.

A new prime minister, James Marape, had done little so far to rein in corruption, it said, and the unequal distribution of the revenue from the country’s natural resources was creating friction and eroding land rights in rural areas. In multiple cases, landowners had been mistreated by foreign mining companies, it said.

Robertson said PNG had not really worked to dig itself out the hole it was in, and it was only getting worse.

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