After day of shame, we must stand by yet
The three factors that gave us the No vote

Recent Notes 34: Trouble & strife


From ‘The Emergence of Secessionism’, a chapter in ‘Papua New Guinea - A Political History’ by James Griffin, Hank Nelson & Stewart Firth. With thanks to Martin Maden’s ‘Tok Piksa’

There was a lot of political strife and active protests against the Australian colonial administration in Rabaul in the 1960s and ‘70s which saw the formation and rise of the Mataungan Association and the popular movement for independence on Bougainville (Napidakoe Navitu), where there was a similar will of the people to secede.

It seems plausible to assume that both peoples had experienced what it was like to be part of an alternative form of government with a certain ability of their people to participate economically. What else could have inspired them to want a return to the experience of self-determination?

The lack of will by various peoples of the territories of Papua and New Guinea to live together as a common people under the Australian colonial administration became quite noticeable so that “in 1970, the distinguished African political scientist, Ali Marzui was to charge Australia with having denied Papua New Guinea 'an infra-structure for nationhood'. This he felt was the greatest of all imperialist sins.

“In many ways the British were humane, and in many ways the Australians have been humane,” Marzui wrote. “The British were exploitative, but the Australians were indifferent. There is only one thing worse than exploitative colonialism - and that is indifferent colonialism.”

This was a wry perception of a system which had generally been seen as benign, which had brought in many millions of dollars in aid since World War II and which the indigenous people themselves did not want to renounce too soon.

Charges that Australia had failed to promote cultural homogenisation, economic interaction among indigenes, and autochtonous [indigenous] institutions for conflict resolution could only ring true.

However, following John Stuart Mill, Marzui felt that, among the forces generating nationhood, the strongest of all are its political antecedents; the possession of a national history and community of recollections; and collective pride, humiliation, pleasure and regret connected with the same incidents in the past.


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