Papua New Guinea is a unitary state in Oceania. Like most countries, it is divided up into regions that are called provinces. The provinces have governments that are a part of the national or the central government. Before 2012, Papua New Guinea was officially divided into 19 provinces and the National Capital District. Two additional provinces were created by 2012 after parliament agreed on the creation two more provinces. The two extra provinces are the Hela Province (fragmented from the Southern Highlands Province), and the Jiwaka Province (from the Western Highlands Province). While all the provinces of the state are part of the central government, there is one curious province called Bougainville. Bougainville is autonomous from the national government after a very long and brutal fight that happened between the years 1988 and 1998.
Provinces of Papua New Guinea
The National Capital District
Before gaining independence from the occupiers in the year 1975, the state was divided into administrative regions called districts. After independence, the leaders elected to alter the name of the divisions to provinces except for the National Capital District.
The National Capital District is the region that is around the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby. The National Capital District is enclosed by the Central Province. Despite this enclosure, the National Capital District is not a part of Central Province. In fact, the region has its own government made up of a governor who doubles as the region’s representative in the national parliament, three members of parliament, and the National Capital District Commission.
Bougainville is one of the provinces of Papua New Guinea. However, it is independent of the national government. Independence was attained after several secession calls characterized by protracted conflicts in the late 90s.
Some people thought the secession calls were foolish since they thought the region was incapable of self-sustenance. However, the region is the country’s top producer of copper. The economic impact of the mines was shown when the conflicts led to the closure of the mines with devastating effects to government finances and infrastructure.
Finally, an agreement was reached in 1997. A new constitution was drafted giving the region complete independence including their president and provisions for a referendum on independence which had been slated for 2019.
However, September 2017 saw tensions escalate again between the central and Bougainville’s government. The central government argued that the guidelines outlined in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (which allows Bougainville to hold a referendum) have not been met. As such, the 2019 referendum cannot be held. The guidelines that the government felt had not been achieved include maintenance of operational governing institutions, instituting a firm rule of law, and the government also argued that the militias in the region are not fully disarmed.
Name Selection of Provinces
Some provinces have come to change their names over time. For example, the autonomous Bougainville changed its name to North Solomons. Western province changed to Fly River, Northern to Oro, West Sepik to Sandaun, and Chimbu to Simbu. These names are not officially recognized by the Constitution.