The Pacific Islands
February 12, 2006: Papua New Guinea continues to wallow in corruption and inefficiency. For example, a review of registered voter lists found that 45 percent of the nations 4.9 million registered voters did not exist. The nation has a population of 5.1 million, most of them living in rural areas, and largely governed by ancient tribal practices. Years of manipulating the voting lists, by rival tribes and tribal factions, had produced the voter fraud. In some districts, the voting system is so corrupt that the national government will not accept those results. While most of the urban population (about ten percent of the whole), and many tribal leaders, want an honest, efficient, government, it's a difficult, uphill slog. Criminal activity is out of control, to the extent that neighboring Australia has warned its citizens to avoid traveling to Papua New Guinea.
The situation is not considered hopeless, but rather one that will take generations to change. The tribal culture resists modernization and modern governmental practices. Loyalty to the tribe is paramount, and that attitude justifies much of the corruption. But there's also a general lack of understanding how important honest government administration is. The slow changes comes from children picking up on the alternatives, and growing up to replace their elders. This has already been going on for many generations, but the majority of those involved in government are still living according to the old ways.
February 3, 2006: A group of armed criminals from the island nation of Bougainville, crossed the straits separating it from the island nation of Solomons, and robbed several thousand dollars worth of goods from a logging camp. The police believe they know some of the bandits, but could not go after them until they got permission from the government of Bougainville. But that may take a while, since Bougainville, to save money, has neighboring Papua New Guinea handle its foreign affairs. The robbery is believed related to tribal disputes, which, if not handled deftly, could escalate into a wider tribal war. This can get out of control, as has happened in the past decade.