Donald Gumbis is a Lecturer in political science at the University of Goroka and a Lowy Institute intern.
Papua New Guinea has found its way onto the international travel itineraries of a number of leaders and ministers over the last few weeks. Thailand's Prime Minister, British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire, new Australian Parliamentary Secretary Matt Thistlethwaite, Commonwealth Youth Ministers and the Australian Governor General have either visited or are about to visit PNG. Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama, accompanied by a trade delegation, also joined the fray, on a mission to encourage bilateral trade and investment ties between Fiji and PNG.
These visits help to reinforce Papua New Guinea's growing regional and international significance. They are an important indication of international confidence in the country.
This time in the international spotlight offers PNG an opportunity to demonstrate it can rise above the unfortunate reputation it has for violence.
PNG has recently been in the news internationally for violence against women, sorcery-related crime, and this week's murder of an Australian man and his female friend's rape. These terrible incidents illustrate the challenges that the country still faces: lack of value for human life and poor security.
The PNG Government must now consider serious plans to deal with those issues. Promoting a safe, just and secure society is crucial for the Government. It cannot afford to relegate this to a second- or third-tier issue. It can take advantage of international interest to leverage domestic political support for decisive action. Three things the Government should do now are: improve law enforcement resources to deal with crime, strengthen adult awareness on the laws concerning rape and killings in culturally effective ways, and introduce a civics curriculum into the education system.
Papua New Guinea is a country of significant economic promise but the Government must address the rights of its citizens to safeguard them from harm.
Photo by Flickr user kabl1992.