Law and order issues feature prominently in public debate in Papua New Guinea. Concerns centre around criminal violence and the limited effectiveness of state controls. High levels of interpersonal violence are apparent in the activities of criminal gangs (rascals), the tribal fighting occurring in parts of the Highlands, as well as in everyday gender relations throughout the country. The continuing escalation of disorder in many areas is indicative of the limitations of state authority in Papua New Guinea, most dramatically demonstrated in the bloody and unresolved secessionist conflict on Bougainville (May and Spriggs 1990; Spriggs and Denoon 1992). Burgeoning corruption among elements of the political and administrative élite provides another significant strand to current debate.
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