PAPUA New Guinea is among the few nations in the world where ordinary people by virtue of birth can claim to secure access land.
Land in PNG directly supports about 80% of the population, the vast majority of whom live in rural areas.
It is impossible to imagine how PNG could provide for its rural population if villagers had no land. People's attachment to the land is intimately tied to their notions of independence, identity and security.
When the state intrudes on land to exploit natural resources in the name of greater national self-sufficiency, and therefore greater national independence, village people may see it as a new form of colonisation.
The problems created by such activities can be conducted in two ways.
Legitimate landholders try to negotiate for sufficient returns when they lease land on which the natural resources are found to the state or to foreign developers, who are frequently seen as part of the same entity.
As landholders, they feel secure when they are still in possession and in control of their land. But when they realise control has been relinquished, or the returns are not what they expected, or the secondary effects of these development projects disturb their livelihood (e.g., the pollution of vital streams and rivers caused by mining), they find their basic security threatened.
Subsequent resistance to such state sanctioned initiatives is often fierce.
On the other hand, there are individuals who call themselves landowners and who seek opportunities to exploit their relatives and fellow citizens. They appear as middlemen, promising to such bring development to the villages but instead seek to profit personally to the detriment of their own people.
It is a sad paradox that national independence has for some citizens of PNG come to suggest increasing intrusions on traditional notions of independence.