Papua New Guinea Union or PANGU, PNG’s most successful political party, was founded in June 1967. In 1967 the platform included: early limited self-government (“home rule”) leading to ultimate independence; an increase in the number of PNGans in the Public Service; improved educational and communication facilities; and development of the modern economy. By December 1967 PANGU had eight branches, the support of 12 members of the House of Assembly and Albert Maori Kiki as a full-time secretary. From 1970 until 1972 Pangu produced Pangu Pati Nius, the first PNGan-initiated newspaper.
PANGU, led by Michael Somare, and its various coalition partners dominated the parliament in the lead-up to Independence in 1975. PANGU was the only strongly nationalist party. It advocated a national, not a regional approach, to PNG’s future. Aside from early self-government and Independence, and the transfer of jobs from expatriates to PNGans (“localization”), its policies in the 1970s emphasized welfare and rural development. At this stage PANGU was cautious about encouraging overseas investment. Somare formed a National Coalition Government in April 1972, was Chief Minister at self-government in 1973 and led the country to Independence in 1975. PANGU was returned to Government in 1977 after the first post-Independence elections. PANGU’s expensive election campaign was partly funded by expatriates and mortgages on the real estate owned by the Damai, the party’s successful business arm. Somare was Prime Minister from 1977 to 1980 when he was replaced by Julius Chan in the House of Assembly on a vote of no confidence moved by Iambakey Okuk.
In 1978 the People’s Progress Party withdrew from the governing coalition but PANGU stayed in Government until 1980 by forming an alliance with the majority faction of its long-time enemy the United Party. In 1982 PANGU’s well-organized and well-funded campaign centered on the personality of Somare. PANGU was returned to power in 1982 with 50 of the 108 seats but its parliamentary numbers dropped after the defection of members who formed the League for National Advancement (1984) and the People’s Democratic Movement (1985). PANGU lost Government through a vote of no confidence in 1985 and won only 26 seats in the 1987 election. The 1987 election platform gave a general commitment to education, health, social welfare, and law and order, but had few specific policies.
In May 1988 Somare handed the leadership over to Rabbie Namaliu who became Prime Minister on a vote of no confidence against Paias Wingti in July of that year. Despite several planned votes of no confidence PANGU and its coalition partners retained Government until the 1992 elections. In July 1992 Namaliu narrowly lost (55:54) to a coalition led by the People’s Democratic Movement leader Wingti. When Namaliu stepped down (for family reasons) as leader of PANGU and the Opposition Somare held these positions until March 1993 when he was replaced by Jack Genia. When Genia died in July 1993 he was succeeded, in August, by Chris Haiveta. Somare resigned from PANGU shortly after resigning as leader.
Although the largest party both before and after Independence PANGU has never had the numbers to govern in its own right. Since Independence there has been little difference between PANGU policies and those of other political parties. PANGU now fully espouses foreign investment and unfettered capitalist development. In October 1993 PANGU had 18 parliamentary members.