Papua New Guinea was divided into German and British territories when it was first colonized in the 1870s. Germany ruled northern New Guinea, while southern New Guinea and Papua was ruled by Britain. Soon after the Australian government took power, World War II broke out, and the islands were temporarily occupied by Japan. After the Japanese surrender, Australia assumed authority again. Pressured by the United Nations, they prepared for the territories’ independence.
The so-called “Johnson cult” started when the Lavongai people of New Hanover voted for the American President Lyndon B. Johnson in the first election of Papua and New Guinea (still separate territories) in February 1964. Although the Australian authorities explained that they could not vote for President Johnson, the Lavongais refused to change their vote. They claimed they wanted the American President to represent them in their House of Assembly, because they wanted the Americans to rule over them instead of the Australians.