Belden Namah

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Belden Namah is a Papua New Guinean politician and former military officer.

In the 1990s, he was an officer in the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, with the rank of captain. He was involved in the aftermath of the Sandline affair in 1997. In July, he and three other soldiers accompanied Captain Bola Renagi to see newly appointed Prime Minister Bill Skate, following Prime Minister Julius Chan's resignation under military pressure over the use of mercenaries in the conflict in Bougainville province. Renagi asked Skate to disband the Special Operations Group, to which the military was hostile. Namah, Renagi and the three other men were arrested and charged with sedition for their approach to the Prime Minister; the public prosecution argued that they had been attempting to obtain a pardon from the government for the military personnel involved in the near-coup of the Sandline affair. He was tried, convicted and jailed with his fellow officers in late 1997. He was paroled in 2003.[1][2][3][4]

Before entering politics, he was also a businessman, describing himself as being "into the multi-billion-dollar business of logging".[5]

As MP for Vanimo-Green[6] in the Eighth National Parliament (2007-2012), he served for a time as Minister for Forestry under Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.[5]

In 2009, it emerged that he had bought "prime properties, worth more than K4 million", in Samoa. Namah "initially denied the story, but after the Samoan Central Bank announced it was launching an inquiry into possible money laundering offenses, he admitted making the purchases", saying he had done so for "business associates".[7][8]

He subsequently joined the Opposition. When Sir Mekere Morauta stepped down from the leadership of the Opposition and of the PNG Party, in May 2010, Namah was elected to take over both, with Sam Basil (MP for Bulolo) as his deputy. Upon becoming Leader of the Opposition, and leader of the PNG Party with an eye to the 2012 general election, Namah said that any government he might lead would aim to provide free universal education (noting that education was "a right guaranteed under the constitution") and healthcare, and "fix the law and order problem in this country". In that regard, discipline would be instilled by compelling prospective students to undergo a two year military service before entering university. There would be support for Papua New Guinean scientists working on climate change. He also said he supported the Somare government's bill on introducing reserved seats for women in Parliament.[6][9]

In August 2011, the government of Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal (standing in for Somare while the latter was in hospital for a serious heart condition) was ousted in a parliamentary motion of no confidence. Peter O'Neill was elected to the premiership, and appointed Namah as his Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry and Climate Change. Upon taking office, Namah stated that the new government would, as a matter of priority, commit funds to provide free education to all the children in the country. As Minister for Climate Change, he also said he would be replacing PNG Climate Change Ambassador Kevin Conrad. Namah said that Conrad, who was born in the United States and lives there (although he grew up in Papua New Guinea), had insufficient knowledge and understanding of the country, its people and culture. He added that he wanted Conrad's successor to live in PNG. "Let some of our own men who know landowner issues very well take on the responsibility", he said.[10]

In November, as the Supreme Court prepared to hear a case on the legitimacy of the O'Neill government, Namah ordered the suspension of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, as Injia was facing charges of "breaching a contempt order, and mismanaging court finances". The government said Injia's removal had nothing to do with the pending case on the government's legitimacy. The Supreme Court responded by (unsuccessfully) ordering Namah's arrest, and that of Attorney General Dr Allan Marat.[11]

Following the summer 2012 general election, he became leader of the Opposition to the O'Neill / Somare government.[12] The O'Neill / Somare government had the confidence of almost the entire Parliament. By early 2014, Namah led "an opposition of about five MPs", while the government had over 90 MPs.[13]

In January 2014, the head of police, Tom Kulunga, issued an order for Namah's arrest, accusing Namah of having threatened him.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "PM 'was briefed on Nuia's arrest'", The National, 4 November 1997
  2. ^ "The wrong people are behind bars", Bougainville Freedom Movement media release, in Pacific Islands Report, 19 December 2007
  3. ^ "Stop witch-hunt on Belden Namah", Post Courier, 14 September 2006
  4. ^ "PNG opposition elects new leader", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 May 2011
  5. ^ a b "I've nothing to hide, says Namah", The National, 21 July 2009
  6. ^ a b "Belden Namah is PNG's new Opposition Leader", ABC Radio Australia 10 May 2011
  7. ^ "PNG minister in Samoa property deals", The National, 17 July 2009
  8. ^ "New PNG deputy leader has checkered past", Pacific Islands Report, 16 August 2011
  9. ^ "PNG Party prefers free education over OBE", Pacific Islands News Association, 9 May 2011
  10. ^ "Climate Change ambassador in US to be replaced", Post Courier, 18 August 2011
  11. ^ "More turns in PNG judicial saga with orders for arrest of senior cabinet ministers", Radio New Zealand International, 11 November 2011
  12. ^ "PNG Opposition Leader says parliamentary adjournment a bad precedent", Radio New Zealand International, 6 September 2012
  13. ^ a b "Order out to arrest PNG opposition leader", AAP, 18 January 2014
Political offices
Preceded by
Sam Abal
Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
2011-2012
Succeeded by
Leo Dion
Political offices
Preceded by
Carol Kidu
Leader of the Opposition of Papua New Guinea
2012-
Succeeded by
Incumbent