I SPENT TWO YEARS teaching in Pagei (now renamed Bewani) and on weekends the school children would take me on excursions into the rainforest. We even walked from Pagei to Vanimo through the rainforest, which took four days for the return journey.
So, along with the patrol officers who opened up the place, I am familiar with this area. It is very sparsely populated with only a few villages. During my time there I visited them all.
That someone might have made millions of dollars in the Vanimo - Green River area would have raise suspicions.
The main concerns I have about the logging that has been happening in this pristine area are these:
1. Who gave the companies the right to log and where did the millions of dollars go?
2. How is it that 139,509 hectares of customary land was taken from villagers who did not give approval for this acquisition under the SABL scheme?
3. How is it possible for politicians to own secret bank accounts in American Samoa, Fiji, Hong Kong and Singapore - and why?
4. Have any of the promises made to villagers about hospitals, schools and jobs on the illegally acquired palm oil project been kept?
5. It has been claimed that 20 politicians are being investigated by the Ombudsman Commission on instructions from Task Force Sweep. Is Belden Namah one of these politicians? What is his involvement in the Bewani oil palm fiasco?
6. Why has the company involved in the oil palm plantations (in which Belden Namah has a large interest) been given taxation exemptions for the next 10 years? Surely this tax money should be made available to the Local Level Governments to improve the area’s facilities.
7. Has Belden used some of his ill-gotten gains to buy votes in this extremely poor community who have seen their rainforest destroyed and don't seem to have gained anything except idle promises?
Finally I hope that Task Force Sweep does investigate Mr Namah and he definitely should not be allowed to take part in the new government until his name has been cleared. Any money that has been obtained illegally must be returned to the Bewani people.
And a comment about that infamous photo of Belden being carried on a chair. Politicians are there to support and carry the people, not to be carried around by the people. Shame on you, Belden.