PAPUA NEW GUINEA OPPOSITION LEADER, Hon Belden Namah, recently said: “For the love for my people and motherland I will not be intimidated, harassed and suppressed by a desperate, despotic dictator. I will stand to fight against corruption and corrupt people without fear”.
Like the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Belden Namah carries the hopes and dreams of many ordinary people who want to crack down on corruption especially among those upper class Papua New Guineans who dominate and control the economy and political landscape.
PNG is no different to other democracies in Africa. her social, health and economic development indexes show she has not distanced herself from that category since Independence from Australia. PNG is a country with vast untapped natural resource which locals are proud to call an 'island floating on a sea of oil and sitting on mountains of gold.
What makes Namah unique in this context is that he speaks people’s language in the fight against systemic corruption. He proved it as a Captain in the PNG Defence Force during the Sandline Crisis, when he and other military personnel carried out Operation Rausim Kwik (‘Remove Quickly’) to expel foreign mercenaries invited by the Chan government to fight against Bougainvilleans in efforts to put an end to the South Pacific’s longest civil war.
He was subsequently imprisoned for sedition in 2000 and released on parole in 2003. In 2007, Namah entered the PNG parliament as the member for Vanimo-Green and, during his first term, served as Senior Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition. Now into his second term, he is again Opposition Leader.
In recent developments, the Opposition has been reduced dramatically to only five members. However this does not detract from the power of the Opposition Leader to expose corruption. “Even if I am one man left I will keep fighting against corrupted people and corruption,” he has vowed.
The current regime of Peter O’Neill has withheld from members of Opposition development grants under the District Service Improvement Program. This has pushed the majority of Opposition members to join the ruling regime.
This issue is now in court after Deputy Opposition Leader Sam Basil filed a case against Finance Minister James Marape. There is also concern that the office of the Opposition has been deprived of funding.
In an undemocratic manner against the spirit of good governance, the O'Neill regime has hand-picked and appointed political affiliates, with the majority of development contracts awarded to politically affiliated companies. There has also been political interference in the appointment of personnel into the Police and Military.
PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill was faced with allegations of signing a letter directing payments to a local law firm, allegations he totally denies, saying his signature was forged. The so-called Task Force Sweep has cleared him of wrong-doing but the principal of the law firm and others were arrested.
Who would expect things to get more complicated and troubling when Mr O’Neill continues to hold on to the Ministry of Police.
In a turn of events early last week, PNG Police Commissioner Toami Kulunga threatened to arrest the Opposition Leader after Mr Namah raised concerns over the Police Commissioners failure to allow police officers to investigate and carry out their constitutional duties in a case involving the Prime Minister and two cabinet ministers, Don Polye and James Marape.
Prior to this, the Police Commissioner also reportedly directed CID Inspector Malpe Mazuc and Senior Constable Vincent Raymond to obtain a search warrant (which turned out to be faulty) to get personal mobile data belonging to Mr Namah from the State-owned mobile operator Bemobile.
The extent of public disquiet became clear last Sunday when a reported 1,000 people turned up at short notice at the Opposition Leader’s residence in Port Moresby to support his fight against corruption. A call for support had been made on social media by anti-corruption activist Noel Anjo Koloa who volunteered to be arrested with the Opposition Leader.
Mobile squad units flown down from the Highlands who arrived to arrest the Mr Namah were reportedly chased away by the large crowd. The situation became dangerous as people refused to allow the Opposition Leader to be arrested and the number of people turning up after church kept swelling. The Opposition Leader’s lawyers sought and ontained an urgent restraining order, granted on Sunday afternoon, against the Police Commissioner.
It seems that the ruling political regime and their foreign advisors and political sponsors will do anything to stop a true Melanesian political leader and Papua New Guinean legislator from crushing corruption among the upper class and foreigners who dominate the political and economic base of this country of over seven million people.
Papua New Guinea has woken to realise it has hope remaining because of 1,000 people from all sectors of society fronting up to support Belden Namah.
The entire population of this great nation should realise what type of battles we have to fight to win the war against corruption.
It’s not a fight against our own people but against systems dominated and controlled by political dynasties and tribal mafia. Our future starts now; let’s put an end to this madness.