Thumbs up, Belden Namah, for your scrutiny of the O’Neill regime
27 January 2014
A MASSIVE K71.8M WALKED OUT of the Finance and Treasury Departments and no one (including members of parliament) knew or had the guts to say anything about it. It was truly a blatant abuse at best and, most likely, official corruption.
The money was allegedly paid to a law firm, Paul Paraka Lawyers, with the aid of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Finance Minister James Marape, Treasure Don Polye and officers from their departments.
The issue was not known to other MPs, bureaucrats and Papua New Guineans until a copy of an alleged letter from the Prime Minister somehow reached Opposition leader Belden Namah and his minority group in Parliament. Mr Namah then lodged an official complaint with the police for an urgent investigation into the matter.
Immediately after the report, the Prime Minister engaged Investigative Task Force Sweep to carry out inquiries. That’s where the Parakagate saga investigation started. Thanks to both Peter O’Neill and Belden Namah for initiating the investigation into this matter.
As we can see now, the issue is very complicated as it concerns allegations of official and systematic corruption by departments and people we call custodians of the people’s money.
Despite Namah’s public statements at several gatherings (such as the “for the love for my people and motherland” rhetoric on Facebook and PNG Attitude), many people have criticised him in other social media, newspapers and other forums.
Most Papua New Guineans realise that the Opposition Leader has done all he could to unveil the truth. Let’s not look at his past, but look at how tough he is to put under close scrutiny some of those illegal practices.
After the Paraka issue was reported, Mr Namah, as a plaintiff, did not favour Task Force Sweep carrying out this investigation because the Prime Minister was one of the people allegedly involved.
The Opposition Leader asked Mr O’Neill to relinquish the Police portfolio, as the case was with the Police. However, the PM refused and has held on to the position for almost seven months. Many people have asked whether this means that the PM has no confidence in other MPs.
Well, we know that Task Force Sweep was formed, funded and aligned with the National Fraud Squad of the Police Department by the then O’Neill-Namah government during the political impasse of 2011. So Namah believed that there would be bias in the investigation as O’Neill was PM and Minister for Police at the same time.
Some people, especially those who are pro-government, criticise Namah for his previous actions like the Sydney casino sex, the Bewani deal for Vanimo forests, his actions during the overthrow of the Somare regime in August 2011, and action against PNG’s Chief Justice during the political impasse.
In social media, newspaper, FM radio talk back and other forums, some people criticise Mr Namah, saying he should stay away from the Parakagate saga and should not take action against the PM, the Ministers and the Police Commissioner.
However, if Namah had been silent throughout this Parakagate saga, I don’t think this serious issue would have been uncovered.
As a result, he put himself in some jeopardy. The Police Commissioner obtained a search warrant against Namah and tapped his mobile phone after alleging that he had undermined the Police Department in a letter addressed to the Commissioner’s office.
If the RPNGC, as it used to be, is an independent body performing its constitutional duties without fear or favour, one needs to ask why didn’t they tap Mr O’Neill’s phone before Namah’s?
Why didn’t they forensically test the PM’s signature on the alleged forged letter? And why did they let O’Neill off scot free despite knowing that only courts have the power to convict or exonerate a suspect upon evidence? The police should just present what they found in the investigation.
It seems there is no transparency and independence here. People have lost confidence in Police, Defence and Justice Departments as the law-enforcing agents in this country because many officers from these departments have abused their constitutional duties.
The same thing was going on with the previous Somare government over almost nine years.
We may have a few people convicted in this Parakagate saga. We may recoup some of the millions lost. If so, it will be thanks to tough scrutiny by this former military officer and the toughest Opposition Leader we’ve ever seen in PNG.
Thumbs up, Belden Namah! Thumbs up Investigation Task Force Sweep led by Sam Koim. We are with you. We believe truth will remain truth at the end. Do that job with the people at heart.
As Francis points out Kayul, the case was already being investigated.
That places a big question mark on Namah's motives. He wasn't trying to help; he was trying to embarass O'Neill.
You can't just ignore what has happened in the past. Because of his past history he is not a man to be trusted.
O'Neill is the same.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 27 January 2014 at 10:02 PM
Francis - The issue was there since 2000, we all know, but the recent controversial payment of K71.8 was made in 2012.
So who lodged that complaint for an investigation? O'Neill? Polye? Marape? Or any officer from the Finance and Treasury Department?
Posted by: Joe Wasia | 27 January 2014 at 05:16 PM
Phil - Put Namah's past doings aside for a while. Do you see any wrong in Namah's intervention in this Paraka scandal?
Posted by: Kayul Mand | 27 January 2014 at 04:49 PM
Joe, your motive to paint a rosy picture of Namah drove you into factual error on the sequence of the investigation into the Paraka case.
The investigation into the Finance and Planning Departments, including the Paraka case, was well underway before Namah lodged the letter, that was alleged to have had been signed by O'Neill, with the police.
The investigation into the Paraka case did not come about because of Namah's rhetoric. The police commissioner rejected the complaint as TFS was already looking into it.
Posted by: Francis S Nii | 27 January 2014 at 04:02 PM
But Kayul, Belden Namah in all likelihood is (was) just as corrupt as everyone else. If the stories are true he stole from his own people and wrecked their forests and rivers.
How can you have any faith in someone like that?
It's like Michael Somare; everytime you see the run down hospital in Wewak you cannot help but think 'here is a greedy politician who cares nothing for his people'.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 27 January 2014 at 03:43 PM
Barbara-if Namah was silent like many other MPs of Parliament, who else would stand up and say.
Like Joe mentioned above, lets not look at his past. Lets look at how tough he is to put tight scrutiny over government's illegal deals.
Congrats Namah. Papua New Guinea is with you in this fight against corruption. We would like to see these offenders are brought to justice.
Posted by: Kayul Mand | 27 January 2014 at 01:49 PM
I have just watched the film "Bikpela Bagarap" by David Fedele which is now free online at www.bikpelabagarap.com
It shows the logging that is going on in the West Sepik and shows quite clearly that the people are being exploited and the environment spoilt.
One can easily imagine where Belden Namah got his millions from.
While this sort of thing is still allowed to take place, how can one have respect for the local members of parliament. They should be standing up for their local people.
As one of the more educated men proclaimed "Where is our money?"
Probably billions of dollars worth of timber has been taken out but the people's lives have only got far worse than they were.
And the West Sepik people were already way behind in their development.
So many of the people in the film were malnourished and handicapped and sick with diarrhoea and malaria and there were no drugs available and no transport for the Aid Post man to go and get more drugs.
The Malaysian company has been allowed to do whatever they like and are putting their rubbish into the river. The Malaysian people live in permanent housing with water tanks and showers and fresh drinking water.
The village people go down to the polluted river to do their washing. It was horrific, but very similar to what I saw in parts of Indonesia back in the 1970s.
PNG has some catching-up to do. Why has Belden Namah allowed this to happen in the West Sepik?
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 27 January 2014 at 01:26 PM
Pre 1975, the then Electoral Act clearly defined the terms of eligibility for any person seeking nomination as a candidate for the House of Assembly elections and one proviso was that' Any person convicted of an indictable offence would be ineligible to stand.
Irregardless of whether that person was later' Pardoned" is immaterial as it is the conviction recorded itself which prevails.
So what has changed since those days? Have previous probity checks for illegibility for any potential candidate for the House of Assembly been removed from the statutes?
Posted by: Harry Topham | 27 January 2014 at 12:32 PM
What would be the possible penalty for offenders in this Parakagate scandal? Guys, so sad to see you wasting time commenting and posting here and there. After all they be "Mr Freeman" with lousy penalty fees placed on them.
I wish if the new legislation passed in the Parliament (death penalty) be applied to the offenders in the Parakagate scandal. That would be much better.
I would like to see my MP Don Polye given 50 years imprisonment if the court finds him guilty. Why I'm saying this is because thousands of people (abroad & within) have trust in him yet he is alleged to have joined hands with Marape and O'Neill in this serious crime. My goodness!
Posted by: Gibson Freman | 27 January 2014 at 10:09 AM
There is a telling line in Joe's summary: "Many people have asked whether this means that the PM has no confidence in other MPs."
This must be a major dilemma for O'Neill and I imagine that Namah has the same problem. There are very few squeaky clean MPs in the Parliament and neither O'Neill nor Namah are among them.
If we give both of them the benefit of the doubt and buy their rhetoric about fighting corruption the first piece of advice that they need to take up is to clean out their own shitty nests.
MPs seem to be able to sidestep and prolong investigations into their own behaviour and this needs to be addressed.
There is a leadership code and it needs to be enforced rigidly.
Better still, before the next election candidates should be subject to a police investigation before they are allowed to nominate.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 27 January 2014 at 09:45 AM
On PNG Facebook at the moment people are praising a young man from Unitech called Dominic for reminding PNG that it lacks a good Opposition.
From listening to the Social Media I would say the main voices of discussion and debate at the moment are Highlanders and Sepiks. It is good that there is debate but it would be better if it was not tribal.
Honest versus dishonest would be better but I guess the dishonest just like to remain silent. I'm sure there are good and bad Highlanders and good and bad Sepiks. One musn't stereotype.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 27 January 2014 at 06:24 AM