By Sonja Barry Ramoi
Deep in the mountains of the village called Paru Paru - the village of late secessionist leader and former first President of Bougainville Joseph Kabui - not far from Panguna Mine, Defence Force Captain and Helicopter Pilot Charlie Andrews was ordered by the Commander of the PNG Defence Force Brigadier General Jerry Singirok to go in and get Captain Belden Norman Namah out. The terrain, in enemy territory under the control of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, was no place for a chopper to land. Captain Namah – in a daring, innovative feat and display of bravery – was airlifted out of the bush by hanging onto the skid of the chopper. Only a very strong man highly skilled and highly trained to be a Special Forces Unit commando could do that.
Did Captain Namah, now the Opposition Leader of Papua New Guinea, tell me the story perhaps to try and impress me? No he did not. I heard the story from somebody else via Charlie Andrews and asked him to confirm if it is true that he was airlifted out of the bush in Bougainville by the skid of a chopper. "Yes it's true”, he replied. There are many more tales of his military exploits and deeds to be told. Many still classified will surface later, no doubt. His role in helping to rescue hostages from the OPM (Operasi Papua Merdeka) in two separate incidents near the PNG Indonesia border, in 1996 and 1999, still needs to be fully told. But wait a sec, wasn’t he supposed to be still in prison in 1999 for sedition because he and his comrades supported their Commander during the Sandline Affair to stop foreign mercenaries (paid murderers) from being deployed in Bougainville?
|PNG Opposition Leader Belden Namah : Photo source: Sonia Barry|
I know the Opposition Leader Hon Belden Namah very well. He is never scared of anything. He only fears God. He is a fighter and he doesn't go down easily. He made Peter O'Neill who he is today and he is the only one who can undo or outdo him. You can bet your last Kina that no other politician can do it. Not even the “old man”! If he was prepared to sacrifice his life and help save more than 360,000 lives on Bougainville and go to jail for it together with two of his comrades, does anyone seriously believe that a warrant of arrest will scare him? Why is so much speculation and false information being posted about the Opposition Leader on the social media – especially on Sharp Talk? Do his critics miss him that badly?
Everybody loves a hero. PNG certainly needs to know about many more heroes. When I wrote during the political impasse that former retired Colonel Yaura Sasa will still go down in the minds of many Papua New Guinean’s as a hero, I was criticized because Sasa had been charged for mutiny. Approximately one year later the mutiny charge against Sasa for conducting the so-called mutiny was thrown out thanks largely to leading Port Moresby based lawyer Tony Waisi from West Sepik. And the hero who quelled the so-called mutiny was none other than Belden Norman Namah, who should be credited for defusing a potentially deadly clash between factions of the army and the police force. No other politician would have the guts to enter the sanctity of a Supreme Court to order the arrest of a Chief Justice. Was Belden Namah’s action, as the acting Prime Minister at the time, justifiable? Most people - not knowing the full story - would probably say no. Many people knowing the full story would probably still say no. That story in particular is still not over.
Some of us are too good at tearing down people and our political leaders based on false information and incomplete stories fed to us by a biased foreign and domestic media. Take Sasa’s case for example. Many people made vile and stupid comments and were scared to go near him or seen publicly to be supporting him in case they somehow ridiculously incurred the wrath of the former ‘O’Namah regime’. One veteran politician even called my husband former law graduate and MP Gabriel Ramoi, who the Opposition Leader addresses as his big brother, ‘crazy’. He was one man who did not hesitate to set his political preference aside – as a matter of principle - to publicly support Sasa by becoming one of his bail guarantors. Many people from all over PNG took the time to find Gabriel’s mobile number and called him to congratulate him for supporting Sasa, whilst most of the PNG Facebook crowd continued to have fun hurling insults at Sasa as well as at me. Now the boot is on the other foot. You can tear him down but you can’t tear him up!
Having been publicly called a Somare propaganda machine, pro-Somare troll, anti-Belden, anti-Namah in the past and just recently a ‘strong Somare supporter’ and a Spin Doctor (for Namah) on Facebook, I wish to place on record that I supported the actions of both Sasa and Namah, although they were on opposing sides because they both did what they believed was right according to the situation and circumstances at the time. I admit that I also was and am still pro-O’Neill and was among the first to publicly congratulate him, on his election to the Prime Minister’s post in August 2011, the day after he was elected, via National radio. I repeat, nobody can undo or outdo him except Belden Namah! Yes, it is true that I - as well as millions of other people - were influenced negatively by the Star Casino story; but I soon found out that this story was a set up. In fact I challenged people on Sharp Talk to prove me wrong. One admin commented on my post: ‘yesterday’s news is good for smoking’ and then a biased admin – possibly the same admin - deleted my post just as I was about to respond to certain comments made by certain people.
In a recent Facebook poll asking people to vote yes or no if Peter O’Neill should resign, I answered yes and no. Yes if the letter with Peter O’Neill’s signature approving payment to Paul Paraka Lawyers is NOT a forgery.
Napway Kunum, an Engineer from Jiwaka Province, working on a fly in fly out basis on an offshore gas plant in Iraq, also knows Belden Namah well…from their student days at Sogeri National High school. I asked Napway to share his recollection of Belden Namah. Napway, was president of the Judo Club at Sogeri at the time. His room-mate was Gerald Alec from Sandaun Province. He recalled that Belden - who was one year behind him and Gerald - would go to their room every Wednesday to go together with them to Judo training. “He is one of those that did not speak much but will listen attentively and then go ahead and will get things done, on that you can depend on him. He was always in a hurry trying to get something done”, recalled Napway who also described BN as “quite and easy going with determination”.
“If things aren’t right, he’ll throw himself at it to get it right. Those are his traits. One thing…he’ll call a spade a spade.”
“He’ll be loyal to you when he knows that what you are doing is good for people and country. If it’s not he’ll be in the way. That’s all the way from Sogeri.”
It appears that they spent a great deal of time talking about the OPM.
“OPM kept us busy discussing them into the night”, said Napway who also advised: “It’s not surprising that BN joined the army and I thought Gerald also did.”
“One thing I found about BN is that he always had respect for me and Gerald, and he would listen attentively. Gerald and him would discuss about the suffering of the West Papuans and I would listen in on how unfairly they were treated. They’ll say it’ll be best to help them out. So there and then I knew that BN would always fight for the underdogs, and that’s natural, his inbuilt character.”
When Napway, who has worked in many places in PNG and overseas as an engineer in the petroleum industry, was in Kutubu he knew 3 security supervisors that were in the army who served in Bougainville during the civil war. “They said BN is one hell of a person who can move single handedly forward after he planned out an operation and those were daring ones. They didn’t tell me the full story but I could gather from what they were saying that BN was one hell of a warrior.”
“In this very volatile world you and I know that PNG needs BN”, I confided in Napway who replied: “PNG needs BN 40 years ago. Sonja, and that’s not kidding. That’s not discrediting our fathers who brought us to independence. They did what they could. Between independence and now, we let greed get in the way of developing our nation. And that’s where we need him. And that’s 40 years back.”
Certainly nobody can rightfully claim that Belden Namah is greedy, certainly not when he is probably Papua New Guinea’s first multimillionaire philanthropist politician who gives from the goodness of his heart and not to get publicity.
Are there so many gullible people around? If it was true that Belden Namah is a power-hungry ‘would be Dictator’, then why did he hand power over to Peter O’Neill practically on a golden platter when he had the numbers and the money to become Prime Minister himself? One thing is for certain, considering the tremendous support he had at the time, he could have simply snapped his fingers and taken over the country if he had so desired. People who have recently implied or imply that he is not patriotic and or unfit to be Opposition Leader because he was absent from the country need their heads read. They may as well call every Papua New Guinean who travels overseas unpatriotic and unfit. I ask those critics two simple questions - do other world leaders not travel overseas? Do other world leaders not do live interviews from whatever location they happen to be in at the time?
Belden Namah is a world leader - whether some stupid people like it or not - who at least can afford to pay for his travels around the world using his own private funds. Not long ago he was in Europe. Ask yourself - how many politicians can purchase airfares and stay in 5 star hotels using their own honest, hard earned money? It seems that not many people know that Belden Namah is a self-made multimillionaire today because he wisely invested the money he made - starting many years ago before he entered parliament - from his share of timber royalties; after he lobbied successfully and aggressively for a huge increase in the price paid per cubic meter to landowners by foreign loggers.
"There is no arrest warrant. It's a media propaganda", the Opposition Leader told me recently after I expressed my concern - once again to him - at the false reports still being circulated about him on Facebook.
I previously advised people recently in response to a false post on Sharp Talk that figuratively speaking 'BN will be back with both guns blazing'. Well, if people do not see any guns blazing that does not mean he is not back. Furthermore, BN is not the type of politician who talks for the sake of hearing himself talk. Starting from day one, he has made his stance very clear on the asylum seekers and many other issues more than enough times already. Why should he keep on repeating himself like a fool for fools? If people missed what he has said they can always look it up!
BN is a man who is usually short, sharp and straight to the point. He is largely a 'silent achiever' who does not go around boasting and bragging about what he has achieved in order to appear more popular by scoring likes on the social media forums. Although he was incredibly popular and his presence widely appreciated on the social media he deactivated his personal Facebook account around eighteen months ago – when he was Deputy Prime Minister - simply because being on Facebook is time-consuming and he had and has more productive things to do with his limited time. He did and does have a country to run as the alternate Prime Minister! His hardworking team keeps him in touch with the public through The Opposition, Papua New Guinea Facebook page.
Belden Namah is a world leader who believes in equal power sharing of duties and responsibilities. He does not have a huge monumental ego that says 'me, me, me - only me, all the time' unlike certain other politicians who enjoy scoring political points by attacking and trashing their opponents, all the time. He certainly would never SHOUT at anybody merely for asking questions unlike certain “loudmouth” leaders. In fact BN is a very unique politician because I honestly believe that he may just be a bit too honest for his own good. What? An honest politician…you have got to be joking…I can hear people thinking out loud. Where other leaders are haughty and hypocritically full of themselves - with their ego's maybe somewhere up in the sky - BN is down to earth, humble and honourable. I know that to be very true because he has proven it to me in more ways than one and has therefore won my respect as well as my admiration.
And no I do not work for him and nor have I ever received any money from him. Nor am I any political novice or groupie or spin doctor or propaganda machine. I have met and spoken with many politicians as well as statesmen – such as Governor Generals, Prime Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers, Opposition Leaders, Speakers, Ministers, Ordinary MP’s, Premiers, Deputy Premiers, Presidents, Lord Mayors – at both the national and local government level, starting as a kid. Politics is in my blood. It is in my family – on both sides of my family. I also have the gift of foresight.
I foresee that Belden Norman Namah will become Prime Minister one day and that he has a long political career ahead of him – akin to two political icons and giants from the Sepik: Sir Michael Thomas Somare and Sir Pita Lus. The only way his political opponents and enemies can defeat him is to completely destroy his character, then lock him up for life or kill him. Why should he or anybody tell the public whether he is in Port Moresby or Bewani or Singapore or Paris, France for that matter? His security is high stake. We are not talking about the politics of Papua New Guinea twenty years ago. There are too many jealous, ignorant people around these days. He did not put his personal welfare first when he agreed to do his ABC interview from Singapore; he put his country’s welfare first by speaking out against the Regional Resettlement Arrangement - signed unilaterally by PNC leader & PM Peter O’Neill and Australian Labour leader & PM Kevin Rudd - from the location he was in at the time.
Until just recently, I would normally - as many regular contributors and readers on the social media over the last few years would know - keep it confidential what politicians I know and what I know about them. However, I recently advised people on Sharp Talk that I know Belden Namah very well, because enough is enough! I am sick of reading highly defamatory nonsense and crappy comments about him on Facebook and on Internet blogs - posted by people who do not know the real Belden Namah. ‘There are always two sides to a coin’ is an oft repeated saying on Sharp Talk. Well, I can certainly see the other side of the coin although some other people apparently can’t.
The critics focusing on Belden Namah and concerned about good governance should also ask themselves - why has the PM Peter O’Neill not been questioned yet over his authorizing of millions of Kina of public funds in payment to Paul Paraka lawyers? The critics against the asylum deal should also be lobbying their MP's to publicly come out and oppose the Regional Resettlement Arrangement instead of wasting time and energy badmouthing and gossiping about Belden Namah on Facebook. Quite stupid really! At a time when the Opposition Leader needs more support in order to succeed on the floor of parliament to defeat the proposed amendments to the Constitution and thereby defeat the asylum deal, people have been very unrealistically discussing his replacement and unnecessarily creating divisions amongst his supporters. How stupid is that?
Who is influencing who? Let’s be realistic, Belden Namah in his first term of parliament became the Leader of the PNG Party, he then became Opposition Leader before becoming Deputy Prime Minister. An amazing achievement for any first time politician anywhere in the world and highly unlikely to be emulated ever again by any other politician from PNG! Once again, he is the Leader of the Opposition and he will continue to occupy the office of the Leader of the Opposition until such a time he voluntarily relinquishes his position by resigning or is removed as leader of the PNG Party and that of course will never happen.
What the critics should be asking is - are all those MP’s who moved across to swell Peter O’Neill’s rank and file sucking up to him? Sucking up to him for what? You voted them in, then you can vote them out, but in the meantime until the next general election, people can whinge and whine, cry and complain, shout and scream - to no avail if their MP is not listening to them. If you want your MP to be Opposition Leader, instead, then tell him or her to start recruiting MP’s to build their party. You might have to help them do fundraising though. What is the going rate at present?
Should Belden Namah pay parliamentarians to join him on the Opposition side when many of them received money from him before to help fund their campaign and win a seat in parliament in the first place? Does he have to pay them for their support to do the right thing and vote according to conscience by crossing the floor? Is that what they want? Is that what they are waiting for? No way! It does make one wonder if the real reason why so many of them crossed over en-masse to O’Neill’s side is because too many of them do not want people to think that they have been bought by Namah and his millions. It also makes one wonder whether too many of them are nothing but a bunch of opportunistic backstabbers and hypocrites! Repay the money that helped get you elected you bum’s!
Belden Namah has always come out openly in regard to false allegations made about him - because he has nothing to hide! How about PO and other politicians? Once again, for the benefit of people who missed reading BN's detailed response posted months ago in regard to the false allegation against him that he misused funds. In brief:
"I have rightfully applied the log export development levy funds legally belonging to timber rights landowners of Vanimo TRP Blocks 1-6 in Vanimo Green Electorate for infrastructure projects in the District. With that K9.9m I sealed 12km road from Pasi to Krisa village in the Vanimo TRP project area in Vanimo Green District", Belden Namah reiterated.
The Opposition Leader also had this to say:
"We are duty bound to give back to our people their sovereignty, freedom, pride and independence. We are an independent nation. Australians have f'ed us up since they colonized us. They left us with basically nothing when we became independent in 1975. We can't afford to bring them back. We do not need their support either. We have all the wealth in the world God has blessed us with. All we need is a strong, vibrant, prudent and patriotic leadership. We are the only ones who can provide that to protect our people from neocolonialism and corporate greed. May we be God's instruments of 'CHANGE' for our people and our beautiful country.”