The demise of Belden Norman Namah: The kingmaker who would be king,

Slatev_tnc-BewareTheIdesOfMarchTurns2066752Sole MP in PNG Party and one of only three remaining MPs in the parliamentary opposition that he leads, Belden Norman Namah says he feels “betrayed” – quite rightly so, he has been. But, under the circumstances, why is he surprised?

They say that he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. In Namah’s case, the proverbial ‘sword’ was money – and if money was the means of his political rise, then, that this should also be the cause of his fall is poetic, writes PNG Echo.

The ‘pull factor’ – “Let’s talk about money, money”

6a00d83454f2ec69e2016302cb6ac0970d-200piMoney was initially the pull factor that increased the political appeal of Belden Norman Namah, but in the end, the very same factor may have pulled his seemingly loyal (?) base (maybe even including his deputy) in a completely different direction.

So, ever wondered how Namah secured himself the coveted ‘Forestry Ministry’ as a first-time MP in 2007?

He bought it, of course, in a strategy that he would repeat – initially successfully, ultimately, disastrously.

It is widely considered (even by Namah himself) that the portfolio was in recognition of the millions of Kina he poured into the National Alliance campaign. That someone describing himself as being into “the Multi-billion dollar logging business” should be given the portfolio is an egregious conflict of interests that didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Logging in Vanimo
Logging in Vanimo

Namah was not slow to capitalise: introducing successful legislation that has enabled the ‘land grab’ (Special Agricultural Business Leases – SABLs) that allows mostly foreign companies, to rape the resources of Papua New Guinea to the detriment of the environment and the future wellbeing of Papua New Guineans.

So, who was amongst the first to take advantage of this new legislation and apply and obtain an SABL over an enormous 139,909 hectares in his electorate of Bewani?

You whistle and I’ll point. See: Belden Namah and Jimmy Tse: You scratch my back..

Buying a government

What’s more, according to Namah, it was his money and inspiration that was behind the political coup of August 2011.

All smiles in 2011. With former Speaker Jeffrey Nape who failed to win back his seat in 2012, William Duma who was removed by O'Neill recently from his portfolio as Minister for Petroleum and Energy only be returne to the fold as Transport Minister and persona non grata the lone and lonely Belden Namah.
All smiles in 2011. With former Speaker Jeffrey Nape who failed to win back his seat in 2012, William Duma who was removed by O’Neill recently from his portfolio as Minister for Petroleum and Energy only be returned to the fold as Transport Minister and persona non grata the lone and lonely Belden Namah.

I am reliably informed by a lawyer, previously close to the Somare government, that the base price for an MP to defect was K50,000, reaching it’s zenith at the then Speaker, Jeffrey Nape, who was integral to the plot. Heaven knows the price he commanded. (What’s happened to the colourful Mr Nape – I miss him? He was a rich source of journalistic material).

It was told to me, in real time, when the coup leaders were in Vanimo plotting, that O’Neill had won the ‘big job’ by default.

The choice was between Namah – who was considered too inexperienced – and Polye – who was felt to be, notionally, too closely associated with the old regime.

That only left Peter O’Neill… and this consummate politician, to give him his political due, has taken the possibly unexpected opportunity and squeezed it for all it’s worth, wedging himself into an almost unassailable politic position.

But Namah’s ‘troops’ were mercenaries, many practised in the art of money politics.

The ‘loyalty’ of the(un)faithful was still up for grabs to the highest bidder and would continue to be on an ongoing basis.

new-parliament1
Government front benches 2012. Namah was not asked to join.

Namah’s failure to understand his attraction (he was always tallest sitting on his wallet) was evident in his first speech to the PNG Parliament (that I’ve named, ‘the jilted lover speech’).  Here he seemed genuinely bewildered as to how his cthen current fate could have befallen him.

Particularly alarming in that speech  was that Namah unashamedly admitted his willingness to have done what it would take to hold onto power – including his shocking assault on the judiciary.

“I did it for you,”

he told O’Neill. O’Neill was seen, unmoved, to just shrug.

The 2012 bid for supremacy (or the “I’ve-got-more-money-than-you campaign)

Belden Namah with a campaign poster.  Of his two featured deputies, Jamie Maxtone-Graham failed to retain his seat and Sam Basil has headed for the greener pastures of the PANGU Pati.
Belden Namah with a campaign poster. Of his two featured deputies, Jamie Maxtone-Graham failed to retain his seat and Sam Basil has headed for the greener pastures of the PANGU Pati.

Although Namah was said to have spent K30 million (now revised to K50 million) on his election campaign fielding 90 (91?) candidates for the PNG Party as well as bankrolling a number of others, the PNG Party only ended up with nine members (if you count Laut Atoi from North Bougainville who was a vacillator) – a meagre 10% return. (When you’re talking more than 7 million people, it’s difficult (impossible?) to buy all coinstituents a Land Rover)

Seven others not aligned to PNG Party joined the nine in opposition, and Ludwig Schulze member for Angoram left the Pangu Pati to join the PNG Party.

By August, 2014, the merely disastrous has turned to the catastrophic with the Opposition consisting of just three men and the PNG Party only one. There’s Namah, now sole member of the PNG Party, the Leader of the Melanesian Liberal Party, Dr Allan Marat (who is widely believed to be about to follow the lead of those who went before him and defect) and Sam Basil who has defected from PNG Party but not the opposition.

I once wrote that Namah’s performance in the 2012 elections was the greatest political failure since independence however, in 2014, he’s managed to even surpass himself.

Push me, pull me

There are two trains of thought about Namah’s political failure – is it a push factor amounting to bad leadership or the ‘pull factor’ (Namah’s preferred explanation) of guaranteed governmental money via DSIP funds?

If it was indeed money that lured the Opposition Leader’s following, why would they, all of a sudden, be more interested in helping him achieve his unrealistic and overly optimistic ambitions when more money and guaranteed stability is in the offing?

Sam Basil, still in opposition but no longer with Namah's PNG Party
Sam Basil, still in opposition but no longer with Namah’s PNG Party

Namah’s mistake is that he started to believe his own publicity; the noisy breathless hero worship of his disciples better known as the ‘Barmy Army.  He seems not to have been communicating with those who matter – his own MPs.

Pathetically, when questioned about his up-until-now loyal deputy Sam Basil’s defection to the Pangu Pati, Namah stated: “…I have not spoken to him yet.”

Coming up: If Namah failed to recognise the ‘pull factors’ against him, he was not ever willing to contemplate the ‘push factor – bad leadership.

In the next article PNG Echo will look at the leadership qualities lacking in the now Opposition Leader and re-examine a theory mooted some time ago. Stay tuned

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4 thoughts on “The demise of Belden Norman Namah: The kingmaker who would be king,

  1. I would not evern dream for a second to give Belden Namah the thumbs up NEVER. He is a noisy gong for nothing – a bad leader to follow. PNG would do without him!!!

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