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Belden Namah Tribunal – the developments, and drama

Commentary By Bonny Kaiyo 

The tribunal set up to hear allegations of leadership misconduct made against Honourable Belden Namah MP for Vanimo – Green River entered Day 5 or Session 5 yesterday.
And, the Public Prosecutor adduced evidence in Category 1 by calling Mr Conrad Tilao, now Acting Provincial Administrator for West Sepik Province as witness when the tribunal re –convened at 9.30am. The tribunal also heard evidence adduced for Category 2, involving the court room drama where it is alleged Belden Namah with the assistance of some policemen and soldiers stormed the supreme court in session and ordered the arrest of Chief Justice Sir Salam Injia.

Mr Tilao under oath said the MP for Vanimo – Green River immediately after winning the 2007 seat and declared MP threatened to suspend him as District Administrator for Vanimo – Green River District when he expressed contrasting views, and was seen with Mr Philip Inou, the former MP whom Belden Namah just defeated at the polls.

Under cross – examination by Belden Namah’s lawyer Greg Sheppard, he said although the threat was made the discipline and suspension never eventuated , and he ended up being cross – transferred or swap- transferred with the District Administrator for Teleformin District Lou Badui on the same salary scale, and even promoted to Deputy Provincial Administrator and now Acting Provincial Administrator in the intervening 10 years since the alleged leadership breach by Belden Namah.

Mr Sheppard successfully, after re- structuring his questions asked to Mr Tilao, had him admit that Belden Namah’s action did not influence his professional status to diminish.

Under Category 2(photo shown, MP for Vanimo - Green River moments before the alleged court room drama), evidence was adduced by the Public Prosecutor with Registrar of Courts being called to the witness box, but he was absent, and his affidavit was subsequently rejected and the Public Prosecutor was asked by the tribunal to produce him in person to testify today.

The other evidence presented to the tribunal was the audio recording by the court of the confrontation that occurred when it was alleged Belden Namah with the assistance of some policemen and soldiers stormed the supreme court in session and ordered the arrest of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.

Belden Namah’s lawyer Greg Sheppard did not object to the 30 seconds playing of the audio tape, which was presented as oral evidence exhibit.

It is expected the MP for Vanimo – Green will be called to the witness box for cross – examination today.

The tribunal will resume tomorrow at 9.30 am.

This writer chronicled the drama that developed, which after one year, reached this point. The narrative is this.

About a year ago this month, the Namah Leadership Tribunal Collapsed – the Nation Court had granted a permanent stay order on the proceedings that were to prosecute the MP for Vanimo – Green River.

The Namah Leadership Tribunal collapsed after a permanent stay order was granted on Friday 2 September 2016 following an application by Belden Namah’s lawyer Greg Sheppard in the National Court presided by Justice Cannings.

On Monday a week earlier, Justice Cannings ruled that the new evidence filed by Belden Namah could not be adduced in court because it was not cogent.

Opposition Leader then Don Polye welcomed the court decision to stay the Vanimo-Green MP Belden Namah's leadership tribunal, and said the country needs Belden Namah and other like-minded leaders to fight corruption head-on in the country.

He said:

‘Fighting corruption in the country is not an easy task. It bites back to kick those who aggressively advocate it out of the scene,"

Mr Polye said some of them in the Opposition, including himself had their share of the experience to walk alone in the fight against corruption..

Namah said the support of those who stood by him including his families, staff, friends, supporters and fellow Christians throughout the country has paid off.

According to Namah, the court decision on Friday 2 September 2016 was coming:

"Today's court victory is a win for the nation especially when corruption is deeply entrenched within all sectors of governance and institutions of state that protect and hold democracy together in our nation,"

Mr Namah dedicated his court victory to God and to the people of Papua New Guinea.

The Namah Leadership Tribunal was unable to dispense with internal contradictions on how to deliver justice, so as to conclude that Belden Namah is culpable beyond reasonable doubt to have breached the leadership conduct for which he was investigated by the Ombudsman Commission, and subsequently referred to the Chief Justice to establish the Leadership Tribunal in order to validate the leadership misconduct allegations made against the MP for Vanimo Green River.

The permanent stay order on the Namah Leadership Tribunal means in law the revelation of new evidence against Chief Justice Salamo Injia was valid, and the court has no basis to rule the evidence was not cogent, and cannot be adduced in court.

The drama goes like this. Vanimo Green MP Belden Namah revealed new evidence in court four weeks earlier against Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia regarding his alleged apprehension of bias and conflict of interest in dealing with Namah’s leadership tribunal case.

The evidence included a National Executive Council decision published on February 1, 2012, regarding the suspension of chief justice, a court order made by the Supreme Court on February 2 2012 staying the suspension of the chief justice and a memorandum written by Justice Kirriwom on March 10, 2012, to other judges urging them to work together against the Oneill – Namah government.

Lawyer Laias Kandi, representing the public prosecutor, objected to the new evidence but the objections were refused.

The published decision of the NEC, the court order of February 2, 2011, the memorandum, an order issued by Justice Sir Bernard Sakora for the arrest of Namah and Dr Allan Marat and other new materials were admitted as evidence.

Namah said after the NEC decision on November 2011, suspending the chief justice, he held a press conference with Marat to address the country about the suspension of the chief justice.

He said after the press conference, Justice Sakora issued an order for his arrest with Marat. He said they were arrested and charged with contempt of court and were released on K5,000 police bail.

He said on February 1. 2012, a gazettal notice was published about the suspension of the chief justice.

Mr Namah said he was concerned about the involvement of chief justice in presiding over the matter regarding his suspension and stayed it.

He said a press conference was held to express his views as the Acting – Prime Minister at the time regarding the conduct of the chief justice.

Namah said after he called the press conference, a five – man bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the chief justice, deputy chief justice, Justice Sakora, Justice Kirriwom and Justice Les Gavara – Nanu, made another order for Namah’s arrest because he breached a bail condition.

A court document dated May 23, 2012, singed by Sir Salamo ordering the arrest of Namah because he was in a media conference was admitted into evidence by the court yesterday.

He said after the chief justice ordered for his arrest, he consulted the prime minister and other cabinet members and they agree to go to the court house and tell the chief justice that he was not doing the right thing.

He said he had apologized to the chief justice and the members of the judiciary about his conduct.

He also said the contempt charges were withdrawn.

But he said he was surprised to see the contempt allegations in one of the allegations levelled against him in his leadership tribunal.

However, the same week the court handed down its ruling, and dismissed Belden Namah’s proposal when the motion he filed to introduce new evidence and summon several National and Supreme Court judges to testify was dismissed by the National Court.

A year ago this month, Justices David Cannings, Allan David and Kiele Polume as a Supreme Court Bench disagreed at Namah’s claim that the appointment of a Leadership Tribunal by Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia was generated and riddled by bias.

So, the conclusions are as follows, and can be deduced as a logical sequence from the latest developments on the Namah Leadership Tribunal.

Firstly, Vanimo – Green River MP Belden Namah’s argument that his right to natural justice which was compromised by an apprehension of bias on the part of the Chief Justice Salamo Injia was breached under Section 32 of the Constitution that stops the Chief Justice to set up a Leadership Tribunal against him is correct.

Secondly, Vanimo – Green River MP Belden Namah’s argument that the courts had harshly targeted him which is stopped by Section 41 of the Constitution is also correct. Thirdly, Vanimo – Green River MP Belden Namah’s argument that his right to full protection of the courts under Section 59 of the Constitution, which was stopped is also correct.

The implications are these, and they have been around for a year, and never redeemed.

It was now up to the Public Prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin to cook up new evidence or look for new grounds based on the Ombudsman Commission findings of leadership misconduct against the MP for Vanimo – Green River Belden Namah. Furthermore, it is an indictment against the Chief Justice Salamo Injia in that he is a potential witness in the Namah Leadership Tribunal which calls into question the setting up of the Leadership Tribunal targeting the MP for Vanimo – Green River.

Finally, the onus as the year dragged on until now was on the Chief Justice to delegate such authority for the Namah Leadership Tribunal to be re – constituted, to investigate white – collar crime or corruption identified by whistle – blowers allowed by the Constitution especially the Ombudsman Commission and Public Prosecutor, who could drop the case against the MP for Vanimo – Green River Belden Namah.

Justice is best delivered when it is blind.
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