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PNG forest minister claims defamation

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 20, 2009) – FOREST Minister Belden Namah , a businessman before becoming an MP, has nothing to hide about his business activities.

Mr Namah said this in his personal explanation to Parliament last Friday.

"I have declared all my business interests to the Ombudsman Commission and I hide no secrets," he said.

He strongly denied owning properties in Samoa and threatened to sue The National and Samoa Observer newspapers for defamation.

Launching a strong attack on the two newspapers, Mr Namah also took on Deputy Opposition leader Bart Philemon, saying he would "fix" Mr Philemon outside.

He was then asked to withdraw the remarks after Mr Philemon interjected to the chair about the nature of the threat.

He said he had instructed his lawyers to start legal proceedings against the two papers.

He said the Post-Courier did not run the story because a lawsuit was pending against that newspaper for allegedly writing a fabricated story about an alleged punch-up between himself and Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch.

Mr Namah denied owning properties in Samoa but admitted he was merely facilitating an investment arrangement between one of his overseas business partners and his local Samoan partner.

"I stand tall and proud and I hide no secrets," he said.

"Before I became an MP, I was already into the multi-billion-dollar business of logging," he said.

Mr Namah said he had used his company money to build roads and two bridges in his electorate before becoming an MP.

He said he was giving between K50,000 and K100,000 to charities as a private citizen.

"I have not squandered public funds," he said.

He said he had fought for landowners, who were now being paid much higher royalties for their logs.

Mr Namah said he had made all declarations to the Ombudsman Commission on his business interests.

He also asked why a Papua New Guinean could not venture into businesses and buy houses in Australia.

He said there was talk recently against Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare buying houses in Australia.

He said Sir Michael had served 40 years and was the longest serving Member of Parliament, and he again asked what was wrong with the Prime Minister buying property in Australia.

"Those who hide themselves are hiding under ghost names," he said."Our journalists really need to go back to school. They have to check with the land registry in Samoa. Is Namah’s name there? You are defaming a young politician. This is a pure attempt to destroy a young leader. Bring it on. I don’t fear. I have declared all my business interests to the Ombudsman Commission."

Mr Namah was interrupted by Mr Philemon several times.

At one stage, he called a point of order, pointing to the Deputy Opposition leader and referring to him as "this son of a bishop or what", but was asked to withdraw his un-parliamentary language.

"Some of our senior politicians are really hurt but, once again, I deny owning properties in Samoa," Mr Namah said.


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