Former PNG Opposition Leader Becomes Provincial Governor

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Namah chosen by West Sepik provincial assembly

By Clifford Faiparik and Malum Nalu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 23, 2015) – Belden Namah has been chosen by the provincial assembly to be Governor of West Sepik after the Supreme Court had declared the position vacant.

Namah, the Vanimo-Green MP, was picked by 13 Local Level Government presidents in the Sandaun Provincial Assembly in Vanimo yesterday, according to provincial assembly clerk Simon M’lendu. Namah will hold the position pending the outcome of the by-election currently being worked out by the Electoral Commission for the post of Governor.

The Supreme Court had declared as null and void the 2012 General Election result in which Amkat Mai won and became Governor.

When asked to clarify yesterday’s political development in West Sepik, Constitutional and Law Reform Commission secretary Dr Eric Kwa said there was nothing legally wrong with the election of Namah as West Sepik Governor.

He said a precedent had been set in Chimbu and Central in the past where the vacant position of a Governor was filled by one of the MPs from the province.

"There is nothing wrong with this (election of Namah)," Dr Kwa told The National.

"As long as there is no Governor, and there are Open MPs, one of them is eligible to become Governor. The deputy Governor however has to be one of the LLG presidents."

Dr Kwa said Namah would be Governor until the West Sepik provincial by-election which had been called.

"He (Namah) will be in office until a new Governor is elected."

M’lendu told The National yesterday that the assembly’s standing orders had to be used to appoint East Coast-Aitape LLG president Sylvester Apiep as the acting chairman to facilitate the election of the Governor. Incumbent chairman Paul Nengai reportedly was not present to chair the meeting yesterday.

Sandaun Provincial Election manager Peter Amska said he was busy preparing for the provincial seat by-election and was not aware of what happened in the assembly yesterday.

PNG Electoral Commission media officer Alphones Muapi said they were following the Supreme Court decision to conduct the by-election.

Muapi said they had submitted a budget of K10 million to the Finance Department to conduct the by-election and were waiting for the money to be released. He said Commissioner Andrew Trawen would announce the issuing of the writs soon.

Namah said yesterday his election was in line with the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments. He explained that the Supreme Court decision to reject the appeal and review by Mai "means a vacancy exists that must be filled by one of the province’s MPs".

He said notices of yesterday’s assembly meeting had been issued to the four MPs from the province and the LLG presidents.

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