(L-R) Former army commander Brigadier General Jerry Singirok and his former PNGDF captain Belden Namah.
The former army commander of Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah has described the parliamentarian’s storming of Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court as signs of an MP desperate for power.
Brigadier General Jerry Singirok (retired), who was the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) commander in the mid-1990s and during the 1997 Sandline Affair, also warned that the Pacific Islands nation risked becoming a dictatorship if political power remained unchecked.
His caution coincides with Mr Namah’s admission on PNG’s local television station EMTV recently that his actions were wrong but the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia had to be arrested.
“I think we have exhausted all the procedures and processes (to force the chief justice to step aside) in terms of the courts are concerned. I know it is not right but it had to be done because if we didn’t – if I didn’t do what I did I can rest assure that courts will usurp the powers of parliament, of the executive and of the governor general,” he said in an interview with EMTV’s John Eggins.
However, Brig General Singirok told Radio New Zealand International in an interview that he would never send armed soldiers to arrest the head of the judiciary.
“As former commander, I’ve never sent any of my soldiers in uniform, armed with weapons into the courthouse to put the chief justice under duress and under arrest. Now that’s unheard of. Those are the signs and symptoms of a desperate member of parliament who wants access to power,” he said.
Two weeks after Mr Namah’s storming of the Supreme Court precinct and Papua New Guineans continue to feel the reverberations, with lawyers in the PNG cities of Port Moresby and Lae marching recently to protest the actions of the politician and his posse of armed policemen and giving a petition to government expressing their concerns.
Prominent PNG woman lawyer Winifred Kamit, who joined her colleagues in condemning Mr Namah’s actions, said they were only protecting state institutions from abuse by individuals.
“The petition is not about supporting any particular party or individual who is caught up in this legal battle between the parliament and the judiciary. It is about protecting institutions of the state from abuse by individuals. I am sure if the parliament was stormed in the same manner, the citizens of this country would be just as concerned. We are concerned about the blatant disregard for the judicial arm of the government and we are here to express that,” she added.
Papua New Guineans will go to the polls on June 23 to vote for their 8th national parliament with many hoping that the election of a new government will resolve a six-month constitutional crisis, which begun last December when parliament-elected PM Peter O’Neill refused to accept a Supreme Court ruling reinstating rival and veteran MP Sir Michael Somare. It is understood Brig General Singirok will run for the Sumkar open seat in the 2012 general election.