Dictators I have known
Well…actually… I don't know any personally, but in my studies I have encountered many. They have similar characteristics. Their methods are eerily formulaic in their sameness.
WARNING: The people to whom they dictate rarely live 'happily ever after.'
Belden Norman Namah is Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Minister for Forestry (a handy portfolio when your personal fortune is tied up with logging), Minister for Climate Control (ditto), Acting Minister for State Enterprises and Acting Minister for Defence.
Under the circumstances, there's little wonder another commentator called him 'Belden the Ubiquitous' (Please forgive me if he's returned any of his acting ministries to their rightful owners and I've missed it)
Namah is a Prime Ministerial 'wannabe'; an ambition he informed me of personally because he is someone with whom I'm acquainted.
Late last year, he puffed out his fleshy chest and boomed: "After December 8, I WILL BE THE PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA." Nostradamus he aint.
Nevertheless, as a military man, I much admire Namah's record in Bougainville – his sacrifice was beyond doubt. Yet, Adolf Hitler won the Iron Cross, First Class for bravery in the First World War and we all know what he went on to do, don't we?
The word 'military' seems fatally attracted to the word 'dictator' -
Idi Amin, General Franco of Spain, Pinochet of Chile, Mussolini, Muammar Gadhafi, Suharto of Indonesia… I could go on, but I think you've got my point.
There are signs that the O'Neill/Namah government are going down the path to a dubious political future, in a push led largely by the ostentatiously wealthy Deputy Prime Minister.
Ominously, ostentatious wealth is a characteristic of many of the most heinous dictators. Idi Amin, for instance, who was often characterized as a buffoon.
Command of the army
Rationale: 'He who commands the army, controls the nation:' is a well-known paradigm that I'm sure is taught in - 'military intelligence 101'. (Although I've always thought that 'military intelligence' was an oxymoron.) It's no mere coincidence that many dictators are military men.
Belden Norman Namah is a graduate of Australian Military College, Duntroon, rising to the rank of Captain in the PNGDF (or was that lieutenant? - Information surrounding his military service is a bit elastic.)
During the recent attempt at a military coup by the Somare faction, Belden really showed them who had the upper hand. In fact, so in need was the Prime Minister of Namah's 'iron fist' that he made him Acting Defence Minister.
Guma Wau, the actual Minister for Defence is not happy at Namah usurping his role. That's too bad for Wau, who will be adequately taken care of soon by those charges of stockpiling illegal ammunition that was found at his home. Pure serendipity? The co-incidences of good fortune just keep piling up for Namah.
Quashing of opposition and the formulation of a 'one party state'
Regimes. Most sub-Saharan nations following independence, including Congo and Rwanda. Also the former Soviet Union and Liberia, where the ruling party managed to hold onto power for more than a century this way.
It seems to be yet more good fortune for O'Neill/Namah that they have no official opposition, save for two members. What motivated the wholesale defection of Somare supporters to this new government?
Ben Reilly in his paper entitled Africanisation of the Pacific points out that being part of the state machine is the best (sometimes only) means of gaining wealth and accessing and exploiting resources in many Pacific nations – as such being on the winning side is everything – staying in power imperative - see below.
Suspend the Constitution
Example: The military government of Suriname suspended the constitution on attaining power in 1980. When in 1982 there was a push for return to civilian control the military government responded by murdering 15 people – journalists, lawyers and trade union leaders (see paragraph 'Censorship').
Namah is currently in the process of a push to defer elections. His reasons seem well…reasonable (if you disregard the Royal visit furphy). Ah yes, but the government will need to suspend the constitution to do this legally. More serendipity?
Yeah right! This government is like a window; you can see right through them.
Without a constitution, the executive and legislature has no checks or balances - the people of PNG are left exposed and vulnerable, dependent on governmental goodwill. History tells us that dictators very rarely have any.
"No one is above the law," said Namah. With his legislative numbers, the law is what he wants it to be - and if not he can change it. The Supreme Court's role is to interpret the Constitution - but under these circumstances there won't be one in use.
So far, the CJ has refused to let the executive suspend him, so rendering him redundant would be the next best thing. Bingo!
Nepotism and patronage
Example: Many dictatorial regimes retained power by putting their cronies into well-paid, powerful positions. Furthermore, they often mollified those who may have harboured dissension by patronage of a similar sort. If that didn't work they were often 'fitted up' (flashback to Guma Wau) or sometimes just…disappeared.
Charles Litau, a PNG party apparatchik was made head of Telikom, recently. Then there was Mrs. Maladina, wife of the eldest Maladina son who got the plum Brisbane diplomatic posting. Other Maladina sons include Moses, Minister for Public Service in the Somare government and one of the August defectors who was given the Urban Planning portfolio in the new government. Then there's Jimmy whose name is inextricably linked to that of Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill by an alleged fraud carried out on the National Provident Fund - still to be investigated by the recently appointed corruption 'Sweep team'. Is it politically expedient to keep this dynastic family happy?
Perhaps both were merely the best people for the job?
Ethnic persecution, while not confined to military dictatorships is nevertheless a feature of most of them. Uganda springs immediately to mind, as does Nazi Germany.
Of all the corruption cases in PNG that could be investigated, the balance has been weighted in favour of those implicating Somare or his 'kitchen cabinet'. First it was Arthur's baby, the IPBC, then it was the tabling in parliament of the discredited Defence Inquiry. But by far the most questionable investigation has been against the East Sepiks who were the instigators of the Supreme Court Reference against the legitimacy of the current government. Go figure.
The people of the East Sepik closely identify with Sir Michael Somare and ethnic persecution by association is written all over this investigation. There needs a wholesale suspension of disbelief not to suspect ulterior political motives.
Example: To give a single solitary example would be to downplay the importance of controlling information in dictatorial regimes.
Ben Micah, Chief of Staff, Prime MinistersDepartment last week sent out a press release warning against the disseminationof incorrect information or information that could destabilize the government(as if saying it in one breath, makes those two things the same.)
Apparently, the National Intelligence Office is monitoring your every utterance and PNGeans are tasked with being "vigilant" against dissenters and to report them. The Nazis encouraged the same.
Well, Ben Micah, tell your bosses that the people of Papua New Guinea are watching them too.
It's time to bring this ominous political trajectory to a halt. It's time to turn Belden the Ubiquitous into Belden the Irrelevant. There's a viper in your midst, PNG