DEPUTY Prime Minister Belden Namah was yesterday splashed on front pages of Australian newspapers as having sexually harassed a blackjack dealer at Sydney’s Star casino last year while a member of the opposition., The National reports.
Namah, in a short statement yesterday, said the Sydney Morning Herald had already heard from his lawyers and that he was looking at options to take legal action against the newspaper.
Namah’s statement said documents linking him to the alleged incident, which were published widely on the internet, were “mistaken and inaccurate”.
It added that Namah was not the person involved and he did not conduct himself as reported in the reports in the Australian media.
The Australian media stories stated that Namah was thrown out of the casino when he was found to be approaching the point of intoxication. But he was readmitted after it was realised he and colleagues planned to gamble hundreds of thousands of dollars, The Age reported yesterday.
The media reports said Namah was alleged to have made verbal sexual advances to a male blackjack dealer and then verbally threatened violence on a guard or manager.
He was alleged to have deposited A$800,000 at the casino which was why he was readmitted after he was thrown out.
Political rival Sir Michael Somare yesterday called on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to discipline his deputy to stop him tarnishing the good name of PNG and its leaders .
The prime minister’s office said last night that whether the reported acts were fact or fiction, they clearly
happened when Namah was in opposition.
“It should not be used now to tarnish or derail the programmes of the O’Neill government,” a senior staffer said.
“I am certain the leader (Namah) himself will, in due course, explain what all this media frenzy is about.”
The story of the deputy prime minister had made headlines in Australia and carried by major Australian media including The Herald Sun, The West Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC on-line, Australian Network News and the Melbourne Age.
The Age reported Namah’s lawyer Greg Sheppard as claiming that the leader denied he was the person as described in five separate incident reports, including one in which he was named by casino staff.
Sheppard reportedly said Namah “did not misconduct himself” at the casino.
“Until we are provided with the incident reports in question, Namah is unable to comment further on how his name appears on these reports, except to say that if it does, they are mistaken,” Sheppard told The Age.
Namah was in the government of Sir Michael before joining the opposition, which deposed the Grand Chief last year.