PORT MORESBY | Thu May 24, 2012 6:43am EDT (Reuters) - Police in Papua New Guinea stormed the Supreme Court in the capital and arrested the nation's top judge on sedition charges on Thursday, in response to its ruling that the prime minister held power illegally and should step down.
On the day nominations closed for June elections, police arrested Chief Justice Salamo Injia after the court ruled former leader Michael Somare should be reinstated as prime minister.
Somare and Prime Minister Peter O'Neill have been jostling for power since August 2011, when O'Neill took office after Somare was ruled ineligible to be a lawmaker after a prolonged absence from parliament due to illness.
But the Supreme Court in December ruled Somare should be reinstated, and in another ruling this week the court said Somare should be the caretaker prime minister during the current election period.
O'Neill and his deputy Belden Namah have refused to accept the court ruling, accusing the judges of bias and demanding they resign, extending a prolonged feud with the judiciary.
Namah led armed police who arrived at the court as Injia started hearing a case on Thursday, forcing the judge to run to his secure chambers, where he remained holed up for several hours.
In a brief statement, he told reporters he would not be forced out of his job. "I've done nothing wrong. I will not resign," he said.
Injia was charged with sedition late on Thursday, and was released on bail. He was due to appear in court on Friday.
The dramatic development comes after months of political uncertainty in Papua New Guinea, a resource-rich and often volatile nation of around 6.5 million people where 85 percent live a subsistence life in tropical villages.
O'Neill, who has the support of the majority of PNG's lawmakers, has attempted to recall parliament to deal with the latest court finding, but he has failed to muster a quorum three days in a row. Most lawmakers are in their electorates campaigning for the elections.
Somare, meanwhile, has written to PNG's media, warning they could be held in contempt if they do not recognize him as the legitimate prime minister.
Somare has also twice attempted to visit the country's governor-general to be sworn in as caretaker prime minister, in line with the Supreme Court rulings, but the titular head of state has refused to intervene.
PNG has vast mineral resources but struggles to pass on the benefits to its people. U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil is developing a $15.7 billion liquefied natural gas plant in PNG, the country's biggest-ever resource project.
And what do we know of Belden Namah, the would be DICTATOR who is throwing S.Ct. Justices in jail? -----------------------------
Blackjack dealer claims sexual harassment
"Can I love you, u are so pretty to me"
Claims minister allowed back in after to gamble
SYDNEY'S Star casino has been rocked be fresh sexual harassment allegations involving the Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. The Deputy Prime Minister of PNG Belden Namah has been accused of sexually harassing a male blackjack dealer at the casino and behaving in a drunk and threatening manner, according to staff incident reports obtained by Fairfax Media.
According to the reports Mr Namah was allegedly gambling in the high roller room at around 7am on April 16 last year when he was asked to stop drinking due to "intoxication".
A blackjack dealer then alleges Mr Namah started "teasing me by asking my mobile number” and then allegedly said to the man "Can I f... you tonight?".
This was followed up with "Can I love you, u (sic) are so pretty to me" and repeated requests for sex and to meet the man outside according to the dealer's statement.
The staff statements from five separate employees say that despite the alleged sexual harassment the casino allowed Mr Namah back into the venue several hours later when it allegedly learnt he had paid $800,000 into a gambling account for use at the casino.
Mr Namah's lawyer, Greg Sheppard, said the Deputy PM "did not misconduct himself" and that the reports were "mistaken".
A spokesman for Echo entertainment group which owns the casino said "a customer" had been removed and then readmitted, but denied it was because the casino had learnt how much the customer planned to gamble if let back in.
The Star Casino is currently under investigation by the NSW Government over earlier allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment.
This is crap. PNG is as safe as Newark, NJ or New Orleans, LA. I have no problem walking around in PNG... feel safe... eat the food... high five strangers, buy weed... all that and have never had a problem!