Much has been written on the plight of the asylum seekers on Manus Island but as dire as their plight is, there are other casualties of Australia’s callous politically motivated policy: the people of Manus Island.
By PNG Echo
To establish an Asylum Seeker Detention Centre with less than humane conditions on an island in a country with such profound problems that media commentators have referred to it, variably, as a ‘hell hole’ or a ‘failed state’…well, what was the Australian government thinking? (Oh yes, the polls.)
The state of Papua New Guinea (PNG)
While the descriptions are contestable, (and PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill certainly takes exception to the second one, although he’s never commented on the first) it’s indisputable that PNG has severe socio/political problems.
Social indicators are abysmal, law and order problems alarming. Poverty is rife as are diseases of poverty such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS…
Just yesterday, on a PNG Facebook page, there was a photograph of a newborn baby, umbilical cord still attached, abandoned on a rubbish tip in Mt Hagen. The photographer witnessed the young mother abandoning the baby there.
I did wonder whether this was the same rubbish tip on which Hageners threw suspected witch Kepari Leniata just over 12 months ago when they burned her alive after hours of unspeakable torture.
And while these two atrocities happened in the lawless highlands of PNG, I also know that they’re not isolated incidents.
I don’t have the stomach to list the many like incidents of horror that seem to be a daily occurrence in PNG (like the video I just watched of police setting their dogs on a docile victim. Why?) – I’d be accused of sensationalism.
…And then there’s corruption
Unlike Highlanders, Manus Islanders are reputed to be gentle people – but this detention centre is poised to change all that – the gentility replaced with conflict, venality and vested interest.
To effect a political solution, the Australian government have used the asylum seekers and now, in their turn, Manus Islanders are doing the same but in this instance to create an economic opportunity.
For many underprivileged and/or opportunistic Manusians, this is their ‘main chance’ at making an economic ‘killing’.
And while no one disputes that Manusians should be compensated for their accommodation, some have decided to milk it for all it’s worth, regardless of who suffers as a consequence.
There are those, having moved from Manus years ago to seek their fortunes in the big smoke, hurrying back to participate in the spoils. With their enhanced sophistication they are well positioned.
Some have been schooled in the methods needed to get ahead in PNG – and, in the main, that means corruption.
One of the biggest controversies in PNG at the moment is the ‘Paraka Affair’ that has implicated the highest echelons of the country right up to, and including the Prime Minister in the K71.8 million fraud.
And, as always, those poised to make the biggest economic killing from the human suffering on Manus are those in a position of authority.
I’m sure Manus leaders would have looked on in awe at the rapidly accrued riches of people like the Opposition Leader, Belden Namah, “from his own back yard” (as he likes to say) and they’ve learned.
The Manusian ‘backyard’ may not have kwila trees like Vanimo but it does have asylum seekers. (Yet the conflation of asylum seekers with trees as a marketable commodity is a trifle obscene.)
Yet, in Vanimo, although the aforementioned Belden Namah flies in private or chartered aircraft and is regularly seen in the fleshpots of Asia or in Australian Casinos making a general nuisance of himself while betting megabucks (up to $AU800,000 at a weekend in Star casino April 2011), the people of Vanimo would be lucky if they can access public transport.
PNG must heed the lessons of history.
No different to Panguna in Bougainville, this asylum centre is causing conflict within the Manus Island community; jealousies, that come from limited opportunities.
Unfortunately, the opportunities, as well as being of themselves finite, are further restricted by the fact that the Australian authorities have decided to provide a lot of their own services, cutting out the locals.
There’s not really enough to go around – especially if the expectation of the elite is that they get the lion’s share and make a considerable fortune.
As such, the reports coming out of Manus are being tainted and manipulated by vested interest. It is self-styled propaganda.
It has even been suggested that some are manipulating events to create the desired effect – and the suggestion is that these people are influential Manusians.
It may take Justice Canning to get to the truth of the matter.
Canning, a human rights advocate, has tasked himself with carrying out an inquiry and is a considerable spoke in the wheel of the propagandists.
He seeks the truth, and it is the truth that has been the main casualty here.
In the latest salvo, the PNG government are seeking to recuse Justice Canning because of an alleged conflict of interest – apparently he knows a medical doctor involved in the inquiry.
As a serious conflict of interest, that’s drawing a long bow. I wonder why Justice Canning poses such a threat?
Blame where blame’s due
The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the Australian government. Could no one have foreseen the consequences for PNG?
If neither side of government care one iota for the plight of the asylum seekers, what about the consequences for PNG as a whole as well as the people of Manus Island?
What has been learned of the jealousies that were provoked by the competition for the spoils from the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville?
It will not bode well for Manusians if they get rich on the back of unnecessary and prolonged human suffering: if nothing else, it’s bad karma.
Bougainville had operation ‘Rausim Kwik’; Manus Island needs a similar one. Get rid of this poisonous ‘Gulag’ before it destroys you.
Take back the moral high ground Manus Island. At the moment it’s vacant.