Manus Island: What did they expect?

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)

PM O'Neill - PNG NOT a failed state.
PM O’Neill – PNG NOT a failed state.

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.

They watched as the young mother was burned alive
They watched as the young mother was burned alive

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

Beautiful Manus Island
Beautiful Manus Island

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.

Paul Paraka - charged with defrauding the State on K71.8 million
Paul Paraka – charged with defrauding the State on K71.8 million

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.

A reminder of the civil war.
A reminder of the civil war.

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?

Ronny Knight, current MP for Manus
Ronny Knight, current MP for Manus

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.

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17 thoughts on “Manus Island: What did they expect?

  1. Judge Cannings is a brave man, in the like of late Narakobi and Donigi. Manus Island will see some change with the asylum seekers in terms of their freedom from their jailed cage in Lombrum eg,processing due to them will likely be consistent and monitored to some respectability. The rest, that is Manusians and PNGDF servicemen in the Province will continue to remain under cloud and suppression. Any announce packages for them will remain mediocre but not of significant impact. The might of the Australian money and the spoilt leaders of PNG having hooked up with the AUD (Dollar) will not care for these ordinary Manusians and the serving sailors. This is the trend. Our National Leaders have not learnt any lessons from past problems like Bouganville. More so, the miseries felt by many PNGeans in rural communities is beyond fixing than ever before.

  2. It saddened many people in Manus to learn that some former and current leaders in the province are benefitting or about to from contracts from the Asylum Seeker’ deal. Proving this is another but their names being cited require them to own up with decent or honest answers.Leadership is to serve the people first. It is therefore proper for the said leaders to inform and defend themselves without fear or favour. GOD Bless Manus Island.

  3. Well thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to explain to us ignorants what a hopelessly pathetic country and how inhospitable to foreigners PNG is. You must be proud of yourself for the selfless (but high moral returns) task of painstakingly raising up every possible reason for failure in the backward and dysfunctional country. It’s like you’re standing over a comatose patient pointing out to anyone who’ll listen all the reasons why the bastard should have stopped breathing by now. Here, have another halo.

    Please help an ignorant like me understand one thing: if Manus is a ‘hell-hole’ what is the standard bearer and model for all asylum seeker camps? Aside from failed dictators and individuals like Snowden who retain champagne for toilet water, what’s the top of the rung by way of actual camps?

    • Firstly, I was not aware I was speaking to “ignorants” but if that’s how you wish to self -identify, go ahead. The nom de plume ‘Brutus Iscariot’ is an interesting choice given that Brutus and Judas Iscariot are history’s most notorious traitors – or are you ignorant of that too?
      I think you may be getting ‘Asylum Centre’ mixed up with ‘correctional facility’. Given your self-confessed ignorance perhaps I can help you understand that they are not the same. The ‘correctional facility’ houses criminals who are being punished for their crimes. Asylum Seekers have committed no crime therefore punishment is inappropriate.
      But getting back to your malady – to shoot the messenger is indeed a response of the ignorant – Et tu Brutus?
      Have you yet earned your 30 pieces of silver?

  4. I can now see you are biased against png politicians and you have lost a sympathetic observer to your plight. I eagerly await the juicy details of these lucrative contracts I am said to have and will raise this issue in parliament. I think my bank acct will show you the stunning truth there are some of us here to make lives better for our people. hurry up and prove your allegations doctor before I ask you to give me some money for your lies.

    • Mr. Knight, “lucrative” is your word, not mine. I have a bias against corruption – that may sometimes look like a bias towards PNG politicians – I wonder why? Furthermore, I don’t have a “plight” to be “sympathetic” to – although you certainly do.

      • Shame on you go ahead show me this contract you are talking about. You are totally wrong and lying to your readers. I challenge you to print the details. instead of any apology you insinuate I have an issue. I will take this matter further.

        • You need to read what I’ve written and not what you think I have. Your comprehension of the point is lacking. While you want to focus on your personal outrage, I, on the other hand, am more interested in the ‘plight’ of all those on Manus Island (I never mentioned an “issue” – and have no idea if you have one or no.) You are the sitting member, aren’t you?

        • To be perfectly fair, should you be telling me you have no interest in any contracts or businesses connected to the Detention Centre, then please, do comment again and I will print your denial, prominently.

  5. Your the one making accusations without any basis smearing my name. who are you for me to explain to? You think that its a small thing to lie about things like this? I have done a lot for my people and am mandated to do so. you will hear more about this from another angle.

    • Ok. However, in the interests of fairness, the invitation remains. As I am unable to compromise my source, I will take down the offending portion of the article until (and if) I am able to provide details. However, there’s just one last thing that I’m having trouble with: are you claiming you have no pecuniary interest in the PNG Solution (Manus Island Detention Centre) or are you just questioning whether I have proof? It’s not the same thing.

  6. Manus Detainees Center/ Processing center as said recently will likely settle genuine refugees permanently in PNG. Manus was offered this formula as well. The burning Queston is: “What is really happening?” For Manus it is a no, no! The province internally has got five listed refugees of its own to take care of. eg these two : the plight of the Los Negros people since the last War and the eighty percent of youths send of by the Education System to go back after high and secondary schools, numbering to some 5000 plus since the 1997 Educ Reform started. Manus package, if it does exist cannot contain this.

  7. Why is it very difficult to make known the full content of the MOA that governed the Detainees on Manus? What is the benefit for Manus Province? Has PNG Govt thru the Parliament Declassified Lombrum Military Base? If so, when?

  8. I have completely no interest in any thing going on at the asylum seeker camp in any way whatsoever. I have resigned from running which is.stevedoring. which has NO contracts with RPC . my son has taken over and doing a fine job. he is carrying on a legacy that’s 40 years old. why don’t you check out why the Australian s are doing their own stevedoring illegally with impunity. I would but then probably be accused by you for what your insinuating.

  9. just going thru your comments I an confused as to who made you the conscience of manus? we are capable of looking after our own interests and even though this deal was shoved at us we made lemonade from lemons. all the accusations you have made which I have been reading with interest fro namah to oneil and more I now believe fabricated or exaggerated when I compare your lies about me. you should know that when you do make accusations some manusians who do not live at home take it for granted that lies are truth impacting negatively on myself, my family and business. your sources are probably not informed of the truth or my political enemies. whatever I have no more time for rubbish. you do not have any idea whats going on and making it ip as you go.

    • Mr Knight, feel free to pen an article giving your side of the story. I will be only too pleased to publish. As for “who made me the conscience of Manus?”… Given the rhetorical nature of that question, I will demur from dignifying it with an answer.

  10. Interesting comments above…and a bit of verbalism. I have read the article thoroughly and I wonder what people are upset about? Maybe the truth hurts but shouldn’t that be a reason to examine ourselves and see how we can do something better?

    I recall Luther Wenge taking up the disadvantages to his people to the high courts of PNG. I wonder why Mr. Knight has not done so. With respect Sir, a lot of us think your people have been hard done by and you and your Governor, my good former school mate Charlie Benjamin should get together and take it up with the Courts. File a Supreme Court reference or something. Fight this evil. I’m wondering why and in fact how you can “take the lemons and make lemonade” from it. Man does not live on lemonade alone.
    Given the fact that the so called Australian benefits package to Manus and the Manusians does not seem to amount to much and is unlikely to benefit Manus as a whole in a lot of ways. And what is the law on keeping people in detention when they have not even illegally entered PNG territory or ever had any intention to?

    Someone should really tell the people of Manus and the rest of PNG exactly what the benefits of this deal are to this country.

    My thoughts? This is tit for tat.

    Australia under Julie Gillard recognised Peter O’Neil as the PM of this country in 2012 during the constitutional crisis when legally Somare was the PM. Wonder what they would have thought if an Aussie High Court removed one of theirs by a majority of one and that person claimed that that was not even a majority? So O’Neil is paying back that debt and Manus and PNG have to fork out for it.