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Dreyfus QC says Namah’s threat 'smacks of politics'

JUDITH IRELAND | Sydney Morning Herald | With AAP

Belden NamahA LEGAL CHALLENGE to Australia's asylum seeker processing centre on Manus by the Papua New Guinea opposition leader ''smacks of politics,'' according to Labor MP Mark Dreyfus.

PNG Opposition Leader Belden Namah (pictured) launched the challenge with the National Court last Friday, saying he believed the centre was unconstitutional and detainees were being held illegally.

''The ministers of the O'Neill-Dion government have now received a summons to appear and defend their conduct in the National Court,'' he said. ''We will take this matter as far as necessary to ensure that the values of our nation's constitution are upheld.''

Mr Dreyfus, who is a cabinet secretary as well as a QC, said the Labor government had reached an agreement on regional processing with the PNG government.

''I think when you've got the opposition leader in PNG bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court, it does smack of politics,'' he told Sky News today.

The memorandum of understanding [MOU] between Australia and PNG states that transfers of people to Manus and the running of the centre will be in accordance with both countries' laws.

''The government of Australia will conduct all activities in respect of this MOU in accordance with its constitution and all relevant domestic laws [and] the government of PNG will conduct all activities in respect of this MOU in accordance with its constitution and all relevant domestic laws,'' it states.

It is this aspect of the constitution that the PNG opposition is challenging in court.

Mr Namah said the challenge asked the courts to declare that the MOU is unlawful because it allows Australia to force asylum seekers to enter PNG territory, and allows the PNG government to deprive those asylum seekers of their liberty as soon as they enter Papua New Guinea.

Mr Namah said the legal challenge attempted to ''remedy the many abuses of PNG law and of ministerial powers which have given rise to the situation on Manus''.

He said the opposition challenged the right of the government to force people seeking refugee status in Australia to enter PNG, where they were being held ''illegally and indefinitely under inhumane conditions''.

The injunction seeks to have the current detainees released and to prevent the government from receiving or detaining any more asylum seekers from Australia.

A spokesman for Australia’s Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said: ''We have a binding MOU with the PNG government and that is working well. We are not going to comment on politics or court matters in another country.''

He said it was unclear whether Australia would be required to have a role in the court case.


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Ganjiki D Wayne

Everything "smacks of politics" when spoken by a politician...Dreyfus too...his statement that Namah's actions "smacks of politics" also "smacks of politics".

Physician heal thyself...

The challenge is to see beyond the politics. And if there is any substance beyond that, then it's worth something...

Peter Kranz

Dreyfus - now where have I heard that name before?

And as to Namah's action "smacking of politics" well that's his job! He's a politician. Pollies do politics - can't really blame them for that.

Joe Wasia

There is no restrictions for Namah and his team to seek constitutionality on this program. If the PNG and Aussie governments acted outside the provisions of the constitutions then the whole program has to be shut down. We must act within the laws.

David Kitchnoge

Regardless of whether Namah or Joe Bloggs raises the issue on behalf of the Opposition, the essence of their argument still remains.

If the arrangement is found to be unconstitutional, then there may be issues with enforcing PNG laws in the event a need for such arises within the asylum camp.

I understand that the Opposition also raised issues about the rights of the asylum seekers to not be held as detainees under the PNG constitution. Be that as it may, the important thing for me is the protection of PNG citizens (Manusians) and their right to seek legal redress if they are wronged by anyone who is a party to this scheme.

Chalapi Pomat

There has been zero opposition since the formation of the new government. That is some time ago now. Then out of nowhere we get this.

Mr Namah, is this the best you could do? I'll say leave the asylum seekers and the Manus processing centre alone. Manus people are clever enough to handle their own problems.

Besides, rightly or wrongly, it provides gainful employment and benefits to the local people.

There are heaps more important and tangible issues which you should be getting on the government about if you want to show the Manus people and PNG peole that you are fair dinkum opposition.

For a start try stopping Nautilus and the construction of the deep sea mining at Solwara 1.

Secondly, try stopping all mining waste (tailings)from being dumped to the our ocean and rivers.

And other issues like the fast deteriorating schools and universities, hospitals, roads, airports and seaports. Also you can assist the fight for zero corruption.

You could help round up all those dodgy and corrupt politicians and get them to pay back all the money that they stole from the public or otherwise ask them to sell their Cairns real estate and use the money to fund better schools and hospitals etc.

David Kitchnoge

Let's wait and see what the PNG high court says.

But I can't understand why the local police in Manus couldn't police unruly members of the asylum seekers held there.

Why would anyone residing in PNG not be subjected to PNG laws?

Were there lessons to be learnt from the failed police co-operation package some years back which the PNG courts found unlawful on grounds that the Aussie police secondees in PNG were immune from PNG laws?

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