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Cannings persists as Australia dives into PNG's domestic affairs

Justice Cannings at the Manus detention centre (ABC)PETER KRANZ

"Any Judge or officer of the Court or any member of the Court staff or any other person, body or authority, including any member of the public, may bring any instance of alleged or suspected breach of human rights or freedoms to the attention of the Court by delivering to the Registrar a completed statement of Alleged or Suspected Breach of Human Rights, in Form 127."

DAVID Cannings [pictured at the Manus detention centre] is no stranger to controversy. In an interesting twist of constitutional law, in Papua New Guinea any legal officer can institute an inquiry into alleged breaches of human rights. Cannings has done just that: into the state of the Manus Island detention centre.

This has embarrassed both PNG and Australia, where the Manus riots and subsequent murder and injuries are big news.

The Abbott government would like to hush things up and not reveal information about what Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says are "operational matters". So Cannings starting his own inquiry really set the cat amongst the pigeons.

The reach of Australia's political influence in PNG is long and unremitting. So the PNG government, with Abbott’s explicit support, has tried to shut down Cannings’ inquiry.

The judge was intending to interview asylum seekers, allow them legal representation and provide media access to the centre. According the gospel of that arch speaker in tongues, Morrison, this was tantamount to blasphemy.

Cannings went ahead but, in the latest twist in the saga, the PNG Supreme Court has halted his initial inquiry amongst claims of apprehded bias, claims emanating shrilly from the PNG government.

But Justice Cannings has not taken this lying down and has now started a fresh investigation.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Can a lone PNG judge stand against the influence of two governments? If I were David Cannings I'd be checking my phone and internet connection for bugs right now.

Meanwhile, Michael Gordon in Port Moresby for Fairfax Media confirmed today that the Abbott government was consulted and strongly backed the decision of the PNG government to shut down the human rights inquiry.

PNG's Foreign Affairs Minister, Rimbink Pato, has also confirmed the two governments will move to deny a human rights lawyer's access to the centre on Monday.

And in an extraordinary development, as Australia penetrated deeper into PNG’s internal affairs, Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the inquiry carried dangers and should be challenged.


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Mrs Barbara Short

You can listen to how Rimbink Pato handled this question on
It put me to sleep.

There is a word for this sort of "talk". I forget what you call it.

Does 'mauswara' ring a bell? KJ

Douglas Kaput

I would rather see Canning get to the bottom of the human rights abuses of the 60 or so Morobeans who had their Achilles' tendons slashed by POM policeman. That disgusting example of mass police abuse happened last year

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