On Manus, how trivial dispute over sports field led to violence
16 April 2017
Overnight, in a Twitter stream, the member of parliament for Manus Open, Ron Knight (pictured), told of how the recent violence developed drawing from reports he received from participants and observers. We have assembled the tweets into this story. The image below is the full text of a statement on the incident released last night by PNG Defence Force chief of staff, Colonel Raymond Numa....
THE children of soldiers attempted to play soccer on the base sports field while asylum seekers were also passing ball around. They were yelled at and chastised.
A duty officer in uniform stepped in and asked them to share the field. He was assaulted and chased off the field bleeding.
Duty personnel arrived and the base alarm sounded.
A huge fight ensued with refugees being chased to closed detention centre.
Police tried to stop the siege and were beaten and chased out by irate soldiers, who felt a build-up of frustration over continuing harassment of their dependants by asylum seekers.
Wilson Australia guards ran away and hid, leaving the refugees to their own fate. The soldiers then identified the asylum seekers who had fought them.
A police hire car and much infrastructure was damaged and police were banned from the base.
About 75 shots were fired into the air by soldiers, some hitting buildings.
The PNGDF hierarchy is sending an investigation team to assess the issue.
This is just another incident that will ignite again if the Australian government does not accept responsibility and a duty of care for these refugees and process them properly.
We do not condone such violence.
ROYAL PAPUA NEW GUINEA CONSTABULARY
Media Statement - Tuesday 11th April 2017
PNG Defence Force soldiers rampaged through Manus detention centre…,,PNG government officials, police and asylum seekers injured in attack
Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers based at the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island went on a rampage at the asylum detention centre on Good Friday firing several shots into the air and indiscriminately assaulting policemen, PNG Immigration Officers, other service providers and asylum seekers.
The incident occurred on Friday April 14 at about 6.30pm at the Manus Regional processing centre.
Manus Provincial Police Commander Senior Inspector David Lapu said a group of drunken soldiers in retaliation for one of their colleague who was allegedly assaulted by an asylum seeker entered the centre shouting and throwing any objects that they could lay their hands on at the asylum seekers.
He said the soldiers also assaulted his policemen on deployment at the centre, PNG immigration officers, other service providers and damaged several vehicles and properties worth thousands of kina.
PPC Yapu said the soldiers removed keys from a hired car his officers were using at the centre and drove away and also damaged it.
PPC Yapu said the Commanding officer of the Naval Base, Mr Begsy Karaki intervened and stopped the incident from getting out of hand.
A senior PNG immigration officer and an asylum seeker were treated at the international health medical service at the centre and discharged.
PPC Yapu is concerned about such unethical and unacceptable behaviour of the drunken soldiers. He said only a day ago the PNG Defence Force Chief of Staff Colonel Numa addressed the Commanders parade and made some good comments to the solders to maintain high level of disciple, professionalism and leadership.
However this message had gone to deaf ears and the soldiers showed disrespect to the international and local community at the centre PPC Yapu said.
Mr Yapu has set up an investigation team to investigate the incident and deal with the perpetrators.
“I will leave no stones unturned. Someone will answer for what happened,” said PPC Yapu.
The commanding officer has already commenced his own investigation into the incident.
The situation at the centre is quiet but tense.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 18 April 2017 at 01:01 PM
I met the commander of the naval base on Los Negros where the detention centre is located a couple of years ago and he predicted pretty much everything that has happened so far.
I included it in the social mapping study I did for the centre but it was duly and comprehensively ignored.
I thought it was good advice at the time but this whole debacle seems to be characterised by the practice of ignoring good advice.
Rudd was desperate and on a downhill slide to political oblivion when he cooked up the idea of non-returnable refugees and O'Neill saw the opportunity to grab him by the short and curlies.
So much for a 'short term' solution to a domestic Australian political problem.
It must be well past time to lay the whole thing to rest - bring them back to Australia.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 16 April 2017 at 02:22 PM
And the do-gooders in Aussie would have these refugees repatriated to Australia.
Enough. Return them to from whence they came.
Terra firma of course, their motherland.
Posted by: William Dunlop | 16 April 2017 at 10:19 AM
Well there’s one thing for sure. This article only raises a number of important issues.
Firstly, if there is an informal arrangement on the use of a sports field and a dispute turns to violence, it only displays the issue that an informal arrangement is never going to work.
That is the nub of the whole problem. Rudd and O’Neill’s decision to open a transit camp on Manus was short sighted and wrong in policy and in subsequent operation. It should never have happened.
The so called ‘streakers defence’ that it seemed like a good idea at the time is as useless and hollow as it will always be when that facts are presented.
Australia must arrange for the withdrawal of all would be migrants from PNG as soon as possible. The fact that this hasn’t been done sooner only raises the question of competency of Australian efforts to do so and PNG efforts to extract the maximum leverage while it can.
That said, the actual fracas and the letter from Col. Numa only seems to highlight the ongoing issues within PNG itself.
Col. Numa’s letter is a classic case of poorly written ‘whitewash’. Clearly the facts speak for themselves.
Clearly no one is in charge of the illegal migrants. If so, why are the Wilson Security staff there and what are they supposed to be doing?
Secondly, if the original dispute over a playing field is on a Defence facility, it appears that PNGDF weren’t able to control the situation.
The resort to firing live ammunition is in itself is or should be a chargeable offence and should result in charges and dismissal from the Service. Nothing about any discipline being under review is mentioned in Col. Numa’s report.
Live ammunition and weapons were obviously not effectively locked in away in an armoury as they should be in peacetime and under the direct senior officer’s control.
If police were on the defence base trying to restore order, were they invited on the base by the Senior officer? IF not, what protocols are there for this type of situation? In PNG it’s nothing new.
If the police were called and were unable to restore effective control over the situation then they are seriously under staffed, under resourced and potentially ineffective even when previous incidences have indicated the potential for these matters to get out of control. If police equipment has been damaged, those responsible must be held accountable and charged.
The real questions are: Will anyone really know what actually happened apart from a total breakdown in control and is anyone really going to quickly do something positive about the Manus facility apart from 'washing their hands' about the place?
Posted by: Paul Oates | 16 April 2017 at 10:09 AM