MEDIA STATEMENT | Office of the PNG Opposition Leader
PORT MORESBY – Opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch has called on the Australian government to quickly resolve the problem of refugees stranded in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for the past six years.
Mr Pruaitch said details of the billion kina security contract awarded to the Paladin Group highlight the callous way offshore refugees are being treated.
The Paladin contract was awarded in 2017, a year after the PNG supreme court declared it was unconstitutional and illegal for refugees to be held in a PNG detention centre and after the virtual prison was shut down.
“These refugees came to Manus after perilous boat trips that have taken many lives and 600 of them have been left to languish on the island for the past six years,” Mr Pruaitch said.
“Following a visit there, the Catholic Bishops of PNG have said the mental health of most refugees has deteriorated severely and many are suicidal.”
Mr Pruaitch said the PNG government acted in good faith to allow the Australian government to set up the detention centre as a temporary solution and as a deterrent to other refugees that might attempt to travel to Australia by boat.
“The Australian government has shown scant regard for the local and national problems created in PNG by the ongoing refugee crisis. By its actions it has also shown scant regard for the plight of these refugees, a stance that has been condemned by the United Nations,” he said.
“Australia may regard these comments as harsh, but this is the only way Papua New Guineans can interpret Australia’s decision to reject out of hand a New Zealand offer to resettle many of the Manus refugees in New Zealand.
“Successive Australian governments seem terrified at the prospect of refugees arriving in their country by boat.”
Mr Pruaitch said that, from the facts made available, the most generous interpretation that can be given to the lack of due process in awarding the Manus security contract to Paladin is that the Australian government is willing to allow Paladin to undertake covert operations in PNG.
“The only reason Australian authorities awarded this security contract to Paladin was because it understood Paladin would take over the PNG-based Black Swan security firm and through this, and other means, influence key political leaders within PNG’s ruling party.
“Australia’s role in this refugee crisis is deplorable from almost any angle one could take, beginning with use of its financial muscle and strong-arm tactics to encourage or force developing nations such as PNG and Nauru to accept the establishment of the detention centres,” Mr Pruaitch said.