The events on Manus Island have been nothing short of horrific. A 24-year-old Faili Kurd is dead; and other asylum seekers are critically ill, one with a fractured skull, another with a cut throat.
Scott Morrison’s official figures say 77 asylum seekers were injured during the bloody Monday night (17 February) attacks on asylum seekers. There may have been more casualties.
The desperate and terrified calls from asylum seekers trapped in compounds attacked by PNG police and mobs armed with guns, machetes, pipes and sticks puts it beyond any doubt that asylum seekers were attacked that night.
More and more evidence is mounting that the “locals” who went on the bloody rampage on Sunday night were not villagers, but local PNG G4S employees: the workers normally employed as security guards inside the detention centre. An NGO worker on the island told Solidarity that he met a local G4S guard near the hospital, “He seemed happy about the beatings. He told me, ‘Us local G4S guys beat their asses.’” The ABC has recorded interviews with G4S guards admitting their role in the violence and that the “fighting” was carried out by a combination of G4S and PNG police.
Morrison is determined to cover-up the horror of the rampage and blame the asylum seekers themselves, concocting “facts” that fit the fairy tale he wants to tell. Yet even on Morrison’s account, the asylum seekers were left in the hands of PNG police just outside the detention centre fence in the grounds of the naval base.
So even on Morrison’s account, the responsibility for the killing and the injured rests the PNG police that the Australian government has contracted to provide security.
He does say that PNG police were the only ones known to have fired guns, but insists this doesn’t mean that PNG police shot detainees.
Morrison has despatched the bumbling head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Lieutenant-General Angus J. Campbell, to beef up security, presumably to give more power to the killers running the detention centre.
Only the day before the killing, after weeks of protesting, asylum seekers had been told that processing would take many years and even if they were found to a refugee, they would not be leaving PNG. If they were found to be a refugee and wanted to be resettled in a third country, neither the Australian or PNG government would help them do it. There had been a major protest that night (Sunday 16 February) that has been ruthlessly suppressed by G4S riot squad. Scores had been injured and many were left with broken hands. One man needed 70 stitches in a head wound.
While the police and G4S workers may have done the bashing, the cutting and the killing, the blood spilled over on Sunday and Monday nights is just as much on Morrison’s hands.
There is also blood on Labor’s hands. The Rudd Labor government opened Manus Island and the Kurdish man was among the first asylum seekers sent there by the Rudd Labor government in late August 2013.
And Labor remains shockingly complicit in the horror. With one man dead and so many injured, all the shadow Minister, Richard Marles, could do is chastise Scott Morrison for “losing control of Manus Island which was set up by the Rudd government.” Marles insisted that, “The Manus Island detention facility is fundamental to Australia’s asylum-seeker policy, having had the biggest impact on stemming the flow of boats than any other measure.”
The atrocity on Manus Island has dramatically drawn attention to the stark realities of offshore processing.
Last December, Amnesty International described Manus Island as “cruel, inhuman, degrading and violating prohibitions against torture.” That description is doubly true now.
For weeks, Manus asylum seekers had gathered at the gates of their compounds chanting for “Freedom”.
The Abbott government is behind the forces in PNG that tried to drown those protests in blood. It is the kind of brutality more familiar in the mining towns of South Africa, or on the streets of Cambodia or Egypt.
The Abbott government is using the same kind of repression that asylum seekers faced in the countries—like Sri Lanka, Iran and Afghanistan—from which they are fleeing.
The need to fight Abbott, to end offshore processing and close Manus Island has become even more urgent.
By Ian Rintoul