With the deadline looming, the Abbott Government, coupled with the Papua New Guinean parliament, has moved to block lawyers from entering the detention centre on Manus Island, effectively blocking any investigation into human rights issues at the centre in the wake of an incident that left one asylum seeker dead and scores of others injured.
PNG’s minister for foreign affairs and immigration, Rimbink Pato, raised concerns about the now-stalled inquest, revealing its blocking was a joint effort between both himself and Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and immigration minister Scott Morrison. Human Rights lawyers, who were to enter the centre on Monday to speak to 75 of the 1300 asylum seekers currently held there, will not be granted access. Presumably this was done because Government officials in both Australia and PNG are fearful that nobody looks for something if they don’t intend to find it. And that’s just a whole lot of annoying paperwork and criminal responsibility that nobody, much less our benevolent Coalition government, has time for.
PNG’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, launched a pre-emptive assessment of those people currently being kept at the Manus Island Detention Centre, stating that he believed a lot of them weren’t “genuine refugees” but rather “economic migrants.” Tony Abbott unsurprisingly backed this by adding, “There’s a lot that we’ve seen which justifies that suspicion.” Which sounds exactly like the kind of thing that Tony Abbott would say.
The sad bottom line to this sorry saga is that nobody prevents someone from looking at anything unless they’ve got something they’re deliberately trying to hide. And if they really truly believe they’re completely in the right, why not simply let this lawyer in and show them that everything is as fine and above board as they would so dearly like everyone to believe? If nothing else, proving the UN’s allegations of over 150 violations of international law wrong would be pretty sweet, right? Unfortunately, the full, horrifying extent of the unlawful behaviour of the Government’s foreign policy might not be known for years, if at all. And that is a worry that should concern all of us.
Photo: Handout for Getty Images.