By Shamindan Kanapathi
I write this, wishing you all a very happy Easter. We, in Manus, send our love and prayers to all of the people around the world and especially our beloved families and friends in Australia. May God bless all of us by fulfilling our hopes and dreams.
This is the 6th Easter we are celebrating since we were forcibly transferred from Australia to Manus Island. Every Easter I have said to myself that next Easter will be happier, and I’ll be free. But here I am, still on Manus, still desperately waiting for my release and freedom. Yes, waiting through another Easter, the same as the Easter when we experienced the PNG Navy shooting towards us.
In 2017 Good Friday became a bad Friday for us. It was a day filled with fear, trauma and powerlessness as the PNG Navy shot at us for about 60 minutes. Highly sophisticated guns were used. We had no protection. We were left imprisoned and abandoned. We didn’t know what to do, where to go or from whom to seek safety. Instead of the security guards protecting us they ran away from us and hid.
The former Immigration Minister, now Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, publicly accused us of creating this situation, saying that it was our fault that the shooting happened. But like many times before, we had done nothing wrong. Mr Dutton’s power and use of words that represent us as criminals or terrorists seemed to produce enough doubt in much of the Australian people’s minds so that these terrifying criminal acts against us were not seen as serious, or even as acts of crime against human beings. Minister Dutton euthanised out any truth. Instead of enquiries and investigations he accused the victims of this tragedy. His explanation and the stories created about this terrible day were the actions of an irresponsible man without any integrity. The PNG police commander for Manus Province, however, denied Dutton’s allegations and stood by justice.
Having survived this shooting of 2017, we realised that again we were just lucky enough to be alive. We fled our family and home country to escape being tortured, persecuted and eventually killed but here we were experiencing the same treatment. It’s been almost three years since this tragic violence was visited against us and still, we are here in this remote island with no hope, desperately waiting for our freedom.
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