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The Violent Conclusion: Manus Island and the Clearing of Lombrom Naval Base

It was another etching in a chronicle of extended violence. For days, resistance by refugees and asylum seekers against forced removal from the Lombrom Naval Base on Manus Island had taken very public form. Images of defiance and distress were receiving international attention. With no electricity, with water supplies destroyed, things were getting dire.

As the weekend dawned, PNG officials were claiming that the remaining 328 men from the base had been moved to new camps in Lorengau. To these can be added the 50 men or so forcibly removed a day prior. Journalists from the ABC noted the use of 12 buses taking men and goods to East Lorengau centre on Friday, though they were unsure how many people were on them.

According to refugee Behrouz Boochani, the journalistic spark in the abysmal dark, “The refugees are saying they are leaving the prison camp because the police are using violence and very angry.” The clearing operation was nearing its conclusion.

According to Thomas Albrecht, the UNCHR’s regional representative in Canberra, “The situation still unfolding on Manus Island presents a grave risk of further deterioration, and of further damage to extremely vulnerable human beings.”

In a world of parallel universes, where the views of the heavy handed come up against those of the persecuted, narratives differ vastly. PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki tends to assume all matters of force as relative. Removing the men (the term “relocation” is preferred) took place “peacefully and without the use of force”.

The Australian Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has also done his bit on several fronts of unreality. Efforts are being made to sabotage New Zealand’s offer to encourage the resettlement of 150 men in that country. Dutton’s point is petulant and savage: Australia won’t have them, but nor shall you. Besides, would you really want them, these opportunists, interlopers and deviants?

Dutton has also waged war on those activists whom he sees as giving unnecessary hope to those on Manus. Last week, he publicly castigated pro-refugee protestors who had defaced the office of Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services.

“Another example,” seethed the former police officer, “of the moral vacuum of the left.  Not only giving false hope to those on Manus – who will never come to Australia – but also diverting important police resources and wasting tax payer money to investigate and clean up vandalism.”

An update from the Ministry of Immigration and Border Protection expressed a mood of contentment at the efforts of the PNG police. “The Australian Government is aware that all men previously refusing to leave the former Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (RPC) have now departed the complex for alternative accommodation.”

The statement paints a picture of cold blooded efficiency. Accounts from refugees who have found their way to the alternative centres differ markedly. “We have been forcibly removed from where we were,” claimed Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Muhamat, “to places that are not even ready.”

The statement also reads as a distancing document. Australians should be pleased to know that refugees had been informed since May that the RPC would close, and refugees moved to sites such as the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre. “The alternative accommodation has been available to house all inhabitants of the former RPC since October 31.”

A bullet is duly reserved for the irritating bleeding hearts. “Advocates in Australia are again today making inaccurate and exaggerated claims of violence and injuries on Manus, but fail to produce any evidence to prove these allegations.” Before and after Donald J. Trump, news, it would seem, is a relative matter, notably from Australia’s truth-averse Ministry of Immigration, an entity given to fiction and fantasy.

The ministerial statement is also intent to focus on the bad eggs and rotten apples, those nuisances who are never mentioned by name, but hover over the faux compassion of Australian immigration officials like moral pointers and accusers. “What is clear is that there has been an organised attempt to provoke trouble and disrupt the new facilities.”

The Australian government had been informed “that some equipment has been sabotaged at the alternative accommodation centres, including damage to backup generators.” There is “vandalism” to “water infrastructure”. These matters were “under investigation”. Who are these mysterious disrupters? What do they want?

The statement naturally makes little of motivation, the Refugee Convention or virtually anything that would give a human dimension to such protest and dismay. The limbo faced by those who failed to be classed as genuine refugees – about 200 men – is not discussed. Nor is anything mentioned about when the US will come good on the offer to resettle refugees in that country.

There is only, the statement chastises, “false hope” peddled by advocates “that [these men] will ever be brought to Australia.” Humanity is to be eviscerated, and brutality permitted. This is authoritarian speak, bureaucratic babble, the sort that Dutton adores.

Despite such brutal and brutalising tripe, the Turnbull government remains resolute. Australia’s reputation as a state happy to observe human rights has not been impaired – or so its politicians, such as foreign minister Julie Bishop, think. Cosily distant from shared borders, its governments can continue to construct a fortress of selectivity and selectiveness when it comes to refugees and those seeking Australian shores. It will outsource its obligations, and fund the necessary satraps. And to hell with international law on the way.


20 comments

  1. Michael Taylor

    One of your finest, Binoy. It made me angry just reading it.

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    What Dutton doesn’t get, it is not about bringing them to Australia. Most don’t want to come. It is about the inhuman treatment he hands out.

    It would not surprise me if Trump now reneges on the deal, saying the behaviour of the men prevents them going to his country.

    This & the previous government has done nothing to find alternate homes for these people. Dutton truly believes he can leave them with no hope, forcing them to return to whence they come. This is the only victory Dutton is interested in.

    The man is sick.

    Let some go to NZ. Wouldn’t mind Canada might take the rest. In return for Australia taking the people, they are taking from refugee camps.

    Dutton, the problem is giving these people no hope.

  3. David1

    The cavity inside Dutton’s head where normal folk, including the unfortunates on Manus and Naru, have a brain, seems to be inhabited by a foul demon from whatever hell exists.
    Turnbull is absolutely guilty as Dutton being his boss and his accomplice in the crimes against the men they persecute.

  4. Max Gross

    Sheer malice, no other explanation. Oh, and of course, the LNP revel in using scapegoats. In fact, those asylum seekers on Manus are political prisoners kept by the LNP government as a wedge against the ALP. And yes, the LNP is more than willing to watch people shrivel in despair, go mad, or die.

  5. helvityni

    Thank you Dr Kampmark for a top post….
    Oz wants to keep those poor tortured 325 men on Manus to see who will be last one to fall , shades of ten little nigger boys…

    Yes but, what about the NZ offer…no, no, no can do, they are our RESPONSIBILITY….

  6. Regional Elder

    Peter Dutton in another era might have been an enthusiastic supporter of slavery.

    In disallowing the New Zealand offer to take 150, he seems to be saying ‘ The Manus Asylum seekers are our very own political hostages, and we get a lot of political mileage from them ‘. that is by scaring Australian citizens into voting for the Coalition government but also would-be-asylum seekers who might chose to travel here by boat. Having them go to New Zealand would spoil Dutton’s sadistic fun.

    Essentially, Dutton has turned these men into political prisoners, nothing less. This government has no solution to re-locate them. They have become politically, human collateral to be treated just as Dutton chooses. That is a form of slavery.

  7. Terry2

    Malcolm Turnbull has said Australia will permanently boost its annual refugee intake to almost 19,000, from 13,750 refugees in 2015–16.

    He made the announcement at the United Nations in New York, saying that Australia would also help the US resettle refugees fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador which was part of the ‘swap’ deal negotiated with Barack Obama.

    Peter Dutton knows very well that we could come to an agreement with the UNHCR to have them resettle the refugees on Manus and Nauru in third countries in exchange for us increasing our refugee intake on a one-off basis. It could have been done years ago.

    Regional Elder is correct in saying that Dutton is opposed to resettling these people for purely base political reasons and if any more die it is quite possible that he and the Turnbull regime could face criminal charges in the International Criminal Court. Not as outrageous as you may think. Article 7 of the Rome Statute (which governs the role of the ICC) defines a crime against humanity as, among nine other offences, “deportation or forcible transfer of populations; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law. The ICC are already looking at a submission on our treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention :

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/feb/13/international-criminal-court-told-australias-detention-regime-could-be-a-against-humanity

  8. Egalitarian

    For me; this governerment is so one -dimensional, inept yet calulating and cruel.They would rather have this disaster playing out; than have the media focus on their domestic politics.

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    It is not that Dutton has no plan to relocate them. He has no interest or intent to do so. #auspol

  10. king1394

    How demeaning it is also for PNG to have the implication that life there is so bad that the possibility of being there would be a deterrent to people who have fled the worst situations in other countries. I don’t understand why PNG does not simply deport the refugees and put the responsibility back on Australia’s shoulders. I suppose, like with Nauru, Australia is supporting their entire economy while this situation continues

  11. Terry2

    Right on cue Malcolm Turnbull has used the refugee situation on Manus to attack Kristina Keneally and Labor, exactly as was anticipated and confirming that they want to keep these people on Manus and Nauru as propaganda fodder for their cynical electioneering.

    This is Turnbull this morning and remember this is a by-election in Bennelong :

    Malcolm Turnbull has launched an attack against Labor’s Bennelong candidate Kristina Keneally, accusing her of just wanting to further her own political career that will aim to open the door to asylum seekers in a Bill Shorten-led government.

    Mr Turnbull pointed out Ms Keneally, the former NSW premier, wrote an article for The Guardian advocating Australia take the Manus Island refugees.

    “(The people smugglers) will see and are seeing Bill Shorten’s choice of Kristina Keneally as Labor wanting to throw out the welcome mat for asylum seekers,” he told reporters.

    Will this coalition of dunces never learn : this just cannot go on, the world is watching and as Trump said to Turnbull :

    You guys are worse than us ! and that’s saying a lot.

  12. Florence nee Fedup

    I believe in February Dutton gets more power, not less? #auspol

  13. Jack

    I don’t think you all get it.
    It’s not about the 600 or so that are currently there. It’s about the unknown number that will follow based on the outcome of this 600. It needs to be constantly publicised that this group has ‘no hope’ of getting to Australia directly (or via NZ), otherwise it results in a positive effect for people smugglers.

  14. David1

    Jack your talent as a soothsayer has gone kaput somewhere along the way….nice try you can still read the LNP BS handouts. By the way I see you have added confidant to the NZ Labour Govt to your list of absurdities.

  15. Terry2

    Jack

    You are confusing the indefinite detention of people on Manus and Nauru (fifth year now) with the Ring of Steel policy that has high speed patrol boats (navy and ABF) , surveillance drones, aircraft patrols operating on our Northern borders as part of the boat turnback policy.

    It is the Ring of Steel policy that is and will continue to turn back and discourage boats. Holding these people in indefinite detention is just unnecessarily punitive and serves no purpose other than as a political strategy: ultimately they have to be released and some (around 52 I think) have already gone to the USA. Has that opened the flood gates?

  16. Rossleigh

    Perhaps, Jack, we could just have them all shot. That would send a pretty clear message…

    And it might be more humane than letting them get hacked to death on Manus!

  17. Michael Taylor

    David/Terry, it saddens me to accept that there are thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of Australians who’d be quite happy to see these men perish.

    “Dutton’s doing a great job,” I hear.

    “These men are all criminals,” I hear.

    “Gotta teach these people a lesson,” I hear.

    “They shoulda stayed in their own country,” I hear.

    “Let them rot,” I hear.

    I’ve heard too much.

  18. Michael Taylor

    Not cruel enough, Rossleigh.

  19. Terry2

    First Dog on the Moon is a satirical cartoon character and has done a series of cartoons on this subject under the banner of :

    If we don’t detain men on Manus Island, and break their spirits over years and years, people will drown at sea !

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/27/why-do-you-want-people-to-drown-at-sea

    Perhaps satire is the only way that we can get through to people like Jack. We will never get through to Dutton who has an entirely different political objective.

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