PAPUA NEW GUINEAS ENERGY SECTORS FUTURE IS BURNING BRIGHT – BUT FOR WHO?

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The 12th PNG Mining & Petroleum Investment Conference hits Sydney this week with a Cocktail party this afternoon at the Sydney Hilton. The who’s who of the resources industry, business, politics and government will descend on the New South Wales capital to shmooze, rub shoulders and whatever else this week to keep our greatest export sector going. I personally can’t complain, my biggest clients are from this industry and the PNG LNG Project has had a direct financial impact on my business and life. So as a non-landowner I am grateful, but overwhelmingly the rest of the country must benefit as well and Governor Garry Juffa had this to say.

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In December from the 3rd -0 5th, 2012, the 12th PNG – Australia Gas and Petroleum Conference will be held in Sydney, NSW, Australia, organized by the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum. It will be held at the prestigious Sydney Hilton and once more all manner of people involved in the gas and petroleum industry in Papua New Guinea, either directly or indirectly will be there networking, hoping to impress one another with what they know, or who they are or who they know.

There will be many current and ex politicians from PNG and Australia even, experts, gurus on this and that and econometricians, geologists, engineers, lawyers and accountants and so forth. There will be middlemen and agents, those who actually mine and those who mine the stock exchanges around the world, boosting their shares up with great news from the last frontier. In fact there will also be many experts on PNG, some who have actually lived there, some are even Papua New Guinean.

Again, there will be much to discuss and much is at stake – for instance PNG’s future economic prospects and the future profits of the investors in this industry. The two significant questions that come from both these areas of concern are: how does PNG benefit and, how do the investors benefit?

Of course, the investors care very little how much PNG benefits as long as PNG allows access to its resources, grant all manner of Tax and Customs exemptions and allows the Mobile Squad to stand guard at project sites to counter irritating landowners. All the while, PNG is supposed to feel very grateful for a pittance of a stake of some sort in such projects. Clever schemes set up by lawyers and accountants force the PNG Government to excessively fund costs associated with being a stakeholder of some sort and undertake to handle all landowner issues an example of which was witnessed by Papua New Guinea and the rest of the world in Bougainville with the loss of 20,000 lives from 1988 to 1998 and the destruction of a province and a people who are still recovering to this day.

But they can’t say that, at least not in public, survival is their focus, profit is their agenda.

A test of care would be to measure the stake Papua New Guinea owns in any mineral resource project – less then 10% in many instances and this often very reluctantly from the investor.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guineans are always being told in overt or covert manner by investors how grateful they should be for the developments taking place in their country. Expert spin Doctors paid oodles of money arrive on PNG shores literally every day with brand new ideas on how to convince the people to not only accept but to demand and ask and even pay for investments in their country, for their own resources. These magicians who write and talk up a great and convincing hype arrive heeding the call by the industries major players who are willing to pay buckets of money so that they do not have to pay what is rightfully due to the resource owners, that is the people of PNG.

As for the keepers of the gate of the economy, the Government, well they are usually the first to sell out. At least that has been the case and has become the tradition since the first missionaries were sent to urge Papua New Guinea to help the people turn a collective cheek so that the administration that followed could plunder at will and whim and “civilize” the people, often brutally and in condescending and discriminatory fashion until their independence, where by they could now be geographically and politically independent but remain economically manipulated for as long as possible.

So, while the spin doctors churn out propaganda products galore, referred to by the corporate world as “marketing tools” or “community affairs promotion efforts” that are designed to pacify the people and assure the developers that their conscience is clear, the reality is just the opposite for the average Papua New Guinean who has to cope with the burgeoning cost of living, food and accommodation costs ever more while salaries and wages remain ever low with increasingly less accessible government services and increasing crime and fewer opportunities for employment or business. As for the landowner, few genuine landowners benefit, most often miss out. It is usually those who are educated to some degree and in the right place at the right time that end up benefitting. For many, benefitting means they are a conduit for funds from the investor in the form of royalties paid to a plethora of service providers such as prostitutes, loan sharks, pokies outlets and so forth – all in Port Moresby and Lae and increasingly Suva and Nadi and Cairns. Their actual homes remain largely unaffected in any positive way, many have abandoned their wives and children and live their new lives in Port Moresby or Lae.

Now let us look at the national scene in so far as development is concerned. Let us just look at Education and Health as examples. One always hears about the law and order situation and how Port Morbid is in the top 10 list of most dangerous cities in the world and where rape and murder are but daily events throughout much of PNG where many crimes go unreported and unpunished and where ethnic tribal fights are now modernized into raging gun battles that run for days and where many are killed – often unreported.

One can measure how a country is actually progressing by glancing at the indicators in these two areas of development – Health and Education. Papua New Guinea boasts of the worst indicators in the region in so far as Health and Education are concerned. Illiteracy is making a huge comeback and ignorance is his dear friend. Schools are overcrowded with classrooms of 80 – 100 children common and children sit on dirt floors listening to exhausted teachers. Every year almost 80,000 school leavers are ejected from Papua New Guineans education system with only 10,000 finding meaningful employment, the rest experience lives turmoil and challenges witness their dreams evaporate and are forced to downscale them to accommodate reality. Meanwhile the education system itself is a disaster with outdated curriculum and poor administration forcing teachers to leave for other vocations or even depart for positions in smaller pacific island countries where safety is guaranteed and benefits are far more reasonable.

As for the Health Sector, it is unhealthy and hospitals are crammed full with those seeking medical treatment, dying on emergency floors, mothers literally bleeding from childbirth, ordinary people of severe wounds from growing violent crime or ethnic tension in Port Moresby, the cities capital. Doctors are scarce and the Doctor to patient ratio is alarmingly well below UN recommended figures – in one province it is an atrocious ratio of 1 Doctor for 30,000 people. Health indictors paint a gloomy and depressive picture, the specter of Death is very much visible here, gliding over the vulnerable, the very young, expectant mothers and the elderly, picking at what seems to be will and whim, where he so pleases. All the while the nation is reeling from AIDS, TB and malnutrition while the population growth is the highest in the region at 2% and one of the highest in the world and there seems to be no effort to check its growth.

What of the remote parts of PNG, inaccessible by road? Well, if you get sick, you die. It’s that simple. A terrible story is increasingly told in PNG’s media, the papers, radio and television, sad reports of mothers who die from birth complications, of village children often from snakebites or dysentery or other easily treatable (anywhere – else – in – the world ailments) almost daily throughout Papua New Guineans rural areas where 85% of the people live. Health Stations and Aidposts that once covered PNG providing basic medical services are disappearing, slow agonizing deaths where nurses and doctors do not replace those who retire or die, and how can they when any supporting infrastructure in these areas such as electricity, Police, banks, post offices, bridges and road even deteriorates in direct correspondence.

Entire district stations, built during the colonial period and unmaintained since are now dilapidated and decaying, most have closed down. The Churches are increasingly the only providers in these areas where Government services are but whimsical yearnings for yesteryear by those who can still remember what a Health Extension Officer was. But even they are abandoned increasingly, as foreign interest is turned over to the local priests and pastors and funds that once flowed dry up. Here, Christian spirit is truly tested.

These snapshots of Papua New Guinea’s state of national health and education do not suggest a nation progressing. But can corporate entities be blamed for this?

Of course not! They are corporate entities and their primary function is to turn over a profit and minimize overheads and heed their boards and or shareholders. The parameters of what they can and cannot do in so far as business is concerned, what they must and should pay and their responsibilities to an economy, a people and the environment have to be clearly drawn by the Government on behalf of its people and then, enforced and administrated effectively and with much resilience and constant review to improve by the Government. So no, the corporate sector is not to blame at all because they are doing exactly what they must.

This is where the PNG Government has failed for the last 37 years. They have not exactly done what they should have.

What is the hope in PNG? There is light at the end of the tunnel of doom and gloom for PNG.

The light is a growing middle-income class. A more educated and concerned Papua New Guinea that are communicating and coordinating their concerns, gathering and applying pressure on their government to be more proactive and protective of PNG interests, the hope is the emergence of politicians who are not intimidated by foreign influence and are able to speak their mind out, think long term and be more conscious of the situation their young nation is in. This growing group of Papua New Guineans is finding means and ways to become increasingly involved in business, either as partners or as sole proprietors. They are becoming confident, adventurous and financially prudent. Internet has opened new doors and developed opportunities for greater communication, debate, learning, commerce, networking and coordination of common concern. From everywhere and virtually anywhere, Papua New Guineans are communicating in real time and about real issues that confront their country and they are finding ways to have their say and be heard and they have a lot to say. Social media has become a platform to launch almost radical movements for common causes and the educated Papua New Guinean can now carryout their role in ensuring that the elected leaders, elected by the largely uneducated and innocently ignorant masses, can be held to account.

In what appears to be direct tandem, the greater masses are now being greatly influenced by the middle class, by the educated that are now informing and influencing voting patterns and therefore outcomes. As a result, a greater number of more responsible, more outspoken and more conscious politicians are being elected into parliament. The 9th parliament of 2012 is a testament to this and the next elections will no doubt see an increase in leaders who are not willing to be just politicians but agents of change, actually leading in every sense of the word, critical of the direction PNG is taken and no longer silently ignorant or negligently so of the efforts of foreign powers and multinational corporations.

Perhaps we will see a government that actually reviews the state of our economy and scan the deplorable and despairing state of our rural communities and do something about it. Already there appears to be greater funding opportunities but that can only work with greater financial controls. The Government has claimed that it is reviewing the audit and financial management mechanisms in place to ensure improved effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of goods and services. The Government has also borrowed substantially from CHINA – K6 Billion to be exact – for much needed infrastructural development purposes.

Hopefully this will be managed prudently, otherwise, as is the usual formula for any funds available for development of any sort, 40% will be soaked up in consultants fees, overstated contracts and dished out to cronies and friends unless the national procurement system is overhauled and stringently applied to ensure proper application of the borrowed funds. And what of the fine print? The media has not yet informed the people that CHINA has insisted that 50% of all projects to be funded by the loan MUST go to Chinese companies. Will this sacrifice be worth it for the progress of Papua New Guinea? Perhaps. Only time hold’s the answers.

Meanwhile, the Opposition of the 9th Parliament looks formidable and is strategizing to demonstrate that it will not oppose for the sake of opposing but be critical and hold the Government to account. This was evident in parliament when the Opposition leader stood up and made a speech supporting the budget and the extension of the 18 month grace period to 30 months to allow the Government more time to prove what it has been preaching.

Meanwhile a new political development is emerging. Here there are a few who sit neither right nor left, neither in Government of Opposition. But they claim to heed the voice of their people and project that voice, those views and thoughts and consideration on the floor of parliament.

Perhaps, all these efforts from all these changes…can collectively exert greater effort into determining their own destiny and demand greater participation in the development of their resources, including and perhaps especially the energy resources… Perhaps they can then ensure that conferences such as the PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference can be held in PNG…where the resources being determined for sale are actually found….

One thought on “PAPUA NEW GUINEAS ENERGY SECTORS FUTURE IS BURNING BRIGHT – BUT FOR WHO?

  1. THE MANUS DETENTION CENTRE IS AN ILLEGAL SETUP.

    The Manus detention centre set up to facilitate Australia’s political solution aimed at stemming the flow of refugees, asylum seekers or boatpeople into Australia, under a Bi-lateral Agreement with the PNG government, is an illegal set up, for an illegal purpose. Australia and Papua New Guinea have breached international law and the PNG Constitution.

    In Australia the Labour Party led by their PM Gillard recently made a 180 degree bout turn on their Refugee Policy. They abandoned the Malaysian solution and embraced the Pacific Solution. For those who have ample political memory, the ALP actually initially went to the last Australian elections opposing Liberal-National Coalition Parties on their Pacific Solution initiative. It appears Julia Gillard and the ALP lied to the Australian people.

    Only several months ago Julia Gillard telephoned PNG Prime Minister O’Neill and asked him to facilitate the processing of boatpeople and refugees in PNG’s Manus Island as a return favour to her for granting ONeill premature political recognition of his (otherwise illegitimate) government when ONeill threw out an ill Prime Minister Somare still on legitimate official sick leave, convalescing in a Singapore hospital.

    ONeill could not refuse Gillard, as she had provided him the scarce element of legitimacy he needed to govern, even whilst the supreme Court was still deliberating on the question of whether there was a vacancy in the Office of Prime Minister on the 2nd of August 2011 or not.

    For Gillard what this signified was a shift in policy for processing of boat people and Refugees from Malaysia to Manus (in PNG ) and Nauru, a gamble she took against the Liberal-National Coalition attacks on her Immigration policy by adopting their own previous Howard-Downer strategy.

    Australia’s breach of International Law.

    In the past the NA led Somare government has opposed the processing of Refugees in PNG. There were very good legal and human rights reasons for this policy in PNG. This refusal was based on proper and sound legal advice. That it is unconstitutional and unlawful to have an asylum processing centre in PNG, like the one set up by the Australians in Manus, is beyond question.

    The Manus processing centre is a closed jail like centre where there is heavily armed security, and is out of bounds to the public and the media. It is a strictly controlled environment where the Refugees are not allowed to mingle with locals. They cannot leave the site. No locals are allowed in. It is a prison-like environment wherein detainees are not allowed access to normal creature comforts of normal life. There is a very strong fence that cannot be assailed and armed guards are posted everywhere. Australian Federal Police and Military maintain an overriding presence on the Manus facility.

    No one, including lawyers, are allowed access to any Refugee under the Bi-lateral arrangements between Australia and PNG. No media is allowed in, and the use of mobile phones and access to them is greatly restricted. The use of cameras and the internet are also restricted. The detainees are not allowed to speak of their conditions to the outside world. Contact with outside world is greatly restricted to those detained at the risk of them forfeiting their right to early processing. By bi-lateral Agreement those detained are purportedly made subject to Australian law only-not PNG law.

    The initial economic reasons why the Manus Island was first offered by the Manus Provincial government and the leaders of Manus have been largely ignored by Peter ONeill and Julia Gillard. The promise of extraordinary favour by Australia on Manus in the form of extraordinary economic largesse was the perfect bait for cargo-cult prone Manusians.

    The reality is most of the contractors and suppliers of food and consumables are companies out of Australia, so there is very little tangible economic benefit back to PNG or the Manusians for this exercise. The processing centre is run no different to the one the Somare government of PNG phased out.

    Both Australia and PNG are signatories to the UN Convention & Protocols Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention)1951 & 1967 Protocol (“Refugee Convention”) which clearly outlines that a signatory government like Australia cannot expel or transport refugees back to their country of origin or to a third location like Manus or Nauru, unless there is a guarantee that these countries will not persecute them, they would not be oppressed, and that their human rights will be protected (Articles 32 &33).

    Until PNG can give a guarantee that the human rights of the refugees will be guaranteed and protected, and until Australia can satisfy itself that the rights of the refugees will be protected and that they would not be oppressed in any way, Australia is obliged by the Refugee Convention not to expel or transport them at all, but to process them on Australian soil.

    Irrespective of whether a person’s status as a refugee has been determined (under the Convention) or not, the processing of boat people who enter Australia or apprehended by Australian authorities, must principally be done in Australia and on Australian soil, under the Convention, and can only be transported out under fairly limited circumstances. The legal onus is on Australia to satisfy itself objectively beyond any doubt the guarantee of the rights of the refugees as human beings where they are transported to.

    It is an international obligation of Australia under the Refugee Convention that the decision to transport them out of Australian legal jurisdiction can only be done if the Australian government can guarantee the physical safety, security, human rights, and speedy processing of their Applications to enter and remain in Australia as Refugees.

    Past experience shows clearly that Manus is an oppressive environment for the Refugees. Recent reports of banning of cameras and prohibition of lawyers and media access into the detention centre proves that nothing has changed.

    Manus processing centre is actually a jail for innocent people whose only crime has been to search for a better life for themselves, and in some cases, escape from death and persecution for their political or religious beliefs. Article 31 of the Refugee Convention states that no refugee can be penalized for illegal entry of a country’s territory if they are fleeing from persecution.

    Australia has breached international law in the first place in intentionally facilitating and writing up the bi-lateral Agreement that PNG signed which at the core of it deprives refugees, boatpeople and asylum seekers, their human rights under Articles 32 & 33 of the Refugee Convention. Australia knew that these people would not be granted their human rights. Australia knowingly designed the Manus detention centre with rules that keep both Lawyers and the media away.

    Australia also wrote the rules ( by drafting the bi-lateral Agreement) that deem the detention centre as part of Australia where Australian law applies, to deliberately circumvent the jurisdiction of the PNG Courts.

    All these are capricious and oppressive arrangements created by Australia to deliberately entrap the detainees in a legal and political vacuum so that it can do whatsoever it pleases to these human lives, away from the scrutiny of any media, and away from the scrutiny of the Australian courts and the Australian legal system. Most important of all Julia Gillard could tell the Liberal-National Coalition whatever she wants on the floor of the Australian Parliament and they would be none the wiser about it, just as long as the processing is taking place out of their sight.

    The Refugee Convention is very clear and specific about Refugees access to lawyers and the Courts. Article 16 of the Refugee Convention reads:

    “ACCESS TO COURTS
    1. A refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all Contracting States.
    2. A refugee shall enjoy in the Contracting State…the same treatment as a national in matters pertaining to access to the courts, including legal assistance…
    3. A refugee shall be accorded in matters referred to in paragraph 2…the treatment granted to a national of the country of his habitual residence”

    In the case of the Manus Refugee Processing Centre, the Refugees are not granted access to lawyers or the courts of PNG. It is all very well for Julia Gillard to claim Australian Law applies in Manus to the processing of these people, but what good is that when under the bi-lateral arrangements PNG Immigration Department (stacked with Ausaid Advisors) cannot grant visas to Australian lawyers or Australian Media teams who want to travel to Manus and speak to the Refugees and highlight their present suffering.

    In any case, even if they were to be granted visas to travel, what good is that when an independent Australian armed Security Company (a captive service provider of the Federal Government) running the facility prohibits any outside access to the inmates?

    Lawyers from both Australia and PNG cannot access any inmate to meet and observe their condition or interview them. Without contact with refugees granting instructions to lawyers, it has been designed to prevent any scrutiny by both Australian and PNG Courts of what is actually going on in Manus concerning the lives of these refugees.

    The Manus processing centre has been deliberately set up to frustrate the rule of law and the clear dictates of international law which was designed to protect vulnerable people like these boatpeople who are at the mercy of a country that sees them as nothing but troublemakers, illegal immigrants, que jumpers etc.

    All these rules and oppressive arrangements have been well thought through and planned by Canberra, written into the bi-lateral Agreement that Gillard obtained ONeill to sign.

    Australia not only is in breach of international law and in particular Article 33 of the Refugee Convention in exporting refugees to a detention centre that deprives refugees of their rights, but Australia is the worst offender in deliberately designing these people’s misery. Hitler designed gas chambers for the Jewish Refugees in WWII. Today we see Australia has designed detention Centres in the Pacific and on Australian soil to the oppression deprivation of refugees.

    For a long time the Australian government has been looking to curb or discourage boat people flooding its shores by deliberately employing cruel and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers, boat people or refugees. Australia’s record in refugee treatment is not pretty. In some cases children and babies have been held in captivity and jail like conditions in Asutralia for years without any ounce of recognition or consideration for their humanity. Families have been rendered asunder, and in some cases lives have been destroyed. Many people held in captivity in jail like conditions in Australia have been left with permanent psychological scarring. Others have gone on hunger strike, committed suicide, or even sown up their lips to demonstrate that they are a people without a voice discarded as garbage by the Australian Federal Government and its leadership.

    Over Christmas in 2011, we watched in horror as the remains of a boat carrying over 300 men women and children, smashed mercilessly against the rocks on Christmas Island, were gathered up piece by piece and limb by limb by the Australian Navy.

    The Australian Navy, Coast Guard and its surveillance system picked up the boat many hours before they struck tragedy. They knew the heavily laden boat was headed for the rocks in bad weather. Yet, they stood by and allowed these people to sail directly to their death. It is not beyond contemplation that the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister of Australia at that time may have been made aware of the impending tragedy, and may have chosen to turn a blind eye.

    This is not the first time Australia has deliberately allowed boat people to drown. This policy of watching and waiting and turning a blind eye to people in peril at sea does not sit well with the Australian Navy, who has made it known to the politicians that they have sworn an oath as seamen and women to save lives of other seafarers. The manner in which the politicians in Canberra appear to expect the Navy to break a time honoured code of ethics of seafarers does not sit well with the higher ranks of the Australian Navy. Some servicemen and women have suffered psychologically as a result, having watched and stood by while innocent men women and children whose only crime was to come to Australia, daring to dream of happiness and to seek a better life and a better future, being haplessly plunged to their certain deaths.

    The Refugee Convention is very clear that it is not a crime for human beings, people of one country to leave their country and go seek a better life in another country if they suffer persecution in the original country on grounds of race, religion or political belief. As a matter of fact it is a fundamental human right to live in peace in a safe and secure environment, and the Convention provides for and gives effect to this right and the sacred sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of every person.

    Australia has over the years done everything under the sun to persecute, desecrate and demonize asylum seekers, refugees and boat people. Yet when it comes down to it, Australia is a country of boat people. White Australia is a country of boat people and their descendants. What gives Julia Gillard and her Cabinet any more right to Australia than those latterly arrivals on Aborigines soil?

    It is only a matter of timing, but that is all. White Australia has no more legal, ethical or moral high ground to claim Terra Australis than these latterly arrivals.

    This behoves Australia to adopt a position, a moral and legal position that is concomitant with a full understanding and appreciation of the full surrounding circumstances causing plight of people around the globe; and in this sense Australia’s own hegemonic part in the invasion of other countries and causing demographic, political, religious and economic instability in certain parts.

    Australian Leaders equally fail to see the full benefits of a healthy Immigration Policy that treats people with dignity. Their Immigration policy is ridden by every political jockey as if to ensure the next load of boat people do not get in at all was a virtue worthy of the highest political goal score and inverse personal credibility, be it government or opposition. The fact that Australia does not have an open quota system, prescribed open criteria, and aggressive selective migration policy, allows for some people to capitalize on it to set up money making operations to do boat runs with people who would otherwise be decent and skilled human beings in any society. Australia’s own policy failure is just as culpable for lives lost at sea and the abuses of human rights, as those who are blamed for economic gain in transportation.

    The front page right hand column of The Australian some months ago (prior to the Manus Agreement with PNG) said the Australian Government internal studies reveal that it will need 800,000 new skilled workers in 5 years’ time! It expressed grave concerns for the Australian economy that it cannot be in a position to meet this demand. How poetically paradoxical was this page as it had right across the top in bold was the headline “Labor floats Nauru solution”.

    Now, even if every able bodied Australian female, and every hot blooded beer swirling meat pie eating fly swatting footy crazy Aussie male, started fornicating non-stop for the next 6 months, they still will not produce the 800,000 skilled workers needed in 5 years’ time to meet the demand forecasted.

    That is one reason why, Australian Migration Policy as closed discriminatory and insular as it is, driven by a psyche of isolation and out-dated phobias, need to be stood on its head and overhauled to meet the challenges of the next century, or Australia will surely suffer being left behind as a land of red necks and human rights bigots.

    Manus Detention Centre & Bi-Lateral Arrangements are illegal.

    Clearly the Manus solution in Papua New Guinea is illegal and unconstitutional under international law as well as under PNG law.

    Among other reasons, it is illegal because:

    1. It deprives the liberty of people to be held in Jail like lock ups. Under the PNG Constitution (Section 37) , a person cannot be deprived of his liberty unless he is convicted of a crime, or the Police charged him with a crime, and the courts in the meantime refuse bail. Where a person is suspected of a committing an offence, he can be held for a short time for Police interview. Aside from that, there is no other basis in law in PNG to hold a person captive. Any asylum seeker so held can sue the PNG Government for damages for false imprisonment and for breach of his rights under Section 37 of the Constitution. The Manus Refugee processing centre is therefore an establishment set up for an unlawful purpose. The Bi-lateral Agreements signed by Australia and PNG to effect an unlawful purpose are void from the beginning. The holding of refugees on Manus at this moment is unlawful.

    2. PNG is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, it is obliged to protect and process refugees speedily, and where necessary allow the Refugees access to Lawyers and the courts to have their claims heard and settled speedily (Article 16 of the Refugee Convention). The manner in which the Manus Centre is set up with High Security perimeter is very clearly designed to deny the basic human rights of the Refugees guaranteed by the Refugee Convention.

    3. The denial of human rights entailing the Manus processing Centre, locking up of men, women and children who have not broken any law in PNG, is harsh, oppressive and inhuman, which is a breach of Section 41 of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea. This is so especially when these people do not know when they will be processed and they are held in abeyance for months and years at a time, sometimes separated from their families. It is also oppressive when they have no access to lawyers or courts, especially Australian courts applying Australian Law in respect of their Applications to remain in Australia. PNG Courts cannot apply Australian Law. An aggrieved refugee in Manus is automatically denied access to Australian lawyers and Australian Courts to have his case reviewed. Denial of proper Jurisdiction and facilities is denial of natural justice, a form of oppression that is Unconstitutional under PNG law.

    4. Australia will have breached its obligations under the Refugee Convention by transporting these Refugees to Manus. Australia has an obligation to receive refugees, grant asylum and resettle them. Australia has an obligation to facilitate safe travels of Refugees to safe destinations. Australia also has an obligation at law to process the Refugees speedily on Australian soil. The very fact that the Manus centre is not unlike a maximum security jail, and the fact that the people do not have access to welfare services, lawyers, Journalists, access to Australian Lawyers and Courts, with their human rights unlikely to be protected, should oblige Australia not to send these people in the first place to Manus. It now seems PNG has aided and abetted in Australia’s breach of the Refugee Convention, and has become an Accessory after the fact.

    Australia proudly sends its soldiers to other countries to fight and bring democracy to these countries, now it must stand up and show what a model democracy it is. Julia Gillard and her Cabinet must not make excuses for their generation of Australians and co-opt compliant leaders like Peter O’Neill, and blackmail the people of PNG with aid, to condone and carry on breach of International law and PNG law designed to protect, guaranty and secure the dignity and sanctity of all human life.

    Papua New Guinea must keep its nose clean and cease being party to Australia’s inhuman, discriminatory, oppressive and illegal activities. The O’Neill government must not stoop to continue such illegal and unlawful conduct. The people of PNG and their dignity must not be allowed to be tarnished by Australia’s own policy failures and inability to treat other people humanely.

    Australia is very backward in human rights laws and protection of lives of asylum seekers. They do not have a codified bill of rights as we in PNG do in our Constitution. The Australian government wants to make Manus and Nauru as oppressive as possible to deter further asylum seekers, even if it is against the law. This is the very crux of oppression and illegality that Peter ONeill has signed PNG up for.

    Breach of Human Rights & Constitution.

    Human Rights Breached by the Manus Detention Centre under Papua New Guinea Constitution include:

    a) Freedom from inhumane treatment.
    b) Right to protection of the law.
    c) Right not to be held in custody unless charged with an offence known at law.
    d) Right to be heard quickly, and by a fair and impartial tribunal.
    e) Right to respect for the inherent dignity of a person.
    f) Freedom from harsh, oppressive and unwarranted treatment.

    Peter ONeill may feel obliged to keep doing favours for Julia Gillard for the political recognition granted to his illegitimate regime in August 2011, but this is not a matter for politics and political favors. The Independent State of Papua New Guinea and indeed the office of Prime Minister is not Peter ONeill’s personal business enterprise. The Office is set up under the Constitution as a public office and it must be run in accordance with the laws of this country. Infact it was not a private decision for pliable Peter alone to make personally by directing the Foreign Minister Pato to facilitate Peter and Julia’s wishes and most ardent desires, as he did.

    This is a matter of law, and NEC and Parliament should have been the appropriate body to look at and debate the full ramifications of this decision.

    The issue of a sovereign country like PNG deciding to cede part of its sovereignty over a territory like Manus detention centre to Australian Jurisdiction is a very serious matter. Ceding one’s sovereignty and ones judicial jurisdiction, and building a prison to imprison persons who have not broken any law in PNG, are very serious matters clearly for the Parliament to debate.

    What Peter ONeill has done so far is clearly illegal, and is a gross abuse of public office.

    Any aggrieved party can, and must, as a matter of public interest, challenge this by way of a Supreme Court Reference for the Courts to give their opinion on the Constitutional and international law ramifications ( as outlined) of the Manus Detention Centre.

    The PNG Opposition should knock this on the head, and call on Australian Leaders to respect human lives and treat their inherent person with dignity, not like some pile of garbage to be transported all over the Pacific ocean and discarded in some remote disused military facility.

    Our Constitution recognizes the whole person in any human being. It recognizes the sacred sanctity of human lives in their physical as well as their spiritual environs and the wellbeing of the integral person. That is why international law providing for Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Conventions such as the Refugee Convention have been imported by the Constitution to be part of the domestic laws of Papua New Guinea, enforceable by our courts.

    By our Constitution and by international law, the Manus Detention Centre and the Bi-lateral Agreement enabling it are illegal.

    If Australia wants to be a model democracy and a great nation one day, Australian leaders must first show the world that they have joined the rest of humanity, and have become a people of dignity and decency in their Refugee and Immigration policies, respecting and living within the rule of law, and not try to get around it. That would be a good starting point for a nation of early boatpeople.

    As for Peter ONeill, he must close down the Detention Centre or risk leaving the State vulnerable to legal suit by the Refugees for damages running to the tens of Millions of Kina.

    It is a fact that both the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Attorney General were not involved in vetting the Manus arrangements. The State Solicitor never gave legal clearance for PNG to enter into this bi-lateral Agreement with Australia.

    As a matter of fact, Peter ONeill has been signing Agreement after Agreement with Australia since August 2011, without line Department scrutiny and proper legal clearances from the State Solicitor. There is a danger that the other Agreements equally rushed for ONeill’s signature in the last 12 months by Australia may be also be outside our laws.

    BY GAVERA GAVERA JNR.

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