Report from Asylum Seekers on Manus Island violence on 17 February 2014

This complaint is in reference to the incident which happened on Manus Island on 17th February 2014.

The peaceful protests started on 1st February in Oscar, Foxtrot and Delta compounds, the next day Mike also became involved in the peaceful protest. The main reason for the protest was to get specific answers about how long we have to stay in this detention centre and where we are going to end up. There was a meeting between Immigration, G4S, TSA Staff and representatives of the Transferees and they were supposed to respond to these questions within 10-12 days. The peaceful protests continued in all compounds until 13th February after which they stopped for 3 days. The protests were only of one hour duration a day from 10-11pm. The protestors voiced the message “we want freedom, PNG we like you, and PNG help us”.

On 6th February the cleaners and G4S cleaned stones and rocks from Mike compound and made the compound clean of any stones and rocks, during this time some transferees’ property and belongings were lost. The transferees also witnessed the theft of their property. Some of the local G4S staff stole transferee’s belongings, after interrogation by Australian G4S supervisor staff, confessed that they stole property from transferees’ rooms during lunch time.

There was a meeting on 16th February, during this meeting between Immigration and representatives of the transferees, they were supposed to give a definite response to the transferees’ questions. The answers which Immigration gave was unclear and inaccurate, that triggered another protest. On the same day 16th February at 6:15pm some of transferees escaped from Oscar compound and after 20 minutes a group of locals and police caught them and were beating them like animals. One of the transferees had his throat slit by a machete another had his nose broken and a number of escaped transferees were beaten with sticks. The news of the event of Oscar compound spread to all of the compounds and all the transferees were scared. They did not expect the locals to be as harsh and brutal as they were. A few moments later approximately 100 locals with big sticks, swords and machetes stood in front of Mike and Foxtrot compounds. The Foxtrot transferees were trying to break the fences to enter Mike compound which is next to Foxtrot compound, so as to increase their abilities to protect themselves against possible invasion of locals. The national G4S who were dressed in riot clothing came in front of the fences, while G4S were breaking into the compound to suppress the protest, one of the Australian G4S “Amy” had started throwing stones at the transferees, all Asylum Seekers were shouting because of her misbehaviour, and then more stones were thrown at transferees by national G4S. Asylum Seekers were scared and threw stones back, approximately 40 local G4S with 15 local people began to throw rocks from the beach side of Mike compound and as I mentioned there was no rocks in Mike compound. When Australian G4S were aware that locals were throwing rocks, they tried to stop them but they could not control the situation, consequently local G4S began throwing stones at the Australian G4S as well. When the locals stopped throwing stones, Australian G4S came back into the compound but they did not let any local enter any of the compounds such as, cleaners, G4S and Salvation Army.

That night most of the transferees went to the supervisor of G4S, they explained their concerns to him and requested for a safe place, he responded that one of G4S guards will come around and write down the names of those who were scared, he also mentioned they will be moved to a safe place by the end of the day. They did not provide dinner until 2am and most of the transferees were waiting to be moved until 5am but nothing had happened.

The next day on the 17th from 8am until 12pm in front of each compound around 150 locals and police were standing with machetes and long sticks and they were threatening all the transferees, stating “we will kill you”. When the Asylum seekers passed the messages to the Australian G4S guard they said: “we are already aware and advised us that we all should stick together and be ready for any attack from them,” they also mentioned “we will protect you as much as we can”. Mike compound was calm until 9:30pm, suddenly and intentionally the power was cut off and the locals started throwing stones and rocks from the road side and beach side, some Asylum seekers tried to break the Foxtrot fences again to help Mike transferees’, some of the transferees’ tried to stop the locals attack by hosing water at them using fire hoses, they even covered the main entrance door using trunks to prevent locals from invading, then the police started shooting their guns, the sound of gunfire scared the transferees’ and all of them went back to their rooms, while the national G4S and locals had broken the fences and the main gate, they had invaded from both sides. The locals, PNG Police and riot G4S were beating all of the transferees’ and aiming for their heads, like they were aiming to kill and they stole all of transferees’ belongings. The value of a transferee’s life had come down to only one packet of cigarette and if we did not give them one they would beat us. The worst and most terrifying behaviour of the PNG Police was that they were coming and firing at the innocent transferees’ with their guns. Even now the containers which were transferees’ rooms and shelters are full of tracks of bullet holes. After beating a multitude of Asylum Seekers, they gathered all of them in the main yard and they were verbally cursing and abusing us, they also stated “you all should go back to your country, we don’t want you to be in our lands”.

Amongst the local people, Joshua a local employed by the Salvation Army was identified as an offender, he was witnessed using a bat to repeatedly strike a client over the head. Most of the windows and lights were broken and smashed by locals to create fear. After the incident when the attack and shooting ceased, some of the Asylum Seekers were denied to go to medical for treating their wounds, the reason was that few of the transferees’ had been beaten in the ambulance by national G4S, National G4S in the ambulance also tried to choke transferees’ on the way to medical.

Following this, all accommodation was sealed off from transferees’, however one of the victims of that attack was found unconscious in his room after 24 hours. There has not been any access to internet and phones since 17th February, because they are scared to expose the real truth to the media and the world. The final consequences of that vicious attack is one dead, one blind, one person got shot in buttock, 350 people had been beaten and 147 got serious injuries.

26.02.14 Papua New Guinea, Manus Island (main statement from multitude of Asylum Seekers)

Report from Asylum Seekers on Manus Island violence on 17 February 2014

Why I will be Boycotting the 2014 Sydney Biennale

Art critic, Ruth Skilbeck explains her reasons for boycotting the 19th Sydney Biennale.

You imagine what you desire. The semantic ambiguity of the Biennale title shows the waffle of postmodernist rhetorical relativity, as the cover-up for neo-liberalism (and fascist) policy that it enables, and the cynicism behind it.

Read her letter

Follow Ruth’s diary of the boycott

Why I will be Boycotting the 2014 Sydney Biennale