Knight attacks Pato’s response in parliament

Manus MP Ronny Knight has criticised the Foreign Affairs Minister’s response in Parliament on Tuesday regarding the behaviour of those at the Regional Processing Centre.

Minister Rimbink Pato, in responding to a series of questions without notice from Rabaul MP Dr. Allan Marat, said “the management of the refugee resettlement facility is not in a mess”.

He added that it is “professionally managed by competent people from within our Immigration and Citizenship Services Authority with the support of the Australian Government, United Nations agencies, including the International Office of Migration, which is looking at repatriation and resettlement of a number of asylum refugees”.

Knight said Minister Pato cannot tell the Manus people of the highly “professional” handling of issues by immigration officers in Manus because many of them (professionals) are seen as alcoholics who abuse women and have also been wrecking vehicles in the province.   

“The ones that are professional cannot keep the unruly officers in check. Some of our people fear the actions of those officers on the ground more than the asylum seekers.

“Mr Pato should immediately address those concerns raised and answer the questions immediately as I have reliable intelligence that there will be a huge local protest against the Regional Processing Centre by the public at large and that is very risky to all concerned,” Knight said.

“Our people are sick of lies from his government and the potential for violence is real.

“Are we to await another death or rape incident? Simply ask UNHCR to step in and take control of the situation that has gotten away from you.

“Our womenfolk can be raped by Australians. Our young men can be scapegoats for murder and our own government will not stand up for us by demanding the repatriation of those suspects to PNG to face our laws.

“PNG immigration is serving Australian interests, not the people who they represent. Totally disgraceful and unprofessional,” Knight added.

He said a clear picture is needed on the exit strategy for the Manus processing centre and for Minister Pato to not give a clear answer on the legal status of the centre, that was raised by the Rabaul MP, is “pathetic and shows clearly that they do not have an answer to the issues raised”.

Pato told parliament that “because there is a series of questions and there is a Supreme Court ruling on it, I will make a detailed statement this week (in Parliament)”.

Dr. Marat on Tuesday also raised questions on the measures taken by his department in dealing with refugees’ behaviour, which is causing disharmony with the locals after reports of an alleged rape incident last week involving a Grade Nine student.

(Asylum seekers at the Regional Processing Center in Manus. Picture source: Radio New Zealand. ) 

Sally Pokiton