Manus Islanders Call To Deal Directly With Australia

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Groups want direct involvement in asylum centre issues

By Joseph Anut

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 16, 2014) – The people of Manus Province in Papua New Guinea want to deal directly with the Australian Government over pressing issues on the Asylum Seekers Centre, a spokesman says.

And they plan to petition Governor Charlie Benjamin and the Australian Government to amend the terms and conditions of the memorandum of agreement reached on the asylum centre.

Maus Manus Development Forum secretary Ben Pokarup said the people would stage a peaceful protest march to the provincial government office to present their petition.

"Since the establishment of the centre 16 months ago, Manus people have been silent over the whole issue, allowing things to be dictated to them and contracts and other benefits given to outsiders," he said.

"People associated with the centre continue to come and go and leave nothing behind for the people of Manus to benefit from.

"They travel in and out of the province and use the Floating Hotel. But who owns that hotel?"

He said guest houses and hotels on Manus were not viable, businesses were still struggling and ordinary people continued to suffer from lack of basic goods and services.

"We, as the landowners and people of Manus, cannot sit back and let this continue anymore," he said. "It is now time to end this."

Three groups – the Maus Manus Development Forum, Manus Women’s Group and the Elite of Manus - voiced their concerns in a joint statement yesterday.

They plan to halt any more developments until their grievances are heard.

They were represented by Pokarup, Mary Pohei (Manus Women’s Group) and Steven Mathews (Elite of Manus).

They believe that their political leaders had done all they could and should let the people be involved in talks with the Australian Government.

The groups demanded:

However, a source close to Benjamin said he had not been informed of any visit by a delegation from Australia to discuss issues on the centre.

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