PNG Police Dispute Australian Minister's Claim About Soldiers' Attack On Detention Center

Dutton claims fears 'for the safety of a small child brought into the centre' sparked the shooting

By Eric Tlozek, Stephanie Borys, Uma Patel and Sarah Whyte

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 25, 2017) – Papua New Guinea police have rejected claims by Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that concerns for a small boy led PNG soldiers to attack the detention centre on Manus Island.

Mr Dutton said the incident — in which PNG soldiers fired shots into the centre — was triggered over concerns for the safety of a small child brought into the centre.

Mr Dutton suggested Manus residents feared the boy had been sexually assaulted.

[PIR editor's note: On April 24, 2017 Radio Australia reported that 'Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says it is "indisputable" that concerns for the safety of a young boy were directly related to a shooting on the Manus Island detention centre.']

But Manus province police commander David Yapu said Mr Dutton was referring to an unrelated incident in which there was no allegation of sexual assault, and no concerns for the boy's safety.

"If there was a sexual assault, a formal complaint would be made by the parents for the police to pursue investigations," Mr Yapu said.

A 10-year-old boy was brought into the centre, the senior inspector said, to be given food some days before the attack by the soldiers.

"He was given some fruits by the residents in the centre and then he was taken out again," he said.

"So there was nothing done to him and also there was no official complaint by the parents of that small boy."

Asylum seekers in the centre said the boy was begging for food at the centre entrance and that staff were aware that he was brought inside to be fed.

They urged the Australian Government to release CCTV footage from the many cameras at the centre, saying it would show their account was correct.

Mr Dutton's office declined to comment.

Ronny Knight, a former Manus MP currently fighting his dismissal from the PNG Leadership Tribunal, said a boy was brought into the centre, but that it happened well before the attack.

"Basically what happened was he was led in there and we don't know the reason why he was led in there," Mr Knight said.

"It was lucky that the parents realised he was missing and acted very quickly and they retrieved him before anything could happen to him.

"I believe he was checked by [medical provider] IHMS and there was nothing done to him sexually or physically."

The MP, PNG Police and the PNG Defence Force have all said the attack on the centre was triggered by a confrontation about the use of the naval base sporting field which led to an officer being assaulted.

PNG Police said the Defence Force personnel were drunk.

Radio Australia
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