Manus landowners regret allowing Australian detention camp
Landowners on PNG's Manus Island voice regret at presence of asylum seeker detention camp on their land.
The principal landowners on whose land Australia's Papua New Guinea detention centre has been built are frustrated by the way things have turned out with the centre.
One of the landowners, Porou Papi, says they initially saw the facility as an economic opportunity for Manus Island but Canberra has not used any of their resources.
Mr Papi says they are upset with the treatment of asylum seekers there and the way it reflects on Manus people.
Mr Papi told Indira Moala they regret allowing the centre to be built on their land.
POROU PAPI: Our government and the Australian government took control of everything. Now, from the start we - the landowners - we started agreeing with the government that OK, we wanted the asylum seekers. But then I think that you have to involve landowners to participate meaningfully to the project. But they don't like the idea. Now, in Manus - at Lombrum - the landowners are spectators. The government has ordered a police presence there. The government is in control. You stay in the village and you watch what is happening right in front of you. Last month, they had a riot there - the asylum seekers, versus the Australians I would say. That was caused by the workers there. They were blaming the landowners but we were never involved in this. We landowners are so frustrated and cross about it. The landowners are treated like foreigners in their own land.
INDIRA MOALA: There seems to be quite a lot of distrust around those that are running the Manus Island detention centre. What do you think about that? Some people are questioning the integrity of locally hired staff as well as staff hired from Australia.
PP: That's right. The contractors are from Australia. Now, the question is this: are they questioning the capabilities and the qualifications of we Manus citizens or the landowners? They are getting every - materials, everything - their food supplies from Australia. There are hundreds of Australians in the boarding hotel in Lombrum where the asylum seekers are and you hardly see them working in the camp. And then they go off with thousands and thousands of Australian dollars.
IM: In light of everything that's going on, do the landowners of Manus regret allowing the detention centre to be built there?
PP: Probably yes, probably yes. You know, the contracts are given to the Australians to come and build on Manus. It is somebody's land ... it's not the Australians' land. We call it 'boomerang aid'. They come here and then they took the cash back to Australia. It doesn't make sense to us.
IM: Have you been to the detention centre yourself?
PP: Yes, I've been there. Sorry to say this but, I mean...poor people. They have no freedom to me. I've been there and I saw it. I mean, the word 'detention' is what? Detaining what? Criminals? What do we have to detain them for? We Manus people love to look after people, not detaining them. They are asylum seekers. They come here, you process them and then you find where they are supposed to go and that's it.
IM: So the locals are frustrated as well by the treatment of the asylum seekers?
PP: We are, yes. We don't like it. We don't like the way the Australians are treating this detention centre. That's what we are cross about. These people were seeking for asylum. We should be helping them, rather than detaining them like criminals.
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