Manus locals threaten to cut off power if no detention centre jobs | Pacific Beat

Manus locals threaten to cut off power if no detention centre jobs

Manus locals threaten to cut off power if no detention centre jobs

Updated 26 November 2012, 18:25 AEST

Locals on Manus Island have threatened to turn of the island's electricty if they don't get access to jobs and opportunities in the Australian asylum seeker detention centre.

People there claim that while they promised asistance in return for allowing the centre to be reopened, they are missing out, with the work being done by Australian companies.

The claims come just days after the arrival of the first group of Sri Lankans and Afghans on Manus, which is already being positively described by welfare workers, compared to the facilities on Nauru.

Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney reports.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker:Ronnie Knight, Mamus Island MP, Paul Moulds, Director of offshore missions with the Salvation Army

COONEY: When Australia announced it was recommencing offshore processing of asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, people there were quick to demand that they receive some of the benefits, including improved infrastructure and jobs.

Last week, the first group of asylum seekers arrived, but locals are still unhappy about what they have been offered.

The member for Manus in PNG's parliament Ronnie Knight has confirmed that people there have threatened to cut power supplies if the situation doesn't change.

KNIGHT: Yes, I believe there are threats there. The threats have been going on since day one.

COONEY: But Mr Knight says to do so would be pointless.

KNIGHT: The asylum seekers set up has their own generator and they will not be affected in anyway. If the landowners decide to shut the power down, to Loringaova Town and the rest of Manus, then that will mean that they will be in trouble for several things, one, the hospital depends on electricity for lifesaving machines and the stores have their freezers and everything that storing all the food for the islands, so if that happens, then all they're doing is hurting the rest of the Manus people, the innocent people.When this thing hit the news that they were coming, some bright person put on the paper that there was going to be 900 million Australian dollars spent in Manus, so their expectation was they wanted contracts and when contracts didn't come through and then they demanded 100 million Australian dollars for seed capital so they could start up their own business, but it's not on the table, we know that What we're looking at now is just helping our people in what way we can. We've had a small win in a way. G4S has decided that they have been instructed by the Australian government to give subcontracts and so subcontracts for security are available to our local people now. But with the landowners opposition to this, I think that if you look at their point of view, they don't really care if the things stays there or not, because they're not getting anything out of it. It's basically a case of if there's something on the table, the table is there. If there's nothing on the table, there's no table.

COONEY: Right now there are 19 asylum seekers on Manus originally from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, including women and children.

The Salvation Army is providing and overseeing the detainees welfare needs and its director of offshore missions, Paul Moulds has told the ABC the situation there is significantly better than those on Nauru, which have been criticised by those being kept there and also Amnesty International.

MOULDS: People are under hard structures. The reaction of the people coming into the place has been far better and far more relaxed than the experience on Nauru.

We've already started both educational activities for the adults and for the children. There are some good rooms to do those things in.

COONEY: Australia's government has said under new legislation those being held in the Pacific, as well as those who will remain in Australia, will not receive any advantage, and that could mean a five year wait in detention.

Mr Moulds says those on Manus are aware of that, but are hopeful their wait will be shorter.

MOULDS: They have some idea that that's a possibility. I think that they're hopes are that things will move far quicker than that.

We do our best we can to explain to them what their No Advantage rule means, that it means that you actually are being considered in line with everyone else almost in the region or in the world who is seeking asylum in countries. I think they do appreciate that.

Can I say to you though, that for many of them, and they've expressed it to me, certainly of this group that are here. The sense of having a place where there is protection, where there is safety, where their needs are met is significant to them.

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