25,000 estimated to be HIV/AIDs carriers
THE HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be a challenge for the country with more than 25,000 people affected and receiving treatment, an official says programme manager of sexual transmitted disease and HIV at the Department of Health Dr Nick Dala said in Madang last week that HIV/AIDs cases in the province were increasing from a 0.7 per cent infection rate to 1 percent which meant the epidemic was increasing. “Madang has about 500 people affected and on treatment, excluding those not on treatment.” Caring for patients, counselling and addressing issues affecting HIV/AIDs in the province will now be carried solely out by the provincial government. Since the programme was funded by the US government from 2008 until this year, US ambassador Catharine Ebert Grey officially handed over the programme to Madang provincial administrator Daniel Aloi representing the provincial administration and government.
TB Spreading in West New Britain
Post Courier, October 17, 2017
West New Britain province has reported 8,885 registered cases of Tuberculosis this year.
Chairman of the provincial health Authority Dr Mathias Sapuri said the figures are alarming and highlights the obvious fact that there is ongoing TB transmissions in the community. The chairman said the disease burden is the tip of the iceberg and has recommended some ways forward in addressing TB and HIV in the province. There is currently no appropriate TB Clinic (utilising disease control clinic) and is overloaded with patients that wait in long queues for a long time daily. The TB ward is currently in a state of falling apart and needs renovation or even a new building. Dr Sapuri said staff allocated to TB is “inadequate”. The current TB staff are overworked and will result “burnt out”, being at risk of being infected and performing inadequately. He said there are also logistic problems and pharmaceutical supplies and consumables issues. Dr Sapuri said PNG and WNBP is sitting on the MDR – TB Time Bomb.
“The bomb is ticking and we are taking all the necessary steps to address this before this explodes in our face.
PNG ranks lowest in water supply list
PAPUA New Guinea is ranked lowest globally in terms of water supply coverage and has the lowest sanitation coverage in the Pacific region, United Nations resident coordinator Roy Trivedy says.
He said according to the 2017 Joint Monitoring Programme report, only 37 per cent of Papua New Guineans had access to basic water and 19 per cent had access to basic sanitation. “That’s four out of 10 people who have access to water. So we have got to do quite a lot more to improve it. And only 19 per cent of our population have access to good sanitation. There is a long way to go to improve this statistics,” Trivedy said. “Water, sanitation, hygiene (Wash) are key contributors to improving the quality of life and improved nutrition and education outcomes. No development sector can make a meaningful headway without prioritising Wash within the Government.” He said PNG’s first Wash policy (2015-2030) highlighted that more than 75 per cent of the country’s rural population and 85 per cent of the urban population were expected to have better access to water and sanitation by 2030.
Reducing Disaster Risk
Post Courier, October 3, 2017
Significant steps are being taken towards developing a long-term strategy to reduce disaster risk in the country. That is according to a UN statement. A global disaster risk study carried out by the United Nations University ranked PNG as the 10th most disaster-prone country in the world. PNG is exposed to hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, coastal inundation, inland flooding, landslides, cyclones, drought, frost and outbreak of diseases. These are compounded with social and environmental issues of tribal fights, rapid population growth, urbanisation, poor land management and ecosystem degradation. Climate change is reportedly exacerbating the frequency and intensity of climatic hazards in PNG and globally. The National Disaster Centre (NDC) is leading the process of developing PNG’s national disaster risk reduction framework, or NDRRF. Global disaster studies and research indicate for every K1 invested in disaster risk reduction efforts saves K7 that would be needed to respond and recover from disasters when they occur.
Logging in WNB Causing Havoc
Post Courier, October 5, 2017
Landowners of Lolo Local forest area in Cape Gloucester in Kandrian Gloucester district of West New Britain Province are calling on their local Member of Parliament and the Forest Authority to intervene quickly. Concerned landowners have raised concerns of a logging company (named) not considering the buffer zones including its rivers used by the communities. These areas are being affected by the logging company’s carelessness of logging being carried out in the area. LO’s spokesman Joe Kavui from Airagilpua village said the logging company was putting at risk in the lives of the people that are affected by the careless logging activities. “We strongly appeal to the Forest Authority to do a special inspection immediately as logging has affected the rivers that our people use for drinking, cooking and washing,” Kavui said. “We would also like to appeal to Forest Minister to take immediate actions on the developer in their Kandrian Gloucester District area,” Kavaui said.
Post Courier, October 6, 2017
There is a looming problem facing Port Moresby city with the fast depletion of land at its only public cemetery at Nine-Mile forcing the serious issue of cremation to replace traditional burials soon. The National Capital District Commission says this will happen in less than 15 years but is already contemplating other options as the last patches of available land at the cemetery may be used up within several years. Already burials are taking up the nearby hills that once were the natural boundaries of the flat area purposely designated for the public cemetery along the Sogeri Road.
City manager Leslie Alu said the NCDC may have no options with the pressing problem but to consider cremation among others including the locker room system. Port Moresby’s public cemetery at Nine Mile has got only 15 years left before it reaches full capacity, according to the NCDC health division. In acknowledging the seriousness of this issue city manager, Leslie Alu, said in the worse case scenario, the commission would, based on costs, pursue either cremation or keeping bodies in a locker system in a storage facility.
To make things worse part of the unused cemetery land too is being subjected to illegal occupation by settlers who are expected to be evicted if they don’t vacate voluntarily when the commission moves in to fence the area this year,” he said.
Informal vendor Dona Supa who lives at New Town in the Moresby South electorate, says despite its novelty, cremation is better than burial because it’s cheap especially when they are trying to live within budget in the city where prices of goods and services are always increasing .
She said when her father died in 2013 in the city, they repatriated his body to their home province in Simbu and had to raise about K20,000 to meet the costs.
This is less compared to cremation fees imposed by a funeral home in the city , ranging from K500 for still births to K3300 for adults and it is mostly sought after by the expatriates and mixed-race Papua New Guineans .
UN Experts Workshop on Witchcraft
On 21-22 September 2017, the UN Experts Workshop on Witchcraft and Human Rights was held in Geneva. Part I of this two-part series discussed the key learnings of relevance for Papua New Guinea, setting the context for this post which discusses the debates that arose from the workshop.
These differences of opinion are also instructive for PNG to consider in maturing its policy with regard to these issues. Many of them have already been discussed at length at the national level, but it is useful to reflect on them again in light of the international debate.
See url above for whole of this article.
Part I of this two-part series can be found here.
Law and Order Crisis Besets Madang.
09 October 2017 By Scott Waide
This needs to be said. There is a break down in law and order in Madang town. It is a crisis that needs to be addressed urgently. Unlike the Southern Highlands and Enga, it is not election related. It is a break down in the moral fibre of society. Crime is affecting the daily lives of ordinary people.
There is a general feeling of fear. Women are being harassed in public with others too afraid to act. There is a general feeling that police will not act on the petty crimes if reported. People are being harassed and attacked near their homes. My wife’s younger brother was attacked on the road less than 10 meters outside the home where my family lives. He wasn’t drunk. He was just sitting on the roadside on an early evening. He had every right to do so. His phone was stolen. Did we report it? No. Would police have attended to the incident? Nope. We know that for a fact. There are too many incidents like this happening.
People have lost confidence in the system and procedures that are supposed to protect them.
Every day there is a break in. Every week there is an armed robbery in full view of the public. Armed criminals are acting with relative impunity. I have access to reports that come in via Whatsapp. Every day a message comes in. Armed robbery… hold up… armed robbery… hold up…
In 2011, when Anthony Wagambie was provincial police commander, we made a documentary on the problem of police housing. The crime problem was still developing. Police families told of their hardship and that of their husbands and wives who were serving members of the RPNGC.
One policeman I found living in a storeroom beside the town police station. He still lives there with his family. There is no accommodation for him.
In 2015, I went back and found another – a young constable with the CID – living on the MV Mamose while it was being refurbished. His wife left him because of the accommodation problem. Another was living in his office until they ordered him out. Every year, I send a television crew to Madang to cover the housing problem. In 2016, the wives of policemen, frustrated by the lack of action, confronted my crew. We understood where they were coming from. They told us that they didn’t want to talk to the media because it was a waste of time. Nothing was being done about their housing woes. Madang is a beautiful town. For those of us who went to Divine Word University, it holds a great deal of sentimental value for us. It is where we made lifelong friendships and where we found a sense of community and purpose….
The solution lies in a community approach to the whole crime problem. People have to take ownership and force the police to act on the cases reported. The approach has to be coordinated and consistent so that it makes the criminals afraid of hiding in the community.
Doctors Out of Mendi
Post Courier, October 13, 2017
The decision to evacuate 14 doctors out of Mendi in Southern Highlands has been commended by the National Doctors Association. Despite a call by the Health Secretary, Pascoe Kase, for the doctors to remain and continue to perform their duties, the president of the association, Dr James Naipao, said they were evacuated for security reasons. “Loss of lives through high-powered guns, rampage and burning down of properties in the Mendi township and encroaching into setups like the School of Nursing and hospital is deemed absolutely with no connotation a crisis and emergency,” Dr Naipao said.
“The fear of loss of life, insecurity, school children missing classes and lack of freedom in the already red-hot situation in Mendi must not be taken lightly by those in authority. Dr Naipao said leaders in management positions and politics who did not care about loss of lives at an already existing crisis or impending crisis should rethink the position they occupy.
Gender Disparity in Education
Post Courier, October 18, 2017
Gender disparity in education and literacy continues to be a significant issue in Papua New Guinea. While the government’s Tuition Fee Free Education Policy has seen an increase in net enrolment rates at the basic education level by almost one third of females, net enrolment rates in basic education continues to lag behind in males.
This was highlighted by Community Development Minister, Soroi Eoe, when closing the official forum on Men’s Role in Addressing Gender-Based Violence. He said a number of factors contribute to the challenge of ensuring girls have equal access to education. These are gender-based violence, where girls face a higher risk of being subjected to all forms of violence both at school and at home, and cultural factors such as inherent gender discrimination, where girls may be perceived as being more useful in the home while boys are seen as more of an investment for the future of the family. “Despite these challenges, increasing access to education and closing the gender gap with respect to levels of literacy and education between girls and boys remain a government priority,” he said.
Root Causes of GBV
Post Courier, October 19, 2017
According to the PNG Mining Watch Group Executive Director, Mr Patrick Lombaia traditional practices such as bride price and polygamy are some of the root causes of GBV in the country.
“Unless we address polygamy and brideprice, we are going to come up with some sort of answers for the issue which is increasing rapidly,” stated Mr Lombaia.
Mr Lombaia said that polygamy and bride price should be discouraged because when bride price is not paid the family of the bride fights with the husband and if or when bride price is paid the women is beaten by the husband because she is owned by the husband.
“Violence is mainly caused by husband’s not distributing money or wealth to their wives and mothers equally which only instigate hate and fights among the many wives,” stressed Mr Lombaia.
Challenge of Climate Change
Post Courier, October 20, 2017
The Pacific region’s ability to address the challenges of climate change can be more effective, more opportunities for increased participation and leadership for women are offered. Speaking at the Women’s Leadership in Climate Diplomacy breakfast organised by the governments of Fiji and Australia, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said more needs to be done at the local, national and regional levels to improve engagement with women and girls. “In considering innovative advocacy and partnerships for climate diplomacy, this morning’s dialogue presents us with the opportunity to reflect on the leadership role of Pacific women: how they have, and how they must continue to be involved in driving solutions that seek to address our climate challenges,” she said. “Climate leadership and advocacy remains crucial for our region and must include the voices of all stakeholders. Outside of their intellectual contributions and initiative – I believe that women bring an intuitive perspective to all situations – we should recognise and capitalise on this as we build our resilience to climate change and disaster risks for our families, for our communities and countries.”
Prisoners Denied Full Protection of the Law
Post Courier, October 20, 2017
The Court, presided over by Justice David Cannings, in a 53 page judgment and report of the Inquiry, concluded that all prisoners sentenced to death in PNG are being denied the full protection of the law, contrary to the Constitution of the country. And he has ordered a stay on any execution of prisoners who have been sentenced to death until their rights under the constitution are fully complied with. The Court which commenced the proceedings on its own initiative, styled as an inquiry into human rights of prisoners sentenced to death, was to, identify which prisoners have been sentenced to death, identify what human rights they have and whether those rights are being afforded to them and examine the role of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy.
Justice Cannings in his judgment discussed 10 questions which included the Courts jurisdiction to conduct the inquiry, the procedures used, What offences attract the death penalty? What is the method of execution of a person sentenced to death? Who has been sentenced to death? What human rights do prisoners sentenced to death have? What is the role of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy? What is the present status of those on death row? Are the human rights of prisoners sentenced to death being afforded to them? and what declarations or orders should the court make? The most serious concern raised in the judgment by Justice Cannings is the absence of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy which the court found to have become defunct and accordingly made a declaration to that effect. “There has been a failure over an extended period on the part of the National Government, in particular the National Executive Council, to comply with the duty to facilitate appointments of members of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy and to provide it with staff and facilities. The Committee has become defunct. This leaves all prisoners on death row with no effective opportunity to invoke their right to the full protection of the law by applying for exercise of the power of mercy.”
Nautilus a Risky Deal
Former Papua New Guinea attorney-general Sir Arnold Amet has joined the growing opposition to Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mining project in the Bismarck Sea off New Ireland. “It is understandable that Nautilus shareholders want to protect their own financial interests but new investors should beware, the Solwara 1 project is very high risk,” said Sir Arnold.
Canadian company Nautilus is still seeking funds for its flagship Solwara 1 deep sea mining project. Commercial operation has been delayed year after year since it received its licence to mine the floor of the Bismarck Sea in 2011. In a last ditch bid to finance Solwara 1, Nautilus’s two largest shareholders have now formed a new company whose sole job is to secure funding for the Solwara 1 project. “I am concerned that the Papua New Guinean government has bought a 15% share in a dodgy project. Sir Arnold said. “Any operating disasters by Nautilus Minerals will quickly translate into an environmental catastrophe for the Bismarck Sea and its communities. The associated financial liabilities will be huge.” In recent statements the machine operators for the Solwara 1 project voiced fears about the safety of operating the equipment 1.6 km under the surface, 25 km off the coast of New Ireland.
SPOT checks by a government team on some business houses in Port Moresby have uncovered a suspected prostitution racket involving foreigners, the abuse of local women workers and filthy kitchens of eateries. In addition, the team comprising officers from PNG Customs, Labour Department, Investment Promotion Authority, National Capital District Commission, Bank of PNG, Censorship Office and police, discovered poor living conditions of some foreign workers. The team came across a lodge behind a small canteen which offers a low hourly accommodation rate. The canteen was occupied by male and female foreigners. The spot checks are part of a government crackdown on foreigners living in PNG illegally and involved in illegal activities. The IPA and NCDC officers discovered that the foreign businessman did not have a permit to operate the lodge. They suspected that the lodge was being used as a brothel by the female foreigners. Dino Mas, the deputy Chief Immigration Officer Compliance and Border Division said last Friday that they were discovering more illegal activities as the operation by the government team entered its fifth day.
During the debriefing session after the operations, officers exchanged information and discussed what they had discovered. The officers, who requested anonymity, revealed a high turnover of local female employees of some foreign-owned stores. “They were employed for about three months and then replaced by new local females,” one officer said. “They must be employing new ones regularly to avoid paying income tax and superannuation. “And they are paid K2.60 per hour instead of the K3.50 which is the minimum wage rate. These females are also encouraged to get credits and they take home about K70 per fortnight.
Church Partnership Program Phase 3
Post Courier October 23, 2017
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Bruce Davis, launched the phase three of the Church Partnership Program (CPP) which will focus on enhanced collaboration to improve service delivery, build community resilience and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches and its members. “This next phase will explore options for enhanced collective action including opportunities to strengthen the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches as the national peak body, and potential for churches to deepen their engagement with Government on issues of national interest.” Mr Davis remarked on the success of this 13 year program and its profound impact on the lives of many Papua New Guineans.
Mr Davis said that the Australian Government remains committed to supporting the churches in their efforts to build an inclusive and prosperous Papua New Guinea. In particular, he acknowledged the churches’ leadership in the development of a joint Theology of Development and Theology of Gender Equality. “Together, these demonstrate the role of churches in influencing public debate and building momentum for social change”, he said.
The launch was part of the CPP’s biannual forum which brought together representatives from the seven Papua New Guinea mainline churches (United Church, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Baptist Union and the Salvation Army), Australian Faith Based Organisations and the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Spot-check uncovers homemade porn video
A GOVERNMENT team conducting spot checks on some foreign-owned businesses in Port Moresby yesterday arrested a foreigner in possession of a homemade pornographic video featuring a local woman. The team of officers from PNG Customs, police, Immigration, National Capital District Commission, PNG Censorship Office, Labour and the Investment Promotion Authority has been for the past week inspecting businesses and living quarters used by foreigners. This follows public concern on the influx of foreigners, some of whom are occupying businesses reserved for locals, and being involved in illegal activities.
Yesterday, the officers paid a surprise visit on the foreigner at his store and confiscated his mobile phone, catching him and his employees off guard. One of the expatriate staff fled to a room near the kitchen, put off the light and pretended to be asleep. Police officers in the team seized his mobile phone and saw the pornographic movie of an expatriate man and a local woman.
An Immigration officer also revealed a similar incident at a foreign-owned business house last week. “When we went in at about mid-day, all the 30 expatriate male staff were fast asleep,” he said. “It was just a normal small supermarket which does not have night shift.
“We then woke everyone up and checked their work permits and passports. They all said the documents were with their boss who was overseas. So we are just waiting for their boss to return. The officer said employers holding on to their staff’s documents was a form of human trafficking. “The bosses held on to these documents to force them work. They also threaten them that they will not see their families again,” he said.
GBV and Human Rights
Post Courier, October 24, 2017
Gender base violence can also be recognized as a human rights issue and victims can make an application for enforcement of their human rights in the National Court. That’s from a National Court Judge when awarding a woman K10,000 for breaches of her human rights by her defacto husband. Justice David Cannings in a seven page judgment said “Whenever one party to the relationship commits an act of physical violence against the other party, then, unless the act is justified in terms of a defence that would be available under the criminal law (such as self-defence), such an act will amount to “cruel” treatment. In a society such as Papua New Guinea, where it is widely recognised that domestic and gender-based violence is a major problem, this sort of violence must be recognised as a human rights issue” The applicant was awarded reasonable damages in the sum of K8000 and exemplary damages of K2000, being a total award of damages of K10,000.
Immanent Crisis for Asylum Seekers in Manus
Post Courier, October 20, 2017
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has urged Australia to take responsibility and address the imminent humanitarian crisis for refugees and asylum-seekers in Papua New Guinea.
UNHCR is profoundly troubled by the mounting risks of ‘offshore processing’ arrangements, and their extraordinary human toll, as Australia seeks to abruptly decrease its support by the end of October.
UNHCR’s most recent comprehensive missions to Papua New Guinea in May and September 2017 have amplified longstanding concerns for the health and well-being of refugees and asylum-seekers there. Local emergency medical services are overstretched, and unable to meet the additional needs of the transferred population. The discontinuation of torture and trauma services is also particularly worrying in a context where people seeking protection have suffered the negative effects of prolonged and open-ended detention.
A lack of proper planning for the closure of existing facilities, insufficient consultation with the Papua New Guinean community, and the absence of long-term solutions for those not included in the relocation arrangement to the United States of America, has increased an already critical risk of instability and harm. “Having created the present crisis, to now abandon the same acutely vulnerable human beings would be unconscionable”, said Thomas Albrecht, UNHCR’s Regional Representative in Canberra. “Legally and morally, Australia cannot walk away from all those it has forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru,” the statement said.
Manus – Australia Should Come Clean
October 26, 2017
Manus leaders want Australia to come clean on what’s in store for the island province and its people before and after the closure of the refugee processing centre in five day’s time.
Failure to do that, the leaders have threatened to stop the third facility being constructed to accommodate the remaining refugees when the operations at Lombrum shut down on Tuesday next week.
Further, they have asked the Australian government and for the PNG government to take note, warning that if nothing comes forward by the date of closure, refugees may never move out of Lombrum, which will cause problems.
Mr Benjamin said for the last four years, Manus has been tarnished for apparently “not treating refugees well, and this negativity has badly branded the peace-loving islanders, leaving a very bad legacy and impression. He said although there has been development in Manus, it was disappointing to see that there were none of high impact value or major in infrastructural terms.
“Yes, the Australians will say that they provided job opportunities and some subcontracts. Those were individuals but like I said, I, on behalf of the people of Manus, expected something like, a stadium, a big hospital, something like that,” Mr Benjamin said. “It is very disappointing at this stage as from day one, we were never informed at all. There was no courtesy and like always, I express our concerns and disappointment again that there was lack of consultation and no courtesy at all. I am talking about the third facility.
Baseline Data for Development
Post Courier, October 25, 2017
The confusion and delays caused by the “last-minute” updating exercise of the Common Roll of PNG during the recent national elections, has emphasised the greater need for more relevant, accurate and timely baseline data in PNG. At the official launching of the Data4Development website yesterday, United Nations (UN) resident coordinator in PNG, Roy Trivedy, said that the website presented a unique platform for national government departments and PNG development partners to be able to collectively store and access development data.
“It’s that first time we have in one place all the development data for Papua New Guinea and we hope that every organisation will populate this and really use this website,” said Mr Trivedy.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative Koffi Kouame said that comprehensive population data is not only essential, but necessary to the development of effective interventions.
“Information is power. So having the right information is important for not only policy development but also for programing, monitoring and for tracking of results,” said Mr Kouame.
Mr Kouame gave the example of outdated health indicators throughout the country which greatly affected the effective implementation of any health sector interventions.
“So far, national data, dated 2006 says that the maternal mortality ratio is at 733 out of 100, 000 live births. So have we gone down? Have we reduced that rate? The demographic and health survey will help us to know the effort that government and its development partners have made to bring down the maternal mortality rate. The same can be said for the infant mortality rate and other development indicators,” he said.
Death of journalist sparks national debate about domestic violence
The death of a high-profile Papua New Guinean journalist at the age of 41 has sparked a national debate about the country’s continuing epidemic of violence against women, after graphic photographs were shown at her funeral. Family members of Rosalyn Albaniel Evara, who was an editor at PNG’s largest newspaper, the Post-Courier, have received support from the Port Moresby governor for their calls for a police investigation into her death. Evara died last week after she collapsed at her Port Moresby home, and was rushed to hospital. The journalist was farewelled at a funeral in Port Moresby on Monday, where an aunt, Mary Albaniel, used her eulogy to allege Evara had been violently assaulted. Albaniel, wearing a “say no to violence” tee-shirt, showed photographs of her battered body and alleged a history of abuse. She said they discovered the bruises when preparing Evara’s body, and decided to take photos in the hope it may lead to criminal prosecution. Albaniel told The Guardian she felt compelled to raise the allegations at the funeral, which was attended by Evara’s husband. “I’m using the same surname as the deceased’s maiden name. To continue advocating in my job as a defender of human rights would be useless if I can’t get justice done,” she said.
On Tuesday morning Port Moresby governor, Powes Parkop, reportedly ordered the woman’s burial be deferred for a post mortem and investigation, overriding the initial wishes of Evara’s mother, who later that day decided to formally request a post mortem.
Prime Minister Speaks Out Against Violence
Post Courier, October 26, 2017
Communities must stand up against any act of violence against women and Churches must take a leading role in protecting victims and exposing violent men. This is the message from the Prime Minster Peter O’Neill to community and church leaders, as well as male family members who he said have a natural responsibility to protect their mothers, daughters and sisters.
“A man is a coward if he thinks it is okay to hit a woman, these abusers would not have the courage to hit a man who was bigger than they are, but they hit a woman who is smaller,” the Prime Minister said. “We have enacted laws to prevent violence against women, but no Government in any country can stop violence against women without the active support of communities. “There must be zero tolerance in our nation for violence against women, and community leaders must do more to help victims rather than supporting perpetrators.
“Community leaders are not truly leaders if they turn a blind eye to violence against women.
“Every human life matters and must be protected, and domestic violence is totally unacceptable. “Any community or Church leader who turns a blind eye to even a single case of violence against women has let their people down, and has abandoned the Christian principles our nation holds dear.”
“I also appeal to the sons of our nation, if your father beats your mother you have to show that you are a man and stand up for your mother. “Your mother gave you life, now you must protect her life and show gratitude for her commitment to you.
‘Never been more traumatised’: 72-year-old nun recounts Manus Island visit
The Canberra Times October 24 2017
A neatly-made bed sits in a sunlit room, empty and waiting for visiting refugees at the house of 72-year-old Jane Keogh.
The nun and former school principal has often welcomed desperate people into her home in Downer. Four weeks ago on Manus Island, she visited theirs.
As the island readied for the closure of its detention centre on October 31, she flew to Papua New Guinea for the second time this year to see its asylum seekers.
“What I couldn’t believe this time was the deteriorated health of the men,” she said.
“I’ve never been more upset or traumatised in my life.”
Sister Keogh and another Canberran, St Vincent de Paul member Tim McKenna, have funded their own flights to Manus Island to support refugees and help them navigate the path ahead as PNG closes its detention centre.
Mr McKenna, now visiting PNG, has sent updates to Canberra’s refugee advocates waiting to hear about life on Manus.
His reports from a local community meeting last week bode poorly for the asylum seekers on the island, where authorities have been pushing them into transition accommodation closer to the centre of town by turning off electricity and water at some of the compounds.
“The first key message from the community was that they didn’t want a camp with several hundred refugees and asylum seekers in their ward in a residential area on or near their land,” Mr McKenna said.
“The second key message was that they were angry that they hadn’t been consulted. Their third key message was that none of the refugees should be settled in Manus.”
Asylum seekers are reluctant to move closer to the island’s town, where there has been historic tension with locals. Sr Keogh describes why advocates fear what could follow the processing centre’s closure.
“You have to go there to understand how PNG doesn’t cope in so many ways,” she said.
Manus Island people were caring and generous, and many were supportive of refugees, however a small group would get drunk and had access to knives. Sometimes, they would put a knife to the throat of an asylum seeker, Sr Keogh said. One video phone conversation she had with an asylum seeker was interrupted by an attack.
Of the triggers for worsening mental health among asylum seekers, the authorities’ decision to move them from the processing centre by cutting access to cigarettes had a critical effect.
One refugee she spent time with had been a friend of 32-year-old Tamil man Rajeev Rajendran, who left Sri Lanka and died in October apparently by suicide after experiencing mental illness.
The refugee was gripped by paranoia and told her how he had seen Mr Rajendran after he had cut himself in an apparent suicide attempt.
Her notes, written while she was on the island, showed the limits to the help she could give: “Suddenly from a short period of calm he got up and ran wildly away. Friends followed in the car for a few kilometres and were with difficulty able to bring him back. We realised he was too ill for us to handle.”
Sr Keogh said Australian Border Force via another company referred her to PNG Immigration when she tried to find help for him. A PNG Immigration official witnessing the refugee in a disturbed state refused to get involved. She remains harrowed by the response.
“I can live next to suffering, but I can’t live next to people who refuse to help,” she said.
When asked about the incident, the Immigration department said it was a matter for the PNG government.
Despite the efforts of locals to be helpful, their medical services didn’t have the psychiatrists or facilities needed by many traumatised asylum seekers, Sr Keogh said.
“The hospital had nowhere to house them.”
The Immigration department said refugees would continue to have access to medical services from IHMS, including for mental health, following the closure of Manus Island.
Sr Keogh would like to return to PNG to assist asylum seekers, but fears her attempts to help could be blocked.
“I can’t see what I saw on Manus and go back to normal life,” she said.
Unsure how to act next, she said refugee advocates just needed to keep the issue alive in Australia.
“You can’t hope to get any changes with the government.”