THERE was a standoff between the Papua New Guinea police and Defence Force soldiers on Manus Island, forcing an Australian Navy boat to rescue some frightened refugees.
PNG Immigration officials told the Post-Courier on Friday that the incident was not related to the asylum seeker operations but happened in the asylum centre perimeters.
The incident caused a stir in Australia, to the extent, the Federal Opposition has alleged that the Australian government was using the military's involvement in its border protection policy as an excuse to withhold information from the public.
As reported in Australian media, Labor yesterday wanted the Australian government to reveal more details of a mysterious incident in PNG which may or may not have involved the evacuation of staff from a detention centre.
But a statement from the Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison detailed that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection staff at the Manus offshore processing centre (OPC) were advised of a disturbance between members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) mobile police squad and PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) military personnel, which occurred outside the OPC perimeter.
The disturbance was believed to have been a continuation of an incident that occurred the previous night (off-site) and unrelated to the OPC.
“Initial reports that firearms had been drawn have not been confirmed and appear to be without basis. It does appear however, that members of the PNGDF were sighted carrying rocks and sticks and the incident occurred within view of some transferees – some of whom were reported to have been frightened by the disturbance,” the statement read.
“Centre staff were moved to E block, a building within the confines of the OPC perimeter, as a precaution in the event of a possible evacuation and HMAS Choules was placed on standby to receive staff.
HMAS Choules deployed vessels to transfer staff back to HMAS Choules should it be required. As events transpired it became clear that an evacuation was not required and all staff remained on base.
“The incident was quickly diffused by centre staff and at approximately 1030 AEDT, PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority Centre coordinator, Jeffrey Kiangali, and DIBP lead, Renate Croker, advised that the situation had been brought under control with a resumption of normal centre activities.
“Coincidental to this initial report, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) contacted DIBP Canberra and advised that an evacuation of all staff to HMAS Choules had been ordered and that firearms had been drawn by those involved in the incident. Clarification was immediately sought from DIBP staff at the Manus Island OPC which clearly indicated that this was not the case,’’ the statement said.
Meanwhile, there are now a total of 1,061 people at Manus and 827 at Nauru, and an additional 2,211 people in Christmas Island facilities.
Post Courier /ONEPNG