Manus Island – the priest and the Major show everyday humanity and decency

manus

The decency and integrity of two Manus Islanders, a Catholic priest and a retired army major, has impressed Kon Karapanagiotidis from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

He said their story shows us the power of people’s everyday humanity and decency. “These men highlight an important story that has been missed by many.”

The two Manusian men, Father Clement Taulam and Michael Kuweh, have defied the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments by calling for assistance for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus.

Speaking at his Papitalai parish church on Los Negros Island across a small bay from the detention centre, Taulam said the enforced shutdown of the centre had left people vulnerable and suffering.

Over years of pastoral care, he has built up friendships with many of those in the centre, he told the Guardian and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Kuweh spent decades in the PNG military, rising from an enlisted rank to become a senior officer. He trained and served alongside Australian troops for years.

He said Manusians were famously hospitable and had welcomed West Papuan refugees.

But Manusians were stopped from providing food, water and medical assistance to the refugees and asylum seekers inside the detention centre.

“Five years is a gruelling experience for many, and it doesn’t sit well for us, because … we are people of hospitality and the current situation is [that] the authorities denied us to give them [help]: ‘You can’t do that.’ Well, you can’t stop a Manusian to deliver anything.

“I cannot leave my neighbour hungry. And leaving [people] without basic needs is out of the ordinary. Whose policy is that? Inhuman, totally inhuman.”

Other reports say that local Manus people who had been trying to bring food by boat to the refugees and asylum seekers at the centre were intercepted by the police.

They were strongly warned not to do so again and released.

Karapanagiotidis said the responsibility for assisting should not fall to Manusian citizens.

“The villains are not the local people of PNG,” he said. “Many feel as much unease, disgust and distress as to what has been done to the refugees and people seeking asylum on Manus as we do. The fault lies with the Australian government.”

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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