Dutton demands apology from ABC

Thursday April 27, 2017 Written by Published in Regional

AUSTRALIA – Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has called on the ABC to apologise for its reporting on a shooting at the Manus Island detention centre.

 

The incident took place on Good Friday and explanations about what caused it have been conflicting and contradictory.

Citing advice from “senior people on the island”,  Dutton has repeatedly said Papua New Guinea soldiers fired shots into the detention centre because they were concerned about the welfare of a five-year-old boy who was allegedly led into the centre.

But the ABC has reported comments by the province’s police commander, David Yapu, whose account varies wildly from the minister’s.

Yapu said the boy was 10 years old, there were no concerns for his wellbeing, and his interaction with detainees was unrelated to the Good Friday shooting.

He confirmed PNG police were not investigating the incident involving the boy, as there had been no official complaint by his parents.

The ABC separately spoke to PNG politician, the Manus Island MP, Ronnie Knight, who shared a similar view that the shooting had nothing to do with the boy.

Knight’s status as an MP now hangs in the balance of PNG court processes and Dutton has seized upon it to question his reliability and to redouble his criticism of ABC reporting.

The minister told Sky News the ABC should accept the Government’s version of events rather than quotes of a “discredited” source.

“What I said was factual, I stand by it 100 per cent and I’m not going to be cowed into a different position when I know what I’ve said to be the truth,” Dutton said.

“I expect the ABC and Fairfax and others to be making an apology in the next 24 hours given the revelations that have been released in relation to their discredited witness.”

Knight is locked in the final stages of a lengthy legal battle to keep his seat in parliament after being charged with misconduct.

He was dismissed by the PNG Leadership Tribunal in 2015 for misconduct in office relating to the purchase of a boat for Manus Island, but the dismissal was stayed by a court order.

The stay against the ruling was removed last week, meaning the original decision to sack him was upheld.

In the PNG Supreme Court this week, Knight was due  to seek another stay to effectively remain the Manus MP until the national election in June.

A spokesperson for the ABC said: “According to reports, the PNG National Court on April 20 confirmed an earlier decision to dismiss Knight from his position over allegations of misconduct in public office”.

“Knight is appealing this decision and is still listed on the PNG Parliamentary website as a member of parliament.”

Many of the conflicting accounts of a build-up of pressure on Manus centre on fears that a local boy might have been at risk of sexual assault if taken inside the detention centre.

On Sunday, Dutton told media he had received “succinct and clear” briefings from officials on Manus Island and it was clear concerns for the boy were related to the shooting.

“I was asked why the mood had elevated on the ground on Manus Island. These two incidents fed directly into that. That is indisputable,” the minister said.

“I think that there are facts that I have that you don’t so why don’t we let the police investigation run its course.”

He acknowledged the dispute at a soccer game was also “part of the facts of the whole lead-up to the unfortunate incident”.

But Police Commander Yapu said the boy was brought into the centre to be given food, days before the attack by the soldiers.

“He was given some fruit by the residents in the centre and then he was taken out again,” he said.

“So there was nothing done to him and also there was no official complaint by the parents of that small boy.”     - ABC/PNC

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