Deadline passes on PNG police threat to arrest Australian managers on Manus Island

The Manus Island detention centre.Arrogance rather than the threat of the death penalty drove the federal government’s decision to allow three Australian workers on Manus Island accused of sexual assault to return home, a national lawyers group says.
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It comes as a Thursday afternoon deadline set by Papua New Guinean police for the return of the three men passed. It was unclear late on Thursday if police intended to carry out their threat to arrest Australian managers at the Manus Island detention centre if the workers were not returned.

At about 5pm, sources on the island said they were not aware of police action at the centre.

In mid-July, three Australian detention centre guards were allegedly found naked with a woman who claimed she had been drugged and sexually assaulted. The guards are now back in Australia.

They were employees of Wilson Security, which is contracted by the detention centre’s operator, Transfield Services. The woman was a local employee of the centre.

Rape convictions can attract the death penalty in PNG. However, the nation has not carried out executions since the 1950s.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns, a barrister and former Liberal Party staffer, did not believe the death penalty was a “live issue”.

Rather, the conduct of immigration officials was “just typical of the arrogance” of the federal government, he said.

“This would appear to be another example of the Australian government and its contractors essentially regarding Manus Island as an Australian jail … the PNG police and legal system is treated with contempt,” he said.

“The conduct and attitude [of Australian officials] flies in the face of statements by the Abbott and Rudd governments that this detention centre is a partnership [between the two nations].”

PNG police have expressed anger that the three workers were allowed to leave while the incident was being investigated.

On Wednesday, the ABC reported PNG police had confirmed the attempted rape allegation and demanded the Australians be returned by close of business Thursday.

Provincial Police Commissioner Alex N’Drasal reportedly accused the managers of allowing the Australians to leave the country, which “prevented the course of justice”, and threatened to arrest them.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has showed no signs of complying with that request, but says it is cooperating with PNG police.

On Thursday, a department spokeswoman  said the allegations were subject to a police investigation and it would make no further comment.

The department has previously said no criminal allegations were made at the time it became aware of the incident, but the alleged behaviour was not considered appropriate and the male staff were stood down and returned to Australia, with the knowledge and agreement from PNG police.

The department has rejected suggestions it engaged in a “cover up”.

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