Asylum seekers arrive on Manus Island
Photographer Kate Geraghty captures the first images of asylum seekers arriving on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.PT2M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2r58p 620 349 August 2, 2013
It's the deadly police brutality paid for by Australian taxpayers.
Papua New Guinea's most thuggish paramilitary police unit - allegedly responsible for rapes, murders and other human rights abuses - is being discreetly funded by the Australian Immigration Department to secure the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.
Officers of the "Mobile Squad", who just last month beat a local man to death on the island, are receiving a special living away allowance of about $100 a day out of funding provided by the department.
Accusations: Members of the mobile squad (main picture) talk to prisoners in the cell block where Raymond Sipuan (left) died; more members (top); James and Caroline Sipuan (above). Photo: Kate Geraghty
The Australian funding is a handsome perk for members of the squad. The average local wage for security staff is about $1.50 an hour.
The payment also represents a previously secret aspect to Australia's ''PNG solution'' of directing asylum seekers to PNG.
James Sipuan, 65, said his son Raymond, 21, had only been drunk and swore at the officers when he was beaten in front of hundreds of horrified islanders in the main market last month.
He said Raymond had left the island police station later that day and was in the market when the officers saw him there and started brutally bashing him again, fatally injuring him.
"They picked him up like a rugby league tackle and speared him into the ground twice, according to witnesses,'' Mr Sipuan said.
The squad has also been provided with three rented Toyota LandCruisers with the cost running to about $200,000, a bill paid by Australian Immigration Department funds, according to the rental agent.
The cars can be distinguished from other rentals by the 28-man squad's practice of hanging its crowd-controlling whips, made out of rubber fan belts, from their side mirrors to intimidate residents.
On Friday the Immigration Department did not deny the payments were being made and said $558,821 had been allocated last year to cover costs associated with the temporary centre.
A spokesman said the police operations raised by Fairfax were "a matter for the PNG government and its law enforcement authorities".
The presence of the paramilitary unit on the island suggests PNG and Australian officials fear a major clash with landowners, who have already threatened a protest if they do not get a cut out of the asylum seeker detention centre projects.
The squad's name has become a byword for police brutality in Papua New Guinea and many of its operations have been condemned by human rights organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, which point to alleged incidents of killings, rapes, bashings and evictions.
Last year Australian anthropologist Dr Andrew Lattas, who had done extensive field research in PNG, said the mobile squads were being used as private armies by logging companies and said they had been beating up villagers, locking them in shipping containers and whipping them with sticks and fan belts to ensure logging projects went ahead, with police expenses paid by the companies.
The mobile squad has been stationed on the island since December.
Mr Sipuan said he believed his son had been killed at the market. "I believe he was killed at that time,'' he said. ''They took him to the police station and left him in the cells.
''They didn't try to take him to the hospital.''
On hearing of the bashing, Mr Sipuan rang the police station and was told his son was asleep.
"I drove down there and I couldn't wake him up. We took him to hospital but they couldn't revive him.
"Such behaviour, the murder of my son is barbaric. The mobile squad is for dealing with tribal fights or rioting people. They should not be on the island. If something goes wrong then they can call them in.''
Mr Sipuan said having Australian funding going to the squad was wrong. "This is a waste of money. They should be doing a good job, not killing my son.''
The day after the alleged killing, PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill promised an investigation and said the particular unit involved would be removed from the island.
Three members of the squad have been arrested and charged. They are not being kept in the cell where Raymond died.