PNG: Protests on Manus Island

2 September: Landowners on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island are demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation from the Australian government or they will shut off water to the asylum seeker detention centre.

Local MP and vice minister for trade Ron Knight told AAP the landowners are demanding kina 231,000 ($A108,000) in compensation for use of a dump site near Lombrum naval base, where Australia is currently housing about 500 asylum seekers.

The groups also want kina 21,000 (A$9700) per month for continued use of the dump as well as another kina 60,000 (A$28,000) per month to cover anchorage and waste management of Australian Navy ships.

The landowners on the weekend blocked the dump and a gravel pit being used by the Australian government and say they will shut down water if their demands are not met by Tuesday.

“That is the next step,” Mr Knight told AAP. “This isn’t going to be a protest. It’s going to be a very, very quiet guerilla war.”

Local journalist Nick Solomon told AAP sewage is leaking out of the current centre onto a nearby road.

“It’s a major sewerage problem,” he said.

“They have a local contractor dealing with it now.”

He said rubbish is now being kept in containers on the base.

Mr Knight said he had been told about the sewerage leak, but had not seen it.

He said the Manus Island Chamber of Commerce is expected to meet on Monday to decide what position it wants to take on the facility.

“In 2001, we boycotted everything from Australia,” Mr Knight said.

“No rooms at the hotel, no petrol at the bowsers. We made life hell.

“The same thing could happen again.”

In mid July landowners told AAP black flies attracted to the dump were eating some local sago crops. Sago is a staple in the PNG diet.

Immigration minister Tony Burke said at the time he was seeking advice on how to deal with the dump.

Landowner and local councillor George Lokowah said there was not enough work for Manus Islanders.

“We have engineering people who can work, but we have gotten nothing out of (the deal),” Mr Lokowah said.

“So we tried to stop the gravel pit and the dump.

“We will try to block the area where (the facility) gets the water from.”

The Australian government last week held a series of workshops in PNG to explain to local businesses what they can get out of the asylum seekers deal.

Australia is planning to build a 600 bed facility with room for 200 staff near a school in the Manus capital, Lorengau, as well as developing other sites inside Lombrum Naval Base.

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