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Manus Islanders To Protest Over Asylum Service Contracts
Residents angered by bids given to non-local companies

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 8, 2012) – The people of Manus are preparing a protest march in Lorengau town over service contracts before the asylum seekers arrive on the island.

Member for Manus Ronny Knight confirmed that the planned protest march would be held tomorrow.

He said they were protesting the lack of participation in service contracts.

Knight said he was informed of the planned protest action and would be flying out today to be with his people.

He said his people’s concerns were true as they did not want foreign or outside companies to be given contracts.

"We have the capacity to provide services in construction and security. What will remain and how the people should be involved in service contracts is what we are concerned about. What we want is to give business to our people." Knight said he was prepared to receive the petition from the people if Governor Charlie Benjamin was away.

He said he acknowledged the infrastructure development the two governments wanted to undertake but economic participation was the people’s concern.

The island is expected to see the first batch of asylum seekers arriving by the end of this week.

Australia’s parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles said asylum seekers would be transferred "in the coming days," an Australian Associated Press report said yesterday.

The PNG and Australian governments had not specified a date as administrative details were still being finalized.

At a joint press conference in Port Moresby on Wednesday, Marles said it was "dangerous" to pinpoint a date for the transfers, with PNG Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato indicating a task force was on the island preparing for arrivals.

"Once all administrative arrangements have been made, the Australian and PNG governments will take the steps necessary to ensure the asylum seekers are sent to Manus," Pato said.

Earlier, island MPs said they had been told to expect transfers after the end of this week.

Security firm G4S had been hired to provide security for a temporary facility at the Lombrum Naval Base.

Mary Handen, representing the landowners, said locals wanted contracts for securing the temporary site and for the future construction of a permanent facility.

"We want to be given major service contracts. We want to sustain ourselves and build our capacity," she said. "People are organizing themselves (to protest) at the moment."

Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish met with island officials last week to lay out aid plans for the infrastructure-poor island, to which AU$8 million [US$8.3 million] had been committed.

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