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Manus refugee wins award for exposing ‘cruel’ Australia policy | Papua New Guinea News





Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese refugee activist who has spent years holed up in an Australian immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG), has won a prestigious international human rights prize for exposing “the very cruel refugee policy” of Australia‘s government.

The 25-year-old, who has been tirelessly advocating for refugee rights during his five-year detention, was named the winner of the 2019 Martin Ennals Award in the Swiss city of Geneva during a ceremony held on Wednesday night.

Muhamat, who fled the war in Darfur, western Sudan, was was sent to PNG’s Manus Island by authorities after the boat he was travelling on to reach Australian shores was intercepted in 2013 as part of Canberra’s strict and much-criticised offshore immigration processing policy.

More than five years later, Muhamat is still languishing on the remote island where he ‘s working round-the-clock to help some 500 other refugees and asylum seekers – from providing impromptu counselling and talking friends and counterparts out of self-harm and suicide to teaching them English and liaising with journalists and lawyers.

Their detention and living conditions have been denounced as “inhumane” and “systemic torture” by the United Nations and human rights organisations.

“This award sheds light on the very cruel refugee policy of the Australian government,” Muhamat said in an acceptance statement.

“It also brings international attention to the dangers and ill-treatment faced by refugees all over the world, including in countries that claim they uphold the Refugee Convention.”

Muhamat said opposing “this cruel system helps preserve my self-esteem and my human dignity”.

A story of human rights defender on Manus Island in his own words (3:16)

Following a PNG court ruling that declared it it illegal, the Manus Island centre was officially shut down by Australia in late 2017 – its last remaining men violently ejected and moved on to “transition centres” – after a large cohort spent several weeks resisting the power, water, food and medicine cuts, gaining a sizeable amount of media coverage.

Muhamat was at the forefront of the refusal to leave the centre.

“I never felt that I’m free in five-and-a-half years, except those 24 days,” he told Al Jazeera last year. “I felt that people are calling my name, ‘Aziz’, instead of Q and K and zero, zero two.”

Having been moved from the prison-like detention centre, the refugees are now in poorly-serviced camps which they are free to leave. Most, however, stay put, 

For Muhamat, the day-to-day ritual of helping others over the years –  has been part and parcel of survival.

Muhamat was granted a temporary Swiss visa to travel to Geneva to accept the annual award, which is named after a Nobel Peace Prize-winning British activist and been given out to human rights defenders since 1994. He is set to return back to Manus next week.

Since arriving on the island, Muhamat “never stopped raising his voice for those who have been stripped of their most basic rights together with him”, said Dick Oosting, Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation.

“He showed extraordinary tenacity and courage, always resisting peacefully even after a police officer shot him in the leg.”

“The Australian government must meet its international obligations and put an end to these inhumane practices,” Oosting said.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in a statement lauded Muhamat’s advocacy work, urging”that solutions be found for all refugees and asylum-seekers under Australia’s offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru as a matter of urgency.”

Muhamat’s honour comes just weeks after another Manus detainee, Iranian-Kurdish author Behrouz Boochani, was awarded Australia’s richest literary prize for a book he wrote. 

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the reopening of an immigration detention camp on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean after his government lost a parliamentary vote on the issue of medical evacuations for refugees in offshore immigration detention.

Al Jazeera and news agencies


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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse





Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa





If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake





The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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