BY LIAM FOX
ON MANUS ISLAND there is overwhelming support from locals for the Australian government's hoped for reopening of a detention centre for asylum seekers.
Australia is no longer pursuing East Timor as part of its regional solution to build an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers.
It has instead asked PNG to host a regional processing centre, and reopening the mothballed Manus facility could be one option.
On Manus, most people are unaware of the war of words over what to do with asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters. But they overwhelmingly want to see the centre reopened.
At the market in Lorengau people are excited about the prospect of the detention centre being reopened and selling more of their produce.
"I have heard that they want to open it. I'm very happy because when the asylum seekers were here in the first place, they bring some changes to the province," said one vendor.
"For the economic aspect for the people, yeah, it would be good," said another.
Across the road a new hotel is under construction. Owner Ken Kuso already owns a guesthouse and he is licking his lips at the business that could be coming his way.
"I think it's good news for me, when they established the asylum seeker centre in Manus last time I benefited. The Australian government planted a lot of money in this small island community and we really benefited from it," he said.
When the centre opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution, it was the biggest thing to have happened on Manus in a long time. The island's two main industries, small scale farming and fishing, suddenly had a big new customer.
An aid package saw new schools built and pot-holed roads resurfaced. But when the centre closed in 2004 the Manus economy slumped.
Peter Poiou from the Manus Chamber of Commerce and Industry says its reopening would be a godsend. "The spin-off from the centre if its reopened will have great impact on the economy of Manus," he said.
"Particularly, to the hospitality industry, hotels, and the guesthouses, and to stores, to local markets, and generally to the people of Manus."
While the debate rages in Australia about the best way to deal with asylum seekers, most Manus islanders just want a life beyond subsistence farming and fishing.
Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation