BY PAUL MALEY
THE GOVERNOR of Manus Province, Michael Sapau, says any Australian-funded refugee processing centre should be a secure detention centre rather than an open facility.
As a delegation of Australian officials arrived in Papua New Guinea to begin negotiations on the centre, Mr Sapau said he had submitted a long list of infrastructure projects he would like Australia to pay for as a condition of the province's support.
The arrival of the delegation, which consisted of officials from the Immigration Department, came as the chief executive of Manus's only hospital said malaria was endemic to the area.
"It's a day-to-day problem. It is always there," Otto Numan said. Dr Numan said 10,525 cases of malaria were diagnosed in 2009. Manus has a population of 65,000.
Mr Sapau, citing security concerns, said his preference was for a closed facility rather than an open one. "I think it would be better that they be more or less be in an enclosed area," he said.
"The last thing we want to see is, you've got a suicide bomber or something. You want to avoid a situation where something nasty happens."
Australian opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison leapt on Mr Sapau's preference for a secure facility, saying it was at odds with the Coalition's alternative model on Nauru, which proposes an open facility where asylum-seekers are subject to a curfew.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined to comment on Mr Sapau's remarks, citing the ongoing discussions between Port Moresby and Canberra.
Mr Sapau said he had submitted a position paper on behalf of his province to the national government in Port Moresby. It contained 28 proposed infrastructure projects, including a local broadband network, although Mr Sapau said the list was "negotiable".
As well as being the governor of Manus Island, Mr Sapau is a backbencher in PNG's new national government headed by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Mr O'Neill has backed the plan to reopen the Manus Island centre, which along with Nauru formed part of the Howard government's Pacific Solution of offshore processing.
The new centre is expected to be a permanent facility capable of accommodating 400-600 people. Last week, Mr O'Neill said his government's support for the centre, which would be paid for and run by Australia, was unconditional.
"We don't attach any strings to the current arrangement," he told the ABC.
At the top of Mr Sapau's list of priorities were upgrades for local schools, hospitals, roads and the airport. "This is something we've been looking at for a long time," he said of the proposed airport upgrade.
"To open up Manus as a northern gateway into the country, say from Asia, from the US, to Guam. So were looking at upgrading the airport to international standard."
Source: The Australian, ABC and AAP