I THOUGHT last night about widely reported recent events that occurred at the asylum centre in Manus: the loss of a life, injuries and destruction to property.
The destruction to property is of course nowhere near as important as the loss of a life or injuries sustained.
I pondered the plight of the people who were seeking refugee status, locked up in hot and humid conditions, unable to move about, controlled by hostile guards and with no freedom.
In this group there is a variety of people.
People who wanted to get out of their country to start a new life because where they lived had become untenable, hostile, dangerous or life threatening.
People who saw the passage to Australia as an opportunity to have access to peace, a job and new beginnings.
There are people who yearned for freedom and a better life with peace and security and freedom from persecution.
Many had spent all they had, risked their lives and that of their families, clutching hope and their meagre belongings with their children, spouses and perhaps savings.
And now a young man lies dead: a son, a brother, a friend, perhaps a father.
People everywhere are divided in such circumstances. There are those who will not sympathise and there are those who will and there are those who are indifferent.
Then there is the media: like morbid leeches they suck out as much as possible, reporting this event with much gusto and within seconds turning to cricket and the latest fashion and some household product.
I considered the “what ifs”.
What if Australia had not subcontracted its international responsibilities to Papua New Guinea?
What if Papua New Guinean had not collaborated in this heinous international breach of an agreement to receive and process those seeking a better life? An agreement signed by all nations subscribing to that international body they created supposedly to preserve and promote humanity, the so-called “United Nations”?
What if the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees was taken seriously by those who signed it and what if they actually abided by the terms they agreed to and demanded all nations regardless of affiliation abide by the terms and conditions?
What if wars, for whatever reason, were not begun by those with the power to do so and who imagine they are performing some great service to by taking up arms? What if?
And this tragedy is happening on this small Pacific island of Manus.
Manus is a tropical island where the fish is fresh and tasty when baked on a fire by the beach, where children’s laughter is heard in simple villages as they await the evening meal, where there is a cool breeze that blows on a warm tropical afternoons and you can hear the soothing waves caress the white sand as the sun eases into the horizon.
It was here that a young man lost his life. Shot to death. Blood flowing from burst arteries and veins until the heart ceased to beat and life itself disappeared.
Somewhere, people who know and love him are weeping.
Rage and anger, bitterness and despair, feelings of unjust treatment, growing depression and humiliation, locked in and stirred by an apparently uncaring world.
Some claim this asylum centre is sufficient. But to those deprived of freedom, it is hell. For the free, it is easy to imagine that meals, a bed and television are sufficient for people to be satisfied.
Meanwhile, the people of Manus, a peaceful and beautiful people, have struggled to understand this arrangement.
On the one hand, they are grateful for the benefits economic; on the other hand, they observe that the grim price paid by people who seek a better life is far too high. Their sense of humanity, sharing, freedom and consideration tugs at their heart.
If we all delve far enough into our histories, who we are and where we came from, and if for a moment we consider where it is we believe we are going, we may conclude that we are all refugees, seeking something better and ultimately peace.
I was thinking this last night.
I also thought of all the acts of injustice that people have to endure because they can do nothing else, such as in West Papua, another horrible situation ignored by the United nations.
How many have died and continue to die there in events that are never reported?
Eventually, I graduated from thinking to despair.