Manus Island MP Ron Knight has slammed Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton's claims that a young boy being "led away" by asylum seekers sparked the Good Friday shooting at the Papua New Guinea immigration facility, saying inflamed tensions could lead to "murder" on the island.
Dutton said the incident on April 14, where more than 100 bullets were sprayed into the regional processing centre by "drunken" navy officers, came after allegations of asylum seekers attempting to take a young local boy into the facility.
"There was concern about why the boy was being led, for what purpose he was being led away back into the regional processing centre," he told Sky News last week.
"I think it's fair to say the mood had elevated quite quickly. I think some of the local residents were quite angry about this particular incident and another alleged sexual assault."
PNG police and military had previously blamed the incident on a dispute about a soccer oval, and police told The Huffington Post Australia on Friday that there was "no link" between the shooting and claims about the young boy. Police said Dutton had gotten several key details wrong. They said the boy had been near the centre a week before the shooting; that the boy had approached asking for food, and was not "led" there; that there was no claims of any sexual abuse, and that the boy's parents had made no formal complaint to police; and that the boy was 10, not five.
Dutton, however, stuck to his story during a Sunday interview on Insiders, refusing to admit he had gotten details wrong and telling host Barrie Cassidy "there are facts that I have that you don't".
On Monday, Manus MP Ron Knight gave HuffPost Australia a set of events that again reinforces the police version, and criticsed Dutton for "inflaming" tensions on the island.
"The incident with the young boy happened five or six days before [the shooting]. The incident was never reported to police as a sexual incident or anything like that," Knight said.
"It could have been a misunderstanding, it may have contributed to the angst in the community but it was not the catalyst for that incident itself."
Knight urged Dutton to consider his words more carefully in future, considering local customs.
"One of the worst crimes you can commit in our community is to interfere with children, that's death. It's the responsibility of someone in the family," he said.
"If someone does something to a child, it's up to the brother or father to murder him. That's how bad [Dutton's] reflection on this is."
Knight also criticised the immigration minister for insinuating on Insiders that the police had it wrong and that he, Dutton, had better sources of information.
"It's insulting. It's more insulting because we know very well that when this thing happened, all the expat guards and Wilson Security were the first ones to run away and leave refugees at risk. The locals stood up to the soldiers and helped them out, the expats ran away," he said.
"Where did [Dutton's] information come from? If he knows more than we know on the ground, more than the police, maybe he's psychic or something."
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