Dutton’s claims first came from far-right group

As confusion mounts surrounding Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s response to the recent shooting on Manus Island, it appears his claims that a boy was “led” by asylum seekers into the detention centre first emerged from an Australian far-right group.

On April 12, over a week before Dutton first made the claims, Reclaim Australia Rally posted an “exclusive” to the almost 75,000 followers of their Facebook page. It detailed a “disturbing” incident that occurred on Saturday April 8 in which a seven-year-old boy was “smuggled into Oscar camp where it’s [sic] believed he was going to be raped,” before security “realised quickly and removed the Boy from danger!”

“The information we are posting comes from a direct source inside Manus,” the post read.

Reclaim Australia declined to comment.

Similar comments appeared five days later in an article published by The Australian. In the article, an Australian staff member who witnessed the violence but declined to be named, said tensions were high after three refugees had led a five-year-old naval personnel's son inside “for purposes unknown.”

Speaking to David Speers later that week on Sky News, Dutton suggested three asylum seekers on Manus Island were said to have lead a local five-year-old boy back toward the immigration centre.

"There was concern about why the boy was being led or for what purpose he was being led away back in the regional processing centre.”

Dutton linked this alleged incident, along with another involving an alleged sexual assault, to the Good Friday shootings at the centre.

"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," he told Sky News

Media outlets reported that a fight had broken out on the Friday night between locals, the PNG Navy, and asylum seekers on a nearby soccer field which had been a recent site of friction.

The violence that followed saw intoxicated PNG defence personnel fire weapons into the centre, damaging buildings and scattering those inside, though the Australian Government said shots were only fired into the air.

Dutton has since defended his comments on two occasions and has refused to reveal the nature or source of his information, though his version of events involving the boy has been directly contradicted by PNG police, a former Manus Island MP, and a number of asylum seekers living in the centre.

“I receive confidential briefings, I receive classified information from the commissioner of the Australian Border Force and the department," Dutton told Sky News last night. 

"I am not going to release that information publicly. There is an investigation under way.”

The minister and his department did not respond for requests to comment.

Manus Island police commander David Yapu, told the Guardian he has received no contact from Dutton or his staff, and rejected Dutton’s suggestion the police were investigating the incident involving the boy.

Earlier this week, Yapu said the boy was given some fruit by residents of the centre and then removed by security. "So there was nothing done to him, and also there was no official complaint by the parents of that small boy."

“That had nothing to do with the latest incident involving soldiers," Yapu told Fairfax Media. "The child issue is unrelated - unrelated. That's a total different issue altogether.”

Former Manus Island MP Ronny Knight rubbished Dutton’s claims Monday morning on ABC radio. “I’m on the ground, I'm the MP from here... If he knows more than I do then he must have a really good intelligence organisation and it must be Australian, not PNG."

"[It is] totally unrealistic for him to say he has secret info," Knight told 4ZZZ. "The question is why is it so secret? We have the PNGDF report, we have witnesses on the ground who saw everything."

Knight, currently fighting his dismissal from the PNG Leadership Tribunal, said a boy was brought into the centre, but that it happened well before the attack.

Dutton has demanded an apology from ABC and Fairfax, claiming Knight was a discredited witness.

 

Photo: Screenshot of Reclaim Australia Rally’s “exclusive” Facebook post

 

Follow Matt Dennien on Twitter