7 March 201927 May 2019 Refugee rights / open letter An open letter from Manus to Minister Dutton concerning the Medivac Bill Shamindan Kanapathi Mr Dutton, How in all conscience can you continue to humiliate and dehumanise severely ill refugees in your own personal and political thirst for power? You continually use hate speech in order to prevent due justice to be given to us, the remaining refugees on Manus and Nauru. We are not responsible for shortages in hospital beds. We are dangerously ill only because many treatable illnesses and injuries have not been given adequate medical attention for years. Lack of hygiene, poor-quality services and deliberate delays have been responsible for this need for a Medivac Bill. Many of the men in PNG have now deteriorated so that illness and injury have become life-threatening. There have already been 12 deaths in your offshore prisons, mostly due to deliberate negligence on behalf of the government. After the inquest into the death of one of our friends – 24-year-old Hamid Khazaei – Queensland Coroner, Mr Ryan, stated that Hamid died as a result of a ‘series of clinical errors and delays, a lack of antibiotics on Manus Island to treat tropical infections and a failure of Australian immigration officials to urgently grant a doctor’s request for his transfer to Australia.’ The Coroner, Mr. Ryan, also found that the Australian government ‘had not met its responsibility to the detained in providing health care “broadly comparable” to Australia.’ Here he was referring not only to Manus Island but also to the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby which immigration uses when people are transferred from Manus to Port Moresby for medical treatment. Significantly, Mr Ryan recommended that doctors should be the ones making clinical decisions about who needs treatment and what treatment they need – including medical transfers. These findings and recommendations came out of a rigorous investigation through the Australian Coronial Court system. In Australia the court system is seen as a measured voice of truth in this matter. How can you negate these findings? And to your accusation that men on Manus are pretending to be severely ill. What is the foundation for such a claim? A letter signed by 6000 Australian doctors supporting this Medivac Bill is overwhelming evidence of desperate need for immediate medical evacuation. Doctors are bound by a Hippocratic Oath and a duty of care. Surely you Mr Dutton, a non-medical man, cannot be disputing their veracity. After almost six years of living in detention with poor hygiene, lack of medical support and no clear intention as to our resettlement, it is self-evident as to why our mental and physical conditions have deteriorated. Without quick action they will continue to do so. Mr Dutton, we don’t have the energy or cynicism that is required to invent symptoms or exploit Australia. All we have ever wanted was safety and the opportunity to be fully functioning members of the world. We do understand that it suits you and your political career to have us kept on this island, to use us as scapegoats in your bid to stay in power. Surely a moral option would be to listen to the leading minds in your country who call on a morality that is above and beyond a political party. In this way less lives will be preventably lost and ruined, and less Australian taxpayers’ money will be spent. Shamindan Kanapadhi (currently detained on Manus Island) Image: Sarah Hanson-Young, Flickr Shamindan Kanapathi Shamindan Kanapathi is a 27 years young Sri Lankan Tamil man and refugee. He has been detained by Australia on Manus for six years. Over a number of years he has been reporting from within the prison camp through social media. In Sri Lanka he was a marketing executive and student. He says: ‘My hopes have been that some day I will be free, will see my family again, be able to help to raise the voices of those who are not heard, to care for those who are not cared for and pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian.’ More by Shamindan Kanapathi Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 8 September 202220 September 2022 open letter Authors stand with Readings booksellers for a living wage Editorial team Readings can afford to pay a living wage to its workers. 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