No sign of jus­tice

Townsville Bulletin - - Voice Of The North - opin­ion Ewen Jones, Mem­ber for Her­bert

YOU know, it does not mat­ter what the CMC rec­om­mends in re­la­tion to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death in cus­tody of Mul­runji on Palm Is­land in 2004. The fact is that to ev­ery Queens­land man, woman, and child, jus­tice has not been seen to be done.

I do not know what hap­pened in 2004 or why it hap­pened that way. But what I do know is that the method of in­ves­ti­ga­tion was fun­da­men­tally flawed.

Never at any stage should these of­fi­cers from the Townsville Po­lice have been put in the po­si­tion of in­ves­ti­gat­ing this in­ci­dent. It was a bad look then, it is a bad look now.

It sim­ply does not mat­ter if they did their job prop­erly or not. There will al­ways be the ques­tions asked about the process here. This is a clear case of per­cep­tion be­ing re­al­ity.

A mate of mine al­ways says that per­cep­tion is nei­ther right nor wrong, it just is. So, to all those peo­ple who be­lieve that Mul­runji’s death was an ac­ci­dent with no one to blame and that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­yond re­proach, noth­ing any­one says will change their mind.

But to the peo­ple of Palm Is­land, and the Abo­rig­i­nal and Is­lander peo­ple of Queens­land, the per­cep­tion is quite dif­fer­ent. Their per­cep­tion must be that no mat­ter what, it is point- less try­ing to get jus­tice be­cause jus­tice is not for us, so why try. And that is the great shame here.

I point no fin­ger at those of­fi­cers who did their job, hope­fully to the best of their abil­ity. I point the fin­ger of blame fairly and squarely at the se­nior man­age­ment of t he Queens­land Po­lice Ser­vice and the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment who let this hap­pen, and have per­pet­u­ated it through­out the past seven years. Surely, at some point, some­one some­where must have said ‘‘ this may not be the best way to go’’, or ‘‘ you know, we re­ally should put some thought into what is hap­pen­ing here as this is not a good look for us’’.

Now the TV sta­tions get Alf Lacey and Grace­lyn Small­wood to speak of their dis­ap­point­ment and hurt. To their credit, they han­dled it a damn sight bet­ter than I would have if it was my friend who died in cus­tody. Again, those who hold the per­cep­tion that they get what they de­serve or it was just bad luck are not lis­ten­ing to these lead­ers any­way, so it does not mat­ter what they say.

They are only speak­ing to those who share their views.

I do not want to draw com­par­isons with Chilean dic­ta­tors or Libyan moguls, but as a so­ci­ety, we look at them and say that we ( Aus­tralia) are bet­ter be­cause peo­ple do not die like that in our pris­ons or po­lice cus­tody. We have a sys­tem of jus­tice which is blind and ev­ery­one gets a fair go. That is gen­uinely what Aus­tralians be­lieve. It is what I tell my chil­dren.

But how can we be­lieve that when a ba­si­cally healthy but drunk man is picked up off the street and taken to the watch house and is dead a few hours later with a liver al­most split in two? How can we be­lieve this when the of­fi­cer con­cerned is in­ves­ti­gated by ‘‘ friends’’ from his own ‘‘ branch’’?

The of­fi­cer con­cerned has been tried and found in­no­cent of the charges. That has seen due process. What must be tried is the process. How can the Premier of Queens­land and the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice sit there and say the episode is over and we should move on when you have an en­tire sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion – en­tire races – shak­ing their heads with dis­be­lief? I do not know if charg­ing the of­fi­cers who con­ducted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is the an­swer. Pre­sum­ably they were fol­low­ing or­ders. The peo­ple who should be charged here are the ones who let this hap­pen. The high rank­ing of­fi­cials and of­fi­cers who must have just wanted this to go away.

The man­age­ment who saw a death in cus­tody as some­thing which must be swept away as quickly as pos­si­ble.

The man­age­ment who are now retro fit­ting the process to ‘‘ make sure some­thing like this does not hap­pen again’’. I am sorry, but it should not have hap­pened this time and there is re­ally noth­ing here, in their ac­tions, to sug­gest that any­thing will be dif­fer­ent. The Queens­land Gov­ern­ment and the Queens­land Po­lice Ser­vice need to do what is right here. They know what hap­pened was wrong and need to make a de­fin­i­tive state­ment on what hap­pened and why i t was wrong. They need to apol­o­gise to the peo­ple of Queens­land for let­ting our state down and to the peo­ple of Palm Is­land and Doomadgee f am­ily be­cause they know they did the wrong thing send­ing those of­fi­cers in the first place. They need to come clean so this does not hap­pen again. The Queens­land Po­lice Ser­vice must not only pro­vide an open and hon­est ser­vice where peo­ple are treated equally, the per­cep­tion that they do this must be ob­vi­ous to all of us.


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