No sign of justice
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.