“the violence meted out to asylum seekers”

On the weekend immediately before the open letter was published, seventy-seven asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre were injured and one, Reza Berati, was killed. Two Australian employees of security contractor G4S are currently wanted for questioning by Papua New Guinea police and are regarded as suspects in the death of Berati. This terrible violence brought a new urgency to the boycott campaign.

The outsourcing of state violence – policing, prisons and border control – to private companies is increasingly the norm, and not just in Australia. G4S, for example, which bills itself as ‘the world’s leading international security solutions group’, has security contracts in prisons across the world, including locally at Mount Gambier, Port Phillip and Long Bay.

‘The notion that Transfield could somehow “make a positive difference at Manus Island and Nauru”, as Guido Belgiorno-Nettis claimed in his opening address to this year’s biennale (which we did not attend) is both spurious and tasteless,’ says Ahmed. ‘He said it at a time when all security personnel on Manus Island were told to carry Hoffman knives so they may be able to promptly cut down any detainees that attempt to commit suicide by hanging themselves with bed sheets or wire.’

Read More | The Biennale Boycott | Anwyn Crawford | Overland