Ban on tear-gas 'left officers in danger'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 1994, 12:00am

A BAN on tear-gas in last week's operation at the High Island Vietnamese detention centre exposed officers to unnecessary physical abuse, sources said yesterday.

It is understood the Correctional Services Department (CSD) would have preferred to have completed the operation in one day, rather than suspend operations only to take decisive action on the second day - an issue supported by the team of independent monitors.

A source confirmed that despite some officers being armed with tear-gas on the Monday - the first day of the effort to remove a group of Vietnamese for deportation - orders had been given by Security Branch officials that it was not to be used.

The source said that in extreme circumstances, permission could have been sought to fire tear-gas.

The Government was criticised in April after hundreds of canisters of tear-gas were fired after only 28 minutes of negotiation during a transfer operation at Whitehead detention centre.

Last week only a small amount of pepper fog gas was released from a generator, but it proved ineffective in the open compound for controlling the Vietnamese demonstrators.

Several officers were injured and others had excrement and urine thrown at them.

'In trying to disperse a crowd on a man-to-man basis it was always going to be difficult with only 170 CSD staff and over 1,000 Vietnamese . . . there's got to be injuries,' the source said.

'It is very fortunate that the resistance was mostly passive.'