Controversial Australian Senator Pauline Hanson on Tuesday introduced a motion asking the country’s Senate to acknowledge that the Sentinelese indigenous group in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands “possess a unique culture and way of life that should be cherished and protected” and that the Senate support their desire to protect their way of life “through the enforcement of their strict zero-gross immigration policy”.
The Sentinelese on November 16 killed John Allen Chau, a 27-year-old Christian missionary from the United States, when he illegally tried to enter their North Sentinel Island. The Sentinelese, whose population was estimated to be around 40 in 2011, have been known to resist any contact with the outside world.
Genetic studies of the contacted indigenous groups in the Andaman indicate that they directly descended from modern humans who left Africa approximately 60,000 years ago. The government decided to leave the Sentinelese alone after repeated attempts to establish contact between the 1970s and the 1990s were resisted with violence, even fatal attacks. Visits to North Sentinel Island are prohibited for the safety of visitors as well as to protect the tribe from diseases to which they most likely lack immunity.
Hanson, the founder and leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, is known for her strong anti-immigration views. She tweeted a notice of the motion and asked if the Senate would support the Sentinelese or “condemn them for their ‘intolerant immigration policies’ and ‘lack of diversity’”.
In October, Hanson had introduced a motion asking the Senate to recognise the “deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilisation” and say that “it is OK to be white”. The motion was narrowly voted down. The slogan “It is OK to be white” is often used by white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and by neo-Nazis.
Anti-immigration rhetoric has been on the rise in Australia in recent years. Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed imposing stricter limits on immigration to control overcrowding in major cities. His move came months after a poll showed that more than 50% Australians prefer a lower annual immigration intake.
Last November, the police had stormed the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea to force out the asylum seekers still living there, three weeks after the centre was shut down after an Australian court called it unconstitutional. The detention centre in the small Pacific nation of Nauru is still functional.