Gladys Berejiklian is creating ‘two classes of people’ by enforcing tougher lockdown restrictions in some parts of Sydney than others, a mayor living under the harsher rules has claimed as police shut down a funeral in his LGA.
Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour said the NSW premier’s approach showed double standards when his constituents are so heavily policed while residents in beachside suburbs such as Bondi can sunbake freely.
His LGA is one of 12 government areas where Covid-19 is spreading the most rapidly and residents face tougher restrictions around travel and public gatherings.
He referred to a case in Rookwood in western Sydney where funeral mourners were arrested for exceeding the 10-person gathering limits.
‘One gets arrested when they’re grieving. The other gets to sunbake. It doesn’t make any sense,’ he told ABC’s Q+A.
Canterbury-Bankstown mayor Khal Asfour said there were ‘double standards’ in Sydney after a case in Rookwood in western Sydney (pictured) where funeral mourners in his area were arrested for exceeding the 10-person gathering limits
By contrast, Sydneysiders soaked in the sun at Bondi Beach over the weekend. Residents outside of the city’s 12 LGAs of concern are living under lighter lockdown restrictions
Mr Asfour said he also feared Ms Berejiklian’s planned vaccine passport system – which will bar unvaccinated residents from bars, restaurants and cafes – would make it harder for small businesses in his area to operate.
‘We’re going to have two classes of people… my concern is how are my small business owners going to be able to police who can walk into their shops,’ he said.
‘How are they going to police that?’
He said Ms Berejklian had told him businesses should ‘call the police’ to help enforce the vaccine orders, but argued that approach wasn’t good enough.
‘We need more than that. They need some protections to make sure that they’re able to deal with [vaccine passports]. They don’t want their businesses suffering anymore than they have to,’ he said.
Police officers from Auburn, Burwood, Bankstown and Campsie stations, as well as the riot squad, attended Rookwood Cemetery on Wednesday after reports 80 to 100 people had gathered to pay their respects were attending a funeral.
Under Sydney’s current lockdown laws, only 10 people are permitted at a funeral, whether indoors or outdoors. Additionally, the attendees can only be close family members of the deceased, such as a spouse, partner, parent, child or sibling.
A number of mourners stayed in parked cars so they could watch the burials from a distance.
Police then arrived in 10 vehicles and knocked on car windows, asking mourners to leave, witnesses reported.
One mourner, Anwar Elahmad, told the ABC one of those being buried was his wife’s uncle, who had contracted Covid-19 six weeks ago. He said he approached officers to allow the burial to go ahead.
‘I informed him … that’s it’s our religious obligation to give our dead a speedy burial, and I pleaded him to use his discretion and allow the burial to go ahead,’ Mr Elahmad said.
‘My mother-in-law, the sister of the deceased, was standing in the car park … she was also asked to leave, not even allowed to sit in our car and watch from the car and threatened with being arrested.’
Mr Elahmad said he thought police were treating his community unjustly in comparison with other parts of Sydney.
‘I find it extremely unfair considering what happened at the beach the weekend before …no masks, no heavy handedness by police,’ he said.
‘I find it disgusting and I find it un-Australian.
‘There’s no compassion, no mercy, there’s no empathy for us … the majority of people dying are from our areas, why can’t they increase it to 15 or 20 [people] because we have very large families.’
Another mourner, Kieran O’Halloran, told The Guardian the police actions were ‘disproportionate’.
‘The way they acted was despicable. They showed no sensitivity to the fact it was a funeral and had no reverence for the cemetery.’
Four men were arrested after they refused to leave when directed, police alleging that one man became aggressive and threatened an officer.
The man was charged with intimidation of police, use of offensive language in public and a failure to comply with public health orders. He was refused bail and appeared at Burwood local court yesterday.
Three other were handed fines.
Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour said the NSW premier’s approach showed double standards when his constituents are so heavily policed while residents in beachside suburbs such as Bondi can sunbake freely
Mr Asfour said he also feared Ms Berejiklian’s planned vaccine passport system would make it harder for small businesses in his area to operate. Pictured are residents on Sydney’s Pitt Street in the CBD
The state is set to emerge from its gruelling lockdown in mid October when vaccination rates hit 70 per cent coverage Pictured: Patrons at Sydney’s Opera Bar
The Lebanese Muslim Association reacted to the police action at the funeral with an angry statement on Friday.
‘The complete cultural and religious ignorance of local police officers reinforces the division that have played minorities in southwest and western Sydney… it is a complete disgrace,’ the statement read.
‘For daring to observe the rights of a loved one…. we cannot continue to be treated like everything we do is suspicious or in breach of public health orders or a crime.
‘Politicians must take an active role in countering these behaviours and not feeding in narrative division and insuring a fair go is given to everyone.’
Meanwhile, pubs and restaurants are set to throw open their doors on October 4 to trial the NSW government’s vaccine passport app.
Vaccine passports are set to become active in mid-October when vaccination rates hit 70 per cent coverage, Ms Berejiklian has said.
Lawyer and human rights advocate Mariam Veiszadeh said the differing restrictions amounted to a ‘postcode privilege’, while Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney said Sydney had become a tale of two cities.
‘And what I’m hearing from people — and I’ve had a lot of interaction with individuals, including Khal over the last week or so — there is an absolute feeling of two cities,’ Ms Burney said.
‘One where you see people going to the beach. And another where you’ve got helicopters flying over you with loud speakers. And that’s the reality.’