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How many of the 1500 asylum seeker lives lost at sea since 2001 could have been saved?
Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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MEDIA

GOVERNMENT
The Forgotten Map

by Marg Hutton
26 August 2002

In the two months since the release of the Defence Internal Review of Intelligence related to SIEVX, there has been comment and speculation concerning the two surface detection maps of the day that SIEVX sank (19 October). As far as I am aware there has been little if any commentary about the surface detection map of the day the survivors were rescued (20 October). And yet this map is potentially one of the most informative documents of the RAAF surveillance data, as it could help to determine where SIEVX sank by confirming the position where the survivors were rescued.

Two very important pieces of evidence about the rescue of the SIEVX survivors were revealed in the SBS Dateline feature stories that were broadcast on 22 May and 17 July:

  1. that they were rescued by an Indonesian fishing boat 51.5 nautical miles from the coast of Java at the position 07 40 00S 105 09 00E

  2. that the fishing boat that rescued them, skippered by Captain Imam was called the Indah Jaya Makmur. (It has since had a change of name and is now known as the Gemilang Jaya 9, but last October it was known by that name.)

From survivor testimony and newspaper articles about the SIEVX tragedy we know that Captain Imam chanced upon the survivors by following a trail of luggage and corpses. Most accounts put the time of rescue close to midday [Keysar Trad, the man who translated the videotape of the survivors at Bogor states that the fishing boat began the journey back to Jakarta at noon] but there are some newspaper articles that claim the rescue occurred around dawn.

It is interesting to compare the surface detection map for 20 October with the map created by this site that shows the rescue position of the survivors. It is apparent that whether the survivors were rescued at dawn or at midday, the Indonesian fishing boat that rescued them must be one of the vessels detected in the north-west quadrant of the surveillance zone - either heading towards or returning with the survivors. The most likely scenario is that the vessel identified at 0819 is the Indah Jaya Makmur on its way to discovering the survivors. We have modified the aerial surveillance map that shows the expanded view of the North-West sector on 20 October to include the rescue position of the survivors obtained by SBS Dateline. From this map it is apparent that the fishing boat that was identified by the P3 Orion at 8.19am is about 26 nautical miles from the rescue position.

From an article written by one of the crew members of the P3 Orion Squadron, published earlier this month by Crikey we know one very important fact about the aerial surveillance conducted by Operation Relex - the Orions 'have to fly past and photograph every contact'. What this means is that if a contact on one of the surface detection maps is identified as a vessel then it is also photographed. Undoubtedly the RAAF has photographs of each of the fishing vessels marked on the surveillance map in the north west sector of the surveillance zone, with sufficient detail to identify each boat.

It is imperative that the Select Committee obtain access to these photographs before the Report is tabled.

SBS Dateline provided Defence with a copy of the document it obtained from the Harbour Master at Sunda Kelapa Port that contains the co-ordinates of the rescue position as provided to the Harbour Master by the captain of the second fishing boat. However in the last paragraph of the first Attachment of the Internal Review on Intelligence relating to SIEVX, Defence dismisses this document as "media 'expert' analysis of figures" and gives it no credence.

If it could be shown by internal Defence documents such as the aerial surveillance maps and photographs, that none of the fishing vessels in the north west quadrant on 20 October was Captain Imam's vessel, the Indah Jaya Makmur then perhaps we could dismiss the Harbour Master's evidence (but given the doctoring of the Children Overboard photos, any photographic evidence tendered by Defence in this matter cannot be taken at face value.) But if the photos do show the Indah Jayah Makmur then we would have evidence that corroborates SBS Dateline's findings.

Is this another piece of evidence that the government is deliberately concealing?

Footnote: Photographs of the three merchant ships identified in the centre of the surveillance zone on 20 October (at 0605, 0609 and illegible) could possibly cast light on the survivors' claims that several naval vessels watched them in the water, but failed to rescue them on the evening of 19 October.

[See 'The Boat That Wasn't There' for more up to date analysis of this issue]

Other SIEVX Related News

 http://sievx.com/archives/2002_08-09/20020826.shtml ( 5799) | ©Copyright Marg Hutton ~ sievx.com / siev-x.com 2002-2014