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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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Apologies On SIEVX: Tony Kevin

2 November 2002

Today we publish a letter from Tony Kevin that appeared in today's Canberra Times in response to an earlier letter suggesting apologies were due by some commentators given the findings of the Senate Select Committee Majority Report regarding SIEVX....

  • OK, I do apologise over SIEVX ~ Tony Kevin (CT, 2 November)
    I refer to the letter by M. Murdoch [reproduced below] headed 'Apologies due over SIEVX' (CT, October 31): I apologise as an Australian to the bereaved families of the 353 people who died on SIEVX just over a year ago, that my country's political system has not yet had the courage to handle the full truth about the sinking of SIEVX.

    I regret that the majority report by the Senate Select Committee effectively whitewashed the Defence Department's and Australian Defence Force's contributory role in the tragedy.

    I do not believe that the committee findings on SIEVX (quoted by M. Murdoch) are supported by the committee Hansards and three volumes of submitted documents, now on the public record. The truth is in the evidentiary record.

    Senator Faulkner's promised further investigation of the Australian Federal Police's sinister people-smuggling disruption program in Indonesia will eventually lead to public recognition of the full truth.

    Meanwhile, the four non-government senators' tabling statements on October 23 and their written individual chapters in the report (including Senator Cook's chairman's foreword) contain much wisdom and encouragement. All four non-government senators on the committee called for an independent judicial inquiry into SIEVX. So SIEVX has been put on the national agenda, and the grief of the bereaved has been decently shared with Australians around the country. The glass is half-full, not half-empty.

    I thank non-government senators on the committee for their partially successful efforts to uncover the truth. They have laid an essential basis.

  • Apologies due over SIEVX ~ M. Murdoch (CT, 31 October)
    In relation to the loss of SIEVX and 353 of those on board, the Senate Select Committee has recorded its primary finding as:

    The Committee finds that there were several gaps in the chain of reporting of intelligence, but that even if it had been functioning optimally, it is unlikely that the Australian response to SIEVX would have been different. This is because the quality and detail of the intelligence available to the authorities at the relevant times was insufficient to have warranted the launching of a specific search and rescue operation, especially since a comprehensive surveillance of the area was already being undertaken. On the basis of the above, the Committee cannot find grounds for believing that negligence or dereliction of duty was committed in relation to SIEVX.

    In the light of that finding, I believe that a few of your journalists (past and present) plus certain correspondents to this column, owe apologies to members of the Australian Defence Force and a host of government agencies for blatantly appearing to sully their reputations.

    Sadly, I doubt that any of the accusers will have the good grace to admit that they were wrong.

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