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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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The 'Olong', aka SIEV4 -  with 223 passengers
146 children

142 women

65 men


This boat is not SIEVX.
SIEVX was smaller & carried nearly 200 more passengers.

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For earlier articles see our archives: People Smuggling | Challenging | Defending


SIEVX - Key New Evidence Released!

4 February 2003
by Marg Hutton & Tony Kevin

More than fifteen months after the SIEVX tragedy, sensational new evidence has emerged today as a result of a Question on Notice to DFAT by Senator Faulkner last November.

Faulkner's question to DFAT has elicited a copy of the priority, classified 'restricted' and 'contains sensitive information' cable that was sent from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta on 23 October 2001, the day that Australia first heard about the disaster [p1, p2, p3, p4]. Being the main report to Ministers on the tragedy, this cable had an extraordinarily wide Ministerial and official listed distribution in Canberra.

This distribution repays careful reading now, in the light of subsequent public statements by Ministers in 2001 and 2002, and evidence tendered by senior officials in the Senate Select Committee and elsewhere in 2002.

We know that this very cable was read out in the Prime Minister's People Smuggling Taskforce (PST) meeting on the afternoon of 23 October, and was the primary source for the PST summary minute of that day describing the sinking. (See Halton's evidence of 30 July 2002, CMI 2126-2140)

We are currently preparing a detailed and sustained analysis of this new published evidence, but here below is a brief summary of our immediate observations:

  1. Compare the cable [p1, p2, p3] with an article that appeared in Indonesian Business news magazine the same day - 23 October 2001. This shows that the text of the cable must have been shown by the Embassy to Indonesian Business, as the magazine uses the same text almost verbatim. It would appear that the embassy intention was to disseminate a detailed authoritative account of the tragedy to the media with as much speed and impact as possible . Was this done in order to maximise the deterrent objective of the sinking?

    And the question must also be asked - why was it that Indonesian Business Magazine was made privy to this 'restricted' Australian Intelligence information, and yet the Australian public has had to wait more than fifteen months to see it?

  2. In a chilling new item of public evidence, we note that the cable reports that a makeshift upper deck made of chipboard had been added on to the 19.5 X four metre boat. We believe that this was done not (as the cable disingenuously suggests) to 'enhance seaworthiness', but to provide more deck space to increase the possible number of people who could be crammed onto the boat. (No previous boat of this size had carried more than 230 passengers - SIEVX embarked with 421). This supports an hypothesis that SIEVX was intended to sink through gross overloading.

  3. Compare the rescue co-ordinates that SBS Dateline obtained from the Harbor Master at Sunda Kelapa Port in Jakarta with the stated sinking position as detailed in the cable:

    'the exact position of vessel at the time of sinking is unknown, but it is judged as no further south than 8 degrees south latitude on a direct line from Sunda St. to Christmas Is.'

    We had already plotted the rescue co-ordinates on the template of the RAAF surveillance map (see map). If one now plots a latitude line at 8 degrees south it is apparent that the sinking point proposed in the DFAT cable is similarly well to the south of Indonesian territorial waters and also well inside the Operation Relex surveillance zone.

    The language of the cable strenuously tries to obfuscate where the boat sank. If it had sunk in Indonesian territorial waters, the cable would certainly have said so. For the cable to say that the boak sank 'within the Indonesian maritime search and rescue area of responsibility' (a meaningless comment as shown by our map - this nominal area extends to south of Christmas island), and 'no further south than 8 degrees', suggests that officials who drafted the cable knew all along that it sank in international waters and in the Operation Relex surveillance zone, but were trying to sanitise this unpalatable message.

    This is the final nail in the coffin for the government cover story that SIEVX sank in 'Indonesian waters' and further proof that the Prime Minister repeatedly misled the Australian public throughout the 2001 election campaign when he stated on talkback radio that the vessel sank in 'Indonesian waters' contrary to his own embassy's cabled advice of 23 October 2001. (see this article for detailed links to Howard's quotes.)

  4. Note the reference to SIEVX radioing Abu Quassey an hour into the voyage. The fact that the vessel had a radio and that it was known to be used during the voyage indicates that DSD may have picked up its transmission. Similarly DSD may have also intercepted the rescue boat transmission to its owner calling for advice on where to take the survivors.

  5. Note the large areas of black ink - what else is the government trying to conceal from us in this key cable?


[For detailed analysis of this new evidence see this article] ( 9231) | ©Copyright Marg Hutton ~ / 2002-2014