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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
More Questions On SIEVX Coverup

by Marg Hutton
12 February 2004

The more one researches the evidence concerning SIEVX provided to the CMI Committee the more it becomes apparent that vital information was concealed by just about every government agency that appeared before it.

Today I am publishing a letter which I wrote to the Minister For Immigration last month concerning DIMIA's evidence to the Committee.

I have yet to receive a response...

29 March Update:
It is now exactly two months (and nearly nine full weeks) since I first wrote to Minister Vanstone. On 15 March I mailed a second copy of this letter to the Minister along with a covering note asking when I might reasonably expect a response. I am yet to receive an acknowledgement that either letter was received...

   
Senator The Honourable Amanda Vanstone
Minister For Immigration and Multiculturalism
and Indigenous Affairs
Suite MF 40
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Re: CRUCIAL OMISSION IN DIMIA'S EVIDENCE TO THE CMI COMMITTEE CONCERNING SIEVX

Dear Minister,

I wish to draw your attention to what appears to be deliberate withholding and misrepresentation of information by your department in order to suppress public acknowledgement of the Australian Government's contribution to the deaths of 353 people.

Recent research has brought to light the fact that in March 2001, just seven months before the SIEVX disaster, Abu Quassey, the notorious people-smuggler who organised the fatal SIEVX voyage, sent 22 asylum seekers to Christmas Island aboard an unseaworthy vessel that broke down and drifted for a week before being rescued.

This boat - codenamed 'Gelantipy' by your Department - was one of the few Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels (SIEVs) to be the subject of an AusSAR alert. So there can be little doubt that prior to the SIEVX tragedy, the Intelligence Analysis Section of the Border Protection Branch of your department was well aware of Abu Quassey's role as the organiser of a life-threatening voyage requiring rescue by Australian authorities.[1]

Yet when DIMIA Deputy Secretary, Edward Killesteyn and Acting Deputy Secretary Nellie Siegmund were questioned at the CMI Committee on 11 July 2002 regarding the reference in the People Smuggling Taskforce (PST) Minutes of 18 October 2001 to 'some risk of vessels in poor condition and rescue at sea' they claimed that this reference was in no way connected to Abu Quassey's vessel (SIEVX) and that it in fact referred solely to the boat of another people smuggler.(see CMI 2014-2016)[2]

The CMI Committee was reassured by DIMIA's evidence and cited it in the CMI Report as proof that the PST minute of 18 October did not refer to SIEVX:

'Contrary to some of the speculation based on the PST notes, the mention of "some risk of vessels in poor condition and rescue at sea" did not relate to SIEV X but, rather, the condition of the other organiserís vessels. Ms Siegmund mentioned that that particular organiser "had previously used boats in poor condition".' (CMI Report para 8.51 - see also paras 8.45, 8.46, 9.108 and 9.119)

If the Committee had been made aware that a previous Abu Quassey vessel had required rescue only months before SIEVX sailed it is highly unlikely that they would have reached this conclusion. I believe they would have probed further about Australia's feeble response to SIEVX's failure to arrive.

I would like to know why was there no mention in any of the October 2001 DIMA Intelligence notes of the fact that Abu Quassey had organised a vessel that required rescue at sea by Australian authorities. It seems very strange that this observation should be made about the organiser of another vessel and not about Quassey, given that he had sent a boat to Christmas Island earlier in 2001 that was the subject of an AMSA alert and a rescue.[3]

I would also like to know why this information was withheld from the CMI Committee by your department?

I believe that throughout the life of the CMI Committee there was a pattern of withholding evidence related to SIEVX that challenged the government's position. We saw it last year when the infamous DFAT cable of 23 October 2001 was finally submitted to the Senate seven months after the CMI Committee initially requested it from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. This cable which contradicted the Prime Minister's claims about where SIEVX sank was notably absent in virtually all testimony to the Committee despite having been distributed to 40 high-level recipients including the Prime Minister.

Can you reassure me that this is not the case here?

Yours sincerely,

Marg Hutton
29 January 2004

copies to:
Senator Collins
Senator Cook
Senator Faulkner
Senator Kirk
Senator Bartlett
Senator Brown


NOTES

1. A few days after the sinking of SIEVX, journalist Don Greenlees wrote an article about Abu Quassey for the Australian newspaper, which included the information that Quassey had sent a boat (Gelantipy) to Christmas Island in March 2001. Presumably Greenlees was briefed by Australian authorities as this information was not then in the public domain. It would appear that Greenlees' sources also withheld the crucial information that Gelantipy required rescue, as he claimed that the boat had 'made it to Christmas Island'. See http://sievx.com/articles/psdp/20011026DonGreenlees.html

2. Mr Killesteyn informed the CMI Committee that the source of the reference in the PST minute was the DIMA Intelligence note (DIN) of 18 October. However it appears that it was the DIN of 19 October rather than 18 October which made reference to a 'vessel in very poor condition' and the possibility of 'a rescue at sea'.

3. The DIN of 19 October makes the observation that Quassey's boats 'often take longer to complete the journey to Christmas Island... possibly because of the departure point (south- west Java) and the prevailing currents and the use of smaller boats.' Given that Gelantipy was adrift for a week in the waters between Java and Christmas Island and required emergency rescue in order to 'complete the journey', this seems a particularly odd comment.


SOURCES

Boat requiring rescue:
http://sievx.com/articles/psdp/20010327AMSAMediaRelease.html
http://sievx.com/articles/psdp/20010328MeganSaunders.html
http://sievx.com/articles/psdp/20010328EllisonMediaRelease1.html

Boat codenamed 'Gelantipy':
http://sievx.com/articles/psdp/DIMIA74a_boatarrivals.pdf

'Gelantipy' organised by Quassey (QoN #55):
http://sievx.com/testimony/2003/20030109AFPQuestionsOnNotice.html

Mr Killesteyn & Ms Siegmund's testimony to CMI Committee:
http://sievx.com/testimony/individuals/DIMIA2.pdf

PST Minute of 18 October 2001:
http://sievx.com/images/PST/1018.gif

DIN of 18 October 2001 :
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_10.gif
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_11.gif
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_12.gif
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_13.gif

DIN of 19 October 2001:
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_14.gif
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_15.gif
http://sievx.com/images/CMI_Docs/DIMIA_16.gif

CMI Report chapters 8 & 9: http://sievx.com/testimony/report/ch08.pdf
http://sievx.com/testimony/report/ch09.pdf

Silence re the DFAT cable of 23 October 2001 :
http://sievx.com/articles/challenging/2003/COS.pdf

 
 

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