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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
SIEVX - Not Forgotten

by Marg Hutton
22 September 2004

'Let's keep alive their memory
Don't let them rewrite the history'

Sen. Andrew Bartlett

For anyone who doubts the Senate's commitment to fully investigating the sinking of SIEVX and the people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia, two things occurred during the last week that show that this issue is still very much front and centre as far as Senators Andrew Bartlett and John Faulkner are concerned.

At the 'Rock Against Howard' concert in Sydney on Friday night, Senator Bartlett took to the stage accompanied by Phil McKenna and Clare Kildea and performed the song Time and Tide by 'Those Bloody McKennas' which commemorates the SIEVX tragedy - (click here to see Bartlett's performance or here).

While Bartlett is not the best singer in the world, the fact that he chose to sing this particular song indicates his depth of feeling about this issue. Bartlett has consistently demonstrated a passionate commitment to government accountability in this matter.

As a member of the CMI Committee that included an investigation of SIEVX in its terms of reference, Bartlett would be well aware of the deception and coverup by various government agencies regarding their knowledge of SIEVX prior to the sinking.

In November 2002 during a debate in the Senate over the migration zone excision he made his position on SIEVX clear :

The government tried to beat up a bit of fear, loathing and urgency when they first moved to extend the number of islands that were excised by saying, "There's a boat on the way. It's out there somewhere with 16 Vietnamese or something, and we had better pass this." Of course, that boat was never heard of again. I do not know if it was another one we knew about but let sink, like SIEVX, or whether it never existed in the first place or what happened... [emphasis added] (Hansard, p.6448)

It should also be remembered that it was Senator Bartlett who first opened up the issue of SIEVX organiser, Abu Quassey's extradition to Australia and challenged the government to do everything in its power to ensure Quassey was brought to justice following his release from prison in Indonesia on New Years Day, 2003.

Last October, after the fourth Senate motion concerning SIEVX was passed, Bartlett delivered a very powerful and moving speech that made it clear why the SIEVX issue resonates so strongly for him:

It will be a day and a date I will always remember, because 19 October 2001, the day that all those children drowned, was the same day that my first and only daughter, Lillith, was born. She is, in my view, the most beautiful girl ever born - I apologise to everybody else who might have children, but that is just the way it is - and to think that, at the same time that she was being born and all the wonder that goes with that, there were 146 children whose lives were about to end as they struggled in the water in such fear and terror. It is indeed a tragedy, and it is one that should be remembered. They were all trying to seek a better life... Many people, including so many children, did not make it and I think the tragedy needs to be acknowledged.

Clearly Senator Bartlett has a powerful and enduring personal and political commitment to making the government accountable for its role in this huge tragedy.


It is exactly two years to the day tomorrow, since Senator Faulkner delivered the first of three very powerful and extremely confronting adjournment speeches regarding the people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia. In the climax to the final speech Faulkner raised the possibility that the sinking of SIEVX may have been an outcome of a covert disruption operation in Indonesia and made it clear that a judicial inquiry was needed to fully investigate this matter:

And what about the vessel now known as SIEVX, part of the people-smuggling operation of the notorious people smuggler Abu Quassey? That vessel set sail on 18 October 2001 and sank on 19 October 2001, drowning 353 people, including 142 women and 146 children. Were disruption activities directed against Abu Quassey? Did these involve SIEVX?

I intend to keep asking questions until I find out. And, Mr Acting Deputy President, I intend to keep pressing for an independent judicial inquiry into these very serious matters.

At no stage do I want to break, nor will I break, the protocols in relation to operational matters involving ASIS or the AFP.

But, those protocols were not meant as a direct or an indirect licence to kill.

In an article in The Australian last month Faulkner again committed an incoming Labor government to a full judicial inquiry into the disruption operations and SIEVX.

And in recent days, several readers of this site have sent us copies of emails they have received from Senator Faulkner in reply to queries regarding Labor's current position on SIEVX. Faulkner makes it abundantly clear that Labor is as firmly committed to a judicial inquiry as it ever was:

...In relation to SIEVX and Australia's disruption programme in Indonesia, Labor has never shirked from seeking answers to these questions. Ultimately, however, we believe the only way we can fully examine the disruption programme in Indonesia and the circumstances surrounding SIEVX is through a full independent judicial inquiry. This was also the conclusion that the Certain Maritime Incident Committee came to in 2002.

If elected to government, Labor will establish such an inquiry.

Thank you Senators for keeping the issue alive and for your commitment to uncovering the truth.

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