Angry police hit boat deaths claim
27 September 27 2002
By Sophie Douez
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has angrily denied Labor accusations that a former federal police informant was involved in the sabotage of a boat carrying asylum seekers that sank last October, killing 353 people.
Mr Keelty said federal police had not been directly or indirectly involved in sabotaging people-smuggling boats as part of the force's "disruption" operations in Indonesia and accused Labor Senate leader John Faulkner of wrongly linking fact and fiction.
He said the informant at the centre of the accusations, Kevin Enniss, had been in Kupang - 1300 kilometres away from the boat's departure point - when the vessel sailed and had stopped working for the federal police "at least" two weeks earlier.
In a speech to Federal Parliament on Wednesday night, Senator Faulkner questioned whether the government's disruption policy had extended to direct interference with people smugglers' boats, including the ill-fated SIEV X.
"We know disruption includes physically disrupting the people-smuggling syndicates and the asylum seekers who seek assistance," Senator Faulkner said yesterday.
"What are the limits? Precisely what disruption activities are undertaken at the behest of, with the knowledge of or broadly authorised by the Australian Government?"
Senator Faulkner has called for an independent judicial inquiry into allegations that Mr Enniss paid Indonesian locals to scuttle people-smuggling boats with passengers on board.
Mr Enniss received $25,000 from the federal police for acting as an informant on people-smuggling operations in West Timor in 2000 and last year.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Keelty said Senator Faulkner had chosen to "sully the reputation" of the Australian Federal Police, "and myself as the commissioner, instead of availing himself of the facts". "The AFP has never been involved in the sabotaging of vessels either directly or indirectly."
Senior government MPs, Justice Minister Chris Ellison and Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, yesterday backed Mr Keelty, calling the allegations "disgraceful".