Aussie 'Whistleblower of year'
By Nikki Todd
Breaking News Online
31 March 2003

RETIRED Australian diplomat Tony Kevin has been named 'Whistleblower of the Year' by a British-based media watchdog for his work uncovering details of the sinking of Siev-X.

Mr Kevin, a former Australian ambassador to Cambodia, was awarded the title by the London-based Index on Censorship (IOC), an independent organisation monitoring media coverage of world events.

In a statement, the IOC said Mr Kevin was awarded the title for his "dogged investigation and public comments (which) broke the Canberra cover-up and drew worldwide attention to the cruelties of Australia's anti-asylum seeker strategy".

The overloaded fishing boat, named Siev-X by authorities, sank in October 2001 off the Sumatra coast while transporting mainly Iraqi asylum seekers from Indonesia to the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

A total of 353 people, including more than 100 children, died in the tragedy.

The flow of asylum seekers to Australia halted after this incident and that of the Tampa.

Mr Kevin, who uncovered substantial information about Siev-X including the possibility it may have been sabotaged, said while he did not believe Australia was directly responsible for the incident, it may have contributed to it.

"Australia was running a people smuggling disruption program that may very well have generated a scenario in which Siev-X was sunk by some of the people the Australian Federal Police were working with," Mr Kevin said.

Prime Minister John Howard has flatly denied any responsibility for the incident, claiming the boat sank in Indonesian waters outside Australian jurisdiction.

Mr Kevin said he believed the Howard government had concealed its knowledge of the incident but the truth would eventually surface.

"I am not a whistleblower in the sense that I have secret information on Siev-X, that I have revealed," he said.

"That is really the person we are still waiting for, the person from inside the system who can tell us what actually happened on Siev-X."

The alleged people smuggler in charge of Siev-X, Egyptian national Abu Quessey, remains in detention in Indonesia on unrelated immigration charges.

Other recipients of the Free Expression Awards include the influential Arab TV station al-Jazeera for its coverage of the war in Iraq and BBC correspondent Fergal Keane for his stories on the Zimbabwe crisis.

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