Fresh doubt on refugee tragedy
Mark Phillips
Brisbane Courier Mail
21 July 2003

NEW evidence about the sinking of the asylum seeker boat known as SIEV X has prompted fresh calls for a judicial inquiry.

Retired diplomat Tony Kevin says the new information about the location of the boat when it sank - with the loss of 353 lives - suggests a Defence cover-up.

Mr Kevin says the new evidence points towards the boat sinking in international waters, but within Australia's area of search and rescue responsibility.

This has always been denied by the Australian Defence Force and the Government, which also denies ever sighting the boat before or after it sank.

Only 44 people survived when SIEV X sank on October 19, 2001.

Senior Defence officers told the Senate inquiry into the children overboard affair - which cleared the ADF of negligence - that while they could not be certain, they believed the boat had sunk in or near the Sunda Strait in Indonesian waters.

But Mr Kevin, a former ambassador to Cambodia and Poland who was a witness at the children overboard inquiry, said a recently released cable from the Australian embassy in Jakarta raised new doubts about that explanation.

The October 23, 2001 cable was released during Senate estimates hearings in February.

The cable placed the sinking of the boat well outside Indonesian territorial waters.

Mr Kevin said the cable was a "smoking gun" which undermined previous Defence testimony.

Working with an oceanographer, Mr Kevin and a co-researcher, Marg Hutton, have calculated that the boat must have sunk within the surveillance zone of Operation Relex.

A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Robert Hill said there had been no new evidence to force a reopening of the inquiry.


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