Rescue team unaware of sinking
Tiarma Siboro
The Jakarta Post
27 October 2001

When news about a boat packed with 418 Middle Eastern asylum seekers sank last week, there was no word on what Search and Rescue teams were doing.

Forty-four survivors said they were helped by fishermen after floating in the rough seas for two days.

The Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) broke its silence on Friday -- in self defense.

Sukapdjioto, the agency's operational director, said he received no distress call that fateful Friday night. The agency did receive an alert notice from Australia, but the ill-fated boat's whereabouts were unclear.

"Such illegal boats have communication equipment. We tried to locate the boat around Banten but to no avail," he said.

Sukapdjioto also acknowledged that the agency was not well-equipped. Funds are short and the whole of Indonesia only has seven rescue boats, 10 helicopters and 24 offices. Each office has six rescuers.

He said that, due to the fund shortage, the agency did not carry out patrols and only conducted rescue operations when they were called upon.

He said that boatpeople often resorted to cunning tactics to get what they wanted. The most common tactic is damaging their boat when help is in sight, Sukapdjioto said.

"Many Indonesian seafarers who know the trick refuse to help them. They know the boat people will demand they be taken to a destination by force," he said.


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