Mysterious photo at SIEV X disaster memorial prompts hope unknown victim might be identified

ABC News
15 November 2019
By Jake Evans

Bashar Nazar

A photo of a young man and a homemade plaque pushed into a white pole using thumbtacks.
Photo: Caretakers are hoping to find the person who placed the photo of Bashar at the SIEV X memorial. (ABC News: Jake Evans)

About half of the more than 400 people who were onboard the ill-fated Indonesian fishing boat SIEV X, which sank en route to Christmas Island in 2001, have never been formally identified.

Now it appears one of those victims may be known.

On a peninsula on the shore of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin, adjoining the prestigious Royal Canberra Golf Club, a memorial dedicated to SIEV X's 353 victims weaves along the park lawn.

Each of its white poles has been painted with children's art some are marked with the names and ages of victims, and some simply say "young boy" or "unknown father".

Dozens of white poles snake through a park in Canberra.

But recently, caretakers found a photo of 23-year-old Bashar Nazar had been placed with care on one of the "unknown" poles, and they believe it was laid there by his family.

Caretaker Paul Meyer said they were maintaining the memorial when they came across the photo.

"It's a laminated photo, a nice looking young man, and we were wondering, well, what should we do about this?"

Dr Meyer said they wanted to find the family or friends who placed it there to help honour Mr Nazar.

They have called for anyone who might know about him to contact the committee.

"It would mean he could be appropriately remembered at the memorial," Dr Meyer said.

Little known about victims two decades later

The SIEV X sank in international waters off the coast of the Indonesian island of Java on the 19th of October 2001, at the height of the federal election, as it headed to Christmas Island.

Forty-four people were rescued by an Indonesian boat, but a Senate committee investigation into the affair found Australian authorities did not know about the foundering of the SIEV X until three days later.

"[It was] extraordinary that a major human disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations, and remain undetected until three days after," the committee wrote at the time.

The survivor accounts were described by that committee as a picture of "human suffering" and "tragedy".

Eighteen years later, only half of the victims of that disaster are known to refugee groups and to the memorial committee.

Dr Meyer said being able to identify one of those would be an honour.

"That would be a wonderful thing to do," he said.


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