Questions raised about Indonesia's rescue coordination

Matt Brown
The World Today | Duration: 4min 14sec

Updated June 22, 2012 13:44:00

Indonesian authorities say they've received no advice from one of their navy boats in the vicinity of the capsized vessel believed to be carrying more than 200 asylum seekers. The ABC has seen a fax sent from Australian to Indonesian authorities about a boat in distress and asking Indonesia to respond. Questions are now being asked why it took the Indonesians more than 30 hours to respond.

Topics: maritime, refugees, christmas-island-6798, australia


TANYA NOLAN: For the latest on the Indonesian search effort we cross now to Jakarta to speak with our correspondent Matt Brown.

Matt, we've just heard from the Maritime Safety Authority that there are unconfirmed reports of bodies still in the water. What are you hearing from Indonesian authorities?

MATT BROWN: Not very much, I've got to say. Their naval vessel is thought to be in the vicinity but the Indonesian search and rescue agency hasn't heard from them. They were expected to arrive there overnight or around dawn our time this morning and the equivalent of AMSA (Australian Maritime Rescue Authority) in Australia here, Basarnas is saying they just haven't heard from the navy so they don't know what the Indonesian navy is doing.

TANYA NOLAN: Have you also heard any talk or any confirmation that there is still hope of finding survivors just as we heard there from the Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare?

MATT BROWN: Um, it would be irrelevant from Indonesian authorities because they don't have anyone on the scene. The coordination effort here has some very big questions over it. We have heard from the Minister about these phone calls from the boat saying we are taking on water, I'm looking at a fax sent from the Australian rescue coordination centre to their Indonesian search and rescue counterpart that broadly gels with what the Minister has said.

This was received at about 2.08am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday. That is about half an hour after the call he spoke about where the people on board said we are 38 nautical miles south of the Indonesian mainland.

Now at that point, the Indonesian search and rescue agency was being told by the Australians, look this boat is close to you, we want you to take coordination of this and we would like you to do something about it. At the moment what we are being told by the Indonesians is that they didn't send a boat out to look until yesterday morning. That is possibly 36 hours after that initial request was made.

Now you can tell from what I've said to you about what they know about what the Indonesian navy is doing right now that there is not perfect coordination here and that these sorts of communications are very incomplete but that is the picture we are looking at the moment.

How quickly did actually the Indonesian authorities respond to this information coming out of Australia?

TANYA NOLAN: We've also been hearing about a second boat full of possible asylum seekers, what more do we know about that?

MATT BROWN: Yeah, well a second boat we should say actually an earlier boat. I am looking at still more faxes and I should say we have got an incomplete set of communications here but I'm looking at faxes now from Sunday night, Australian Eastern Standard Time from the Australian search and rescue agency to their Indonesian counterpart saying we're getting reports of a boat that has come from Sri Lanka, that set sail on the first of the month and that it's somewhere between 200 kilometres and 200 nautical miles away from Christmas Island.

They gave Indonesia possible coordinates and asked Indonesian authorities to investigate because one of the spots, the furthest away from Christmas Island was actually close to the south-west tip of Java and that was followed up again later on that Sunday night, requesting permission for Australian authorities to mount an aerial search into Indonesian military air space.

So from this set of faxes we have a question rather than to the Indonesian authorities in the first instance.

Back to the Australians because I haven't heard anything about what happened on Sunday night or according to this fax, a search was planned for Monday morning. What happened? Did a set of planes go up and look for a Sri Lankan boat early Monday morning because this fax was saying we want permission to get into your military air space, we need that based on the agreements between our two governments and we'll be sending civilian and military aircraft including the navy surveillance plane.

So there is still a question mark in my mind about what actually happened to that report and was a search mounted and was there ever a boat and if there was, where is it?

TANYA NOLAN: Many more questions to be answered. Our Indonesia correspondent Matt Brown, thank you.

MATT BROWN: Thank you.


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