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SIEV-X: Hide, Deride, Derail By Ayesha Wasim Journalist Of The West Australian

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It has been approximately two decades since the mysterious yet devastating sinking of the small, arcane and unseaworthy asylum seeker boat- later dubbed SIEV X- that left Bandar Lampung Indonesia with 421 passengers on board, on 18 October 2001 and sank one day later near Java. Many think the sinking of SIEV X was just a ploy by Australia to warn asylum seekers to stay away but you heard it here ladies and gentlemen; this was and is a cleverly planned and contrived lie for Indonesia to get back at Australia.

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Surveys we all know them and have done them countless times. On an early 2001 government survey it was stated that 33% of Australians regard Indonesia as their biggest threat. You can imagine Indonesia’s reaction when they heard that. Was it just a coincidence that a few months later an asylum seeker boat sank? And that Indonesia blamed it on Australia while it was blindingly obvious Australia was not at fault. Hide, deride and derail that was their purpose.

Passengers later reported that they were forced aboard at gunpoint by armed Indonesian Security Personnel threatening to shoot anyone who stepped of the boat. Siev-X survivor Issam Ismail said ‘They were carrying automatic guns… we saw them with our own eyes, they had weapons we’d never seen before.’ After a quick stop on an island in the Sunda Strait where 23 Mandaean passengers had bribed the driver with $800 to get off the boat worried for their lives, the boat continued rocking dangerously with water leaking from the broken hull. Despite worry churning their stomachs the refugees continued in high hopes of reaching Australia and its crisp blue seas.

Then disaster struck, one of two engines failed as soon as the boat reached open sea (cause unclear) and rocked unsteadily until the boat had capsized. Curiously, the boat ‘broke quickly in the water’ as fast as an adult on a seesaw one could say at around 2pm some 50 km south of the western tip of Java. Survivors were saved after around 22 hours in the water by an Indonesian fishing boat on 20th of October and were then taken to Jakarta on 22 October. They met media on 23 October and were notifying the world about their story on 23rd of October.

Some may argue why Australia did not alert ships to go save the refugees or even intercept the ship. Simple. Airforce P3 Orion’s group commander said ‘It was a tragedy but unfortunately, we had no safety of life at sea indications’. This order of events displays Australian authorities did not deliberately ignore the desperate call and plight of SIEV X. Australia is not to blame. This is Indonesia’s game. In their spite as they have killed over 300 people just because their ego was cracked. Real mature. Crying over petty things and throwing fits mature.

The occurrence that could have and would have occurred is that Indonesian spies hijacked the boat before it sailed off; there are accounts of ‘passengers being forced to bail water flowing in through a large crack in the hull’. For many people the facts have become irrelevant and they go with the flow and pay no mind to the concrete facts in front of them.

If the SIEV X disaster stays un-investigated, shrouded in mystery and drowned in suspicion of Australia’s potential then it is cynical, unjust and errant to automatically blame this sequence of events to be an Australian ploy. For Indonesia such is their need to blame Australia that their actual purpose is lost amid a shroud of myths, legends and conspiracy theories. Such that only people who have done their research know their false ‘truths’. Media bias is powerful.

For a person like me who has only spent 1 week thoroughly researching the case from scratch this is like a jigsaw puzzle where the missing pieces are playing hide and seek. But when you do find them. It seems so obvious that the one causing the mess and acting like the protagonist is also the antagonist of its own story.

The sinking also backfired on Indonesia, albeit it cost more than 300 lives but on a positive note the sinking of SIEV-X on October 19 saved Australia’s faltering border protection regime. The effect was immediate: asylum seeker voyages stopped. No more boats set out from Indonesia since then even though the upcoming cyclone season was a while away. Canberra Times commentated saying ‘A previously uncooperative Indonesian Government shocked by the tragedy in its ‘adjacent waters’, quickly agreed to co-host with Australia in a people-smuggling conference.’ Another horrifying account by Indonesian refugees has said ‘Indonesian authorities have, at times, helped push boats out to sea knowing they are not seaworthy.’ This has occurred countless times whose to deny one more?

Evidence has also stated that the boat sunk in Indonesian waters not Australian as widely ‘known’. An OP Rolex report ‘…suspected to have sunk in Indonesian territorial seas…’ and defence head staff report saying ‘sunk in ITS (Indonesian Territorial Seas). What would Australia gain except a push in their election? Why would Australia go to such great lengths?

Nobody knows the whole story. Nobody saw it all. Even though its not hard to say that one of two countries have lied, maybe getting back at Australia wasn’t Indonesia’s only motive maybe it’s the start of something bigger. But all we know is that Australia needs to keep its friends close and enemies closer. This may just be a game with being Shane Dawson and cracking the conspiracies the goal but to what limit will we go? Like Lois Bujold said, ‘The dead cannot cry for justice, it’s the duty of the living to do so for them.’

Now is the time to stand up and refuse to be hidden, derided and derailed. We may never know the truth, but every research is one step closer, one step closer to the truth.

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