Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
In the midst of the deep night, the oceans waves were fighting aggressively against the boat and the people were in great fear. They did not know what their future beheld. Their only wish was to start a better life, someplace where their children could be happy. Suddenly the boat flipped over. People were plunged into the cold freezing water. People were floating hoping that they won’t die, but the most heartbreaking moment was when the screams of helpless children faded away. Soon, it was all quiet; the life of three-hundred-and-fifty-three people had just slipped away.
It’s been 17 years since Australia’s maritime mass murder, in which 353 lives of asylum seekers were lost in a small overcrowded hopeless ship yet many important questions that were asked about the catastrophe still remain unanswered.
On the evening of October 19, 2001, the passengers of the SIEV X (suspected illegal entry vessel X) who came mainly from Iran and Afghanistan drowned in the international waters between Australia and Indonesia. The boat was desperately trying to get to Christmas Island, but tragically sank. There were only 41 survivors out of the 353 people onboard. These poor souls clung to the wreckage from the boat for at least 20 hours before being rescued by Indonesian fishing boats.
Once this tragedy was made public, many people started to ask many questions: Could anyone have saved the boat? Could Australia have saved the lives of those innocent people? Did anyone even know about this boat? What was the Australian government’s role in this incident? Was anything being covered up?
On the 18th October 2001, the Navy Forces revealed that they had received news from the AFP (Australian Federal Police) from Indonesia, who were in charge of the illegal boats entering Australia, reported the departure on the 22nd of October and the possible risk to life on the SEIV X boat, but the soldier in charge of delivering the reports had left out the ‘extra information’.
When a reporter asked John Howard, the Prime Minister, who he thought was responsible for the tragedy of the SIEV X boat, he forcefully and repetitively maintained that ‘Australia didn’t know’ when clearly Australia did.
On the October 23rd 2001, Mr Howard, in a letter to the PM’s Press conference stated, “We had nothing to do with it, it sank, I repeat, sunk in the Indonesian waters not in Australian waters. It sunk in the Indonesian waters and apparently that’s our fault.”That is quite absurd because at that time the navy team in charge of finding the boat itself had no information where it sunk and was still out on a search.
The public started to question the government again through conferences and relied on the journalists who desperately wanted to find out the truth, like myself. Their answers clearly, were full of guilt. When a journalist asked John Howard, how he knew where the boat sank before the information was made public, he repeatedly answered, “Well I’m telling you I have got nothing to add to what I’ve said”.
Even after the information of where the boat sank was made public, Australia continued to blame Indonesia and believed that they did all the ‘dirty work’. But I have a question, how the Australian Government had the audacity to blame Indonesia for doing nothing when the Australian Government itself did nothing, but just continued being a bystander.
Our suspicions grew when a whistleblower Tony Kevin, a former diplomat, opened our blind eyes. Mr Kevin recalled 3 main events that happened in the same year and outlined how they can possibly link up. The Tampa’s rescue of 365 asylum seekers from ‘Palapa’ on the 26th August 2001, where the Australian government’s failed attempt to force the captain of the people smuggler’s boat to take the 365 asylum seekers away from Australia, HMAS (ship) Adelaide’s two-day encounter with SIEV 4 on 7th to 8th October, where they had towed the SIEV 4 boat and saved the asylum-seekers, and last but not least the tragedy of the SIEV X boat.
All of these events were failed attempts by the Howard Government, to make the asylum seekers to go back where they came from. This new strategy was being planned from months-Tampa was merely the trigger. At this point, it was pretty clear what the Howard Government was trying to do. They took any chance to scare the asylum seekers who came illegally into Australia. For example, the navy ships would have given loudhailer warnings, then they repeated volleys of cannon and they would use their machinegun to fire across the bows and would do many more cruel things. After the Tampa, the Howard Government planned to stop any more asylum seekers landing at Christmas Island or anywhere near Australia.
Since the release of Tony Kevin’s speech, many people believed that this is a ‘conspiracy theory’, or a ‘rumour’. These people are simply the followers of John Howard and were trying to dodge the truth, so that they would not ruin the reputation of the Howard Government, or more specifically, don’t ruin the chances of John Howard winning the 2001 Australian Federal Election.
Surely this makes everyone angry, forget the Australia that has the kindest people on earth, and open your blind eyes, see the truth that’s been hiding behind the governments back for a long time. It’s time Australia realises what harm they have caused just like they did with the stolen generation.