A possie in Aussie

October 2, 2009

Asylum seeker boat blast: Who dunnit?

The inquiry into the blast on the boat that killed five asylum seekers off north-west Australia earlier this year was caused by arson, the Northern Territory Police inquiry has found. Sabotage behind refugees’ boat blast: Australian police

I receiver the following email from Pamela Curr this morning, who says that the inquiry in fact raises more questions than answers as to the cause of the fire.

Pamela’s email is as follows:

“While strongly exonerating the Navy from any wrongdoing, the inquiry claims that film footage of the events showing Naval personnel kicking victims away from rescue boats cannot be seen or considered.

The inquiry concludes that an unnamed and unknown asylum seeker deliberately lit the fire but that there is not enough evidence to charge this person. Claims that asylum seekers poured petrol all over the boat do not provide an explanation as to how this took place in light of the fact that for 24 hours the Navy had total control of the boat and that the asylum seekers were sitting on the deck floor under armed guard which would make it difficult to do what the police inquiry claims.

There is also no explanation as to how a fire could be deliberately started if strict boarding protocols were carried out. These protocols dictate that naval personnel when boarding an asylum seeker boat must secure and contain the passengers immediately under armed guard, must then search the boat for weapons and flammable materials and remove same. How is it that the men were sat on the deck floor for 24 hours under guard, next to the leaking petrol drums? All witnesses have commented on the strong smell of petrol on the boat. How and why did naval personnel allow these frightened men to smoke in close proximity to the fuel?

The inquiry claims that the boat was being transferred to Christmas Island when the Navy themselves have admitted that the men were not told what was going to happen to them or where they were going. Indeed evidence was presented that some men were told that they were being sent back to Indonesia without any refugee assessment. This was a practice of the previous government but so far not the Rudd Government which is more inclined to adhere to the International Conventions which Australia has signed. This begs another question- were the Navy “riding cowboy” and trying to frighten the asylum seekers or were they intending to push them back to Indonesia.

An urgent Coronial Inquiry is needed to provide answers to these questions and provide some truth and clarity to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated. It would seem that this police inquiry is based on half the evidence with a strong bias to ensure that the Navy is presented in a good light.

Pamela Curr is the coordinator of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre


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