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Mary Davies: Sievx - Titanic And A Tennis Court

Sievx - Titanic And A Tennis Court

by Mary Dagmar Davies

On October 19, 2001 an unnamed fishing boat carrying over 400 refugees bound for Australia sank. 353 people just like us, 146 children, 142 women & 65 men, died under the Southern Cross.


Most of us are watching Wimbledon - At 19.5 metres long SIEVX was four metres shorter than a tennis court and less than half it's width (tennis court 23.774 m x 10.973 m). A tennis court looks full when a doubles match is in progress. It is chilling to visualise over 400 people being forced at gun point onto a tiny, leaky boat that could have been dry docked on a tennis court on one side of the centre line with room to spare. We travel and would know the population of many small towns, and villages in many parts of the world is less than 400. The population of Lord Howe Island, an idyllic holiday island of the Australian coast was recorded as 300 in 2002.


It is estimated that Douglas Wood will receive a boatload of money, between $AU250,000 and $AU400.000, for his interview on the Ten Network. There is nothing wrong with that but how different it is for the people of SIEVX. The mainstream media willingly pay when their stories are told by contributing writers and there is nothing wrong with that. But the people of SIEVX, Amal Basry, the other survivors and the next of kin get zero, zip, nada, nothing. It is their story. They endured the suffering. They were there.


Australia's longest serving detainee PETER QASIM has been locked up for seven years for doing absolutely nothing that could be construed as a criminal activity. SIEVX smuggler ABU QUASSEY got just seven years for sending 353 people to their deaths in an unseaworthy boat.

The Howard Government believed the survivors and next of kin of the SIEVX tragedy would take comfort in the sentence and the fine imposed of $AU111.00. Immigration Minister Vanstone on December 28, 2003 made it apparent that the Howard Government was content to set the monetary value of a human life at 31 cents.

353 valuable human lives rounding down at the checkout of the human supermarket this is the docket from the cash register:-
146 CHILDEN total value $AU45.25
142 WOMEN total value $AU44.00
65 MEN total value $AU20.00

At the time of the Vanstone statement, ironically the Howard Government and the Latham Opposition occupied 146 seats in the House of Representatives which equals the number of children who perished in the SIEVX tragedy.

Of course unlike the blameless Mr Peter Qasim is far less fortunate than the guilty smuggler. On December 6, 2004 Marg Hutton of filed this report "In a disturbing development in the SIEVX story, Abu Quassey, the mastermind behind the fatal SIEVX voyage, has had his jail sentence reduced by 21 months. He will be free in a little over four years time".


The survivors who went to other countries were granted immediate citizenship. Survivors in Australia had to wait nearly three and a half years in fearful limbo before being grantly permanent residency. Many of the next of kin who have lost their entire families continue to wait in uncertainty.


We still talk of the Titanic over one hundred years after the sinking and in the year 2105 no doubt people around the world will still speak of SIEVX. For who can forget the 146 children, 142 women and 65 men who died under the Southern Cross.


In the days after the sinking of the Titanic almost 200 bodies were retrieved from the Atlantic. On October 30 2001, Claire Harvey reported in the Australian "Indonesian authorities have recovered most of the 353 people who drowned on October 19 when an overcrowded boat carrying 397 asylum-seekers bound for Australia sank off Java."

Bereaved family members in Australia were not permitted to go to Indonesia to identify their loved ones or give comfort to wives or children who survived. Where the bodies of SIEVX?

The 353 death toll of SIEVX was just over a quarter of that of Titanic in which 1595 perished. 535 Titanic passengers were saved and 210 crew. The overall length of Titanic was 269 meters her beam measured 28 meters, she stretched the length of four city blocks. Repeat At 19.5 metres long SIEVX was four metres shorter than a tennis court and less than half it's width (tennis court 23.774 m x 10.973 m).

Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 and Britain and America immediately conducted investigations. U.S. Senate Committee on the Titanic Disaster Issued Final Report to Congress on May 28,1912 and the British Board of Inquiry published Titanic Investigation Findings on July 30, 1912. Four years after the sinking of SIEVX there is still no inquiry.


The death toll of SIEVX is just over a ninth of that in Washington and New York on that terrible day that changed the world. There was quite properly an outpouring of grief throughout the world for September 11. But in the months following the sinking of SIEVX a deadly, ignoble silence fell as the Howard Government and Beazley Opposition in the middle of an election campaign distanced themselves from the event.


Terrible tragedies but how different the reaction of the people of Australia, the media of Australia and the Government of Australia. Why was there so much less concern for the people of SIEVX?


SIEVX is indeed an Australian tragedy. The way we have treated the people of SIEVX represents all that is wrong with the Australian psyche and the body politic. Our pretense of decency, generosity, fairness and democracy unravels at the mention of SIEVX

You can post a message of condolence.

JANNAH THE SIEVX MEMORIAL is dedicated to compassion and remembrance and the triumph of the human spirit.
You are welcome to add your tributes, thoughts or prayers for the people of SIEVX.
To add a message of condolence please use the following link: submit a condolence message


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