Pentecost 19B/20B, 2006
SIEV X: THE UNTOLD TRAGEDY...
No. 1. Amelia Peisley
(Urban Community Worker at The Church of St James, Curtin)
Thursday the 19 October 2006 will mark the 5th anniversary of the sinking of the boat subsequently referred to as ‘Siev X’ (suspected illegal entry vessel unknown) carrying a load of asylum seekers, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Barely hours after departing southern Sumatra, the engines failed and the boat capsized. Most of the passengers drowned, mainly women and children, however some 100 survivors managed to swim to the surface and grab onto floating debris. They spent 19 hours in the water and when two Indonesian fishing vessels eventually came to their rescue, only 45 had survived the ordeal. 353 had drowned - 146 children, 142 women and 65 men.
In 2002 psychologist and well known author of “Raising boys”, Steve Biddulph, along with a group of people within the Uniting Church (led by Revd Rod Horsfield) decided they wanted to create a permanent memorial. In 2003 Steve Biddulph and Senator Bob Brown organised a national schools campaign to find a design for the memorial. The design selected was by a 14 year old school boy from Brisbane, Mitchell Donaldson, in the shape of a boat formed by tall poles. Each pole represents a life that had been lost - a small pole for a child and a larger pole for an adult.
Some of us at St James have over the last few weeks been involved in preparing and decorating a pole for a child. The design is a simple series of curves in various colours, representing hope.
There are many books, poems, songs, documentaries, etc. about the Siev X. For those who might be interested I have downloaded some of the survivor’s stories from a web site by Marg Hutton called www.sievx.com <http://www.sievx.com/>
Many questions remain unanswered as to how much our Government knew.
Tony Kevin a Canberra resident and former foreign affairs policy analyst, diplomat and author of a book ‘A certain maritime incident’ reveals a record of government misconduct, including the Australian Federal Police’s involvement in a people smuggling disruption program. He raises many questions as to why there have been so many government ministers and senior officials who have tried to mislead the Senate over this issue. And why, to this day, the AFP will not release the names of all the survivors?
Marg Hutton on the other hand, has done extensive research into the incident and has managed to produce a list of some 80 names of the victims of this maritime tragedy.
Tony Kevin says,
“Imagine how Australians would respond to being told that the names of the dead in Bali would be withheld, possibly forever...”
The DVD presentation “The untold tragedy. Story of the Siev X” was viewed.
No. 2 . Rex A E Hunt
(Minister in Placement, The Church of St James, Curtin)
Last Sunday (15 October 2006) 10 people from St James
were part of a group of about 2,000 people who gathered in Weston Park
to remember the shameful and untold tragedy called Siev X.
In October 2001, over 400 asylum-seekers departed from Indonesia
in a grossly overcrowded, unseaworthy boat bound for Australia.
Somewhere between the two countries the boat sank,
with a terrible loss of life - 353 of the asylum-seekers drowned.
The victims of this maritime disaster were mostly women and children.
The Australian Government claimed it had no prior knowledge of this tragedy.
But today, as the result of an “accidental whistle blower” (Kevin 2004),
we know that is just not true.
And today we now know this ‘incident’ was to become
a re-election ploy by the government.
As Canberra resident and former Foreign Affairs analyst, Tony Kevin, writes:
“This tragic and shocking event was a pivotal moment in Prime Minister John Howard’s election campaign... (His) war against boat people was well planned, timed, and executed. Its primary domestic political purpose was to win back one million One Nation [ultra-conservative] voters, who saw strong border protection as a test of national leadership” (Kevin 2004:4).
So last Sunday afternoon we took our memorial pole,
donated by a St James family, and painted by three people from St James,
and raised it in commemoration.
Just prior to the raising of the pole, I watched one of the organisers
nail a name plate to it: Nargis Al Rowaimi (aged 5 years).
Since then we have been able to obtain further information:
Nargis, daughter of Hazam Al Rowaimi.
Family on Siev X: Mother, Akhlas (27 years), grandmother, Hamda, and three siblings Fatama 8, Noor 11, and Mohammed 3, all drowned.
This information was supplied by the father, Hazam, a refugee
living in Australia (Mildura) at the time, on a Temporary Visa permit.
What of Hazam? Is he still in Australia? Was he at the ceremony?
What now of our accidental ‘relationship’ with him?
Can the call 'to be resolute in gospel action' stop at the
supplying and painting and raising of a memorial pole?
Or can that act be a rehearsal to our experiencing God in the world
through his heartache and needless loss?
And now show him (Hazam) compassionate care and hospitality?
Where does Mark’s story (Mark 10:35-45a) now leave us?
Well, perhaps also close to something like the emotion
in this prayer/poem by Tom Shuman (worship-rcl chat site.
It is called ‘Where you sit’...
we leave our box seats
at the symphony or ball park,
and pray you won't catch our eye
as we pass you
sitting with the homeless;
we wait for a few minutes
at the doctor's office
to get a $10 shot
so we won't catch the flu,
while half a world away
you sit for a week
which will cost you a year's wages
finds its way to your village;
we sit in our home theatres,
watching the latest "reality"
on our plasma screens,
while you sit in the darkness,
rocking your child asleep,
as she cries from the ache
of an empty stomach.
(like James and John)
we want to be at your side
remind us where you sit. © 2006 Thom M Shuman