Indonesian commandos attempt raid on refugee boat
[TamilNet, Thursday, 03 December 2009, 11:19 GMT]
Politicians and human rights groups have slammed Indonesia after claims that several high speed navy ships surrounded a boat carrying 250 Tamils docked at the Indonesian port of Merak and tried to storm the boat in an attempt to end a tense standoff that has lasted almost 8 weeks.
The refugees, including several women and children, were intercepted by the Indonesian Navy at the request of the Australian Government en route to Christmas Island and have refused to leave the boat since October 11th until Australia grants them asylum.
Reports claim that 20-25 Navy flotilla surrounded the boat in the early hours of Thursday morning before several heavily armed commandos made a failed attempt to board the vessel amid fear and chaos.
Sanjeev "Alex" Kuhendrarajah, a refugee on board who has become the unofficial spokesperson for those on board rejected claims by the Indonesian authorities that the incident was a training exercise with no intention of harm.
"We believe they're making false claims and they were trying to do something” he told Australian media, calling it an act of an intimidation designed to force retaliation.
Refugee advocates in Australia have cited the incident as evidence that the long held fears that Indonesia would use violence to force the refugees off the boat is manifesting, and are urging Prime Minister Rudd and global bodies to intervene and provide safety to the refugees.
"The Indonesian navy is either preparing to remove people from the boat or is intimidating very vulnerable people," said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), who has been in contact with those on boat from the early stages of the standoff.
"Kevin Rudd must guarantee their safety” he told the Australian media.
Condemnation has been widespread, with Member of European Parliament Joe Higgins expressing disgust at the incident.
“I am appalled to learn of this intimidation that has been carried out against these most vulnerable people. I stand in solidarity with the Tamil-speaking refugees on the boat and urge the Australian and Indonesian governments to find a resolution in favour of the refugees’ very modest demands immediately” he reportedly said.
The Australian Government has yet to comment on the incident.
02.12.09 Australians slam 'Indonesian Solution'
15.10.09 Tamil refugees in Indonesian port begin hunger strike