Friday, April 17, 2009

Asylum Seeker Tragedy

I've been listening appalled to the suggestions - all made with no supporting evidence - that the boat people involved in the dreadful tragedy off the Australian coast set fire to or blew up the boat they were on after being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

It seems obvious that fuel ignited somehow but what could possibly lead anyone to assume that means it was a deliberate act? Of all the scenarios I can think of that seems to me to be the most unlikely. We're talking about a boat here, people. Fuel hoses leak and fuel gets spilled while vessels are being filled all the time and boats blow up as a result.

We don't know if a cooking gas bottle exploded, or a cooking stove got knocked over or whether somewhere in this obviously not well maintained craft there was a build up of petrol fumes that ignited when someone lit a cigarette or if there was a crazy person on board who decided to kill himself and everybody else so why should we conclude it was an act of sabotage? It could be, although I'm at a loss as to what the motive would be, but let's wait until we actually have some evidence before we decide.

This has happened before. Remember the "children overboard" scandal when asylum seekers whose boat was sinking ended up in the water and we were told they had deliberately thrown their children overboard? That was another one of those scenarios that after a few moments thought should have been seen to be obviously ridiculous but a large part of the population swallowed it and those of us who said "Hey, wait a minute. That doesn't make sense." were regarded as somewhat weird, out of touch, soft on "queue jumpers". After all it was on the news and in the papers. It must be right, mustn't it?

But it wasn't. Let's not jump to conclusions. This time let's wait and see what really happened.

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