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Subject: affet: Balibo Inquiry Cover-up
Date: Sat, 24 Oct 1998 12:28:12 +0930
From: Rob Wesley-Smith <> Organization: Australians for a Free East Timor (AFFET) /Troppo Rural Consulting

BALIBO: Australians for a Free East Timor (Rob Wesley-Smith phfx +61 8 8983 2113 Press Release Sat 24 October 1998 'Australian Government Cover-Up on Balibo Killings'

The appointment of Mr Tom Sherman to review the evidence presented on 20 Oct 98 by 'Foreign Correspondent' on the killings of 5 journalists in Balibo on 16 Oct 75 continues the 23 years of cover-up by Australia's DFAT (Dep Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Govt.

Mr Sherman again has been given very narrow terms and the limited resources which limited the value of his first report published in June 1996. Much cogent material has been ignored by DFAT minister Downer. Why? And why Sherman? Is he 'Reliable?' (NB Crimes Intel background).

Valuable critiques of the Sherman report were presented to the ICJ colloquium on the Balibo killings, and can be found on the smh website at

The AETN Australian East Timor Network, even without the knowledge of the above, on 30 August 1998 called for a full judicial enquiry into the Balibo killings, and also the murder of Roger East on 8 Dec 1975, which call of course has been made many times before.

Hamish McDonald of the smh also published extremely revealing information on these matters in August 98. Then on 17 Oct 98 the smh published an article by John Martinkus & Andrew McNaughtan (appended) with information from 2 witnesses in East Timor which is in itself as important as the abc's Foreign Correspondent program.

(Note that information direct from East Timor received and presented by me to Sherman was excluded as 'hearsay' which he could not investigate). Why has Mr Sherman been reappointed when his first report is so clearly massively flawed?

I believe the answer is the Australian Government is motivated to cover up a probability of even greater concern. Guided as always by DFAT which follows the policies of coverup outlined by Woolcott, when he counselled to follow different public and private stances and to follow pragmatism not principle, a succession of Ministers and PMs have conspired to hide the truth.

I believe there is cogent evidence to support the notion that Australian and probably US military or advisers were present in 1975 working to destabilise East Timor and present it to the Indonesians, and that some of these may have been filmed at Balibo. (More as time permits.)

The evidence that the Journalists were in a different house to that famous one on the corner, suggests it is quite possible that by filming quietly from within the house they were undetected for some time, possibly until after the advisers had also openly entered the Balibo crossroads area.

I also provided Sherman with a report that Australian mercenaries were with the Indonesian forces, and the name of the prominent Australian businessman of the 1980s who led that force. It was claimed they were sickened by the murders and wanted out. Sherman again said this was 'hearsay', and that he could not investigate, (despite his NCA links). Someone, however, should.

It must be remembered what is usually ignored with all the Indonesian and Australian governments posturing since the Balibo murders, that there was an official Indonesian 2 year campaign of destabilising East Timor prior to their full scale invasion on 7 December 1975. It was called 'Operasi Komodo'. Balibo was part of that. And if Australia was not complicit, why did it in Darwin January 1976 remove the radio link to the East Timor Resistance which the UN special envoy needed to use for his work? (This is detailed in my chapter in 'Free East Timor' Vintage May 1998 ed Aubrey.) Why were shady unidentifed characters in and out of Darwin/East Timor then, including Indonesian army, maybe Yunus himself? Interesting, huh?

A full Judicial Enquiry is needed now no matter what Sherman or Downer say. Reconciliation with the East Timorese and with the journalists' families, Mr Howard!

article appended:

BALIBO DEATHS - Five were shot dead in house: witness Saturday 17 October 1998

by JOHN MARTINKUS and ANDREW McNAUGHTAN (v. sl. editted for space)

Witnesses interviewed in East Timor support that the deaths of five Australian-based journalists at Balibo 16 Oct 1975, were NOT the result of "crossfire in the heat of battle", as the Sherman report claimed.

One witness, an East Timorese member of the Indonesian force attacking the town, said the journalists were shot inside a house shortly after the Indonesian forces had taken the town. Another witness, a member of the Fretilin militia defending the town, said he saw three journalists' bodies being dragged from the house.

The new evidence adds to the weight of other witnesses who have previously come forward in Australia and Portugal saying the leaders of the attacking force knew of the presence of the journalists in Balibo and planned to eliminate them.

It also casts further doubt about the 1996 Sherman Report, which found it likely the Balibo five were killed 'in the heat of battle', which the Indonesian Government supported. Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, has described the report as the most comprehensive analysis possible and declared the issue closed. The International Commission of Jurists (Aust) has said the Indonesian government was responsible for the deaths of the journalists.

The former Fretilin fighter, who saw three journalists dragged dead from the house before fleeing for his life, was one of the last five Fretilin fighters - and only one still alive - to leave Balibo. In an interview in a remote village of East Timor last month, he said he watched from his position inside the old Portuguese fort on the hill above the town 200 to 250 metres from where the journalists had taken cover in a house. The house that he identified was not the house which the Indonesians have always claimed was the site of the deaths, which had been partially destroyed by shelling. This was also confirmed by the other witness, who maintains that the home was where he viewed the bodies within an hour of their deaths.

According to the Fretilin militia witness, at exactly 4am on 16 October 1975, the Indonesian forces approached from the south and the north, and ships started shelling. Fretilin had retreated because they had limited weapons. After the Indonesians finished bombing Balibo, about 6am the attack entered the town. The witness said: "We want to move back but we see the five Australians still there and stayed." He saw the Indonesians go into the house, he said.

"When the five journalists yelled "No we are not Fretilin we are Australian' we hear the weapons shot by Indonesian forces in the room. "We heard them yell "No Fretilin. No Fretilin. We are Australian". They shoot them inside the room then bring them outside the house." After the sound of the shooting the soldiers brought out three bodies, he said. Having witnessed the killing, the five militia moved away.

"The two other journalists who were still in the room, whether they were killed by knife or guns I don't know exactly because I left, but I know exactly that the three people on the ground were dead. The three bodies of the journalists were lying outside. The other two, we didn't know when they died." When he last saw all of the five journalists they were not wearing uniforms and were still carrying cameras around their necks. After the klling the Indonesians broke their cameras, the soldiers smashed them with their rifles.

The other witness, an East Timorese irregular, arrived shortly after the Indonesian forces had taken the town. "When it was my turn to enter Balibo it was more or less 7am. I heard from my colleagues that five Australians were dead in a house. I was very interested to find out how they died in that house.

"When I entered that house I saw the five Australians already dead - three of them slumped against the wall in a sitting position and two lying down on the ground. As my colleagues told me that when the Indonesian troops arrived in Balibo they [the journalists] came out to meet them, saying that they were Australians.

In my view after they presented themselves saying they were Australians they were taken to that house and they were killed by a pistol. "I can say they were killed by pistol because of the wounds - the wounds were not too big ..." About 9pm the bodies were taken to the side of the house, a mattress was put on them and they were burned, he said. end

Note: The Australian government to this day has never protested these murders. Had they done so vigorously, the full scale invasion of East Timor and the deaths of probably 300,000 Timorese and at least 30,000 Indonesian soldiers may never have taken place. Rob Wesley-Smith, AFFET Darwin

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