Subject: Shirley Shackleton on Blick Report & Balibao 5


In his accompanying letter to me regarding the killings of five young Australia-based newsmen in Balibo, Portuguese Timor in 1975, Senator Robert Hill, Minister for Defense claims that both 'Mr. Blick and Mr. Sherman have reached a fundamental conclusion that there is no evidence of any impropriety on the part of DSD.’ Frankly, I don’t believe Senator Hill could have read the report!

In essence, Mr. Blick relies upon documents that cannot be found and upon 'witnesses’ who claim loss of memory or who cannot be located! While freely admitting that certain records have been destroyed, Mr. Blick seems happy to conclude that it is safe to assume that such records never existed! (1) He has also ignored other fresh sources of information. (2) He failed to locate a "young person'' (referred to in Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra) who showed a vital intercept to the Hope commission team. Since both the young person and the vital intercept are missing, what else has Mr. Blick been forced to ignore? The existance of a Blue Book said to have been compiled by Geoff Cameron of OIC in 1977 is also summarily dismissed with these obfuscating words: 'The only extant document meeting the external physical description of the Blue book is a document entitled The Indonesian Integration of East Timor.’ The word 'only’ is also used to dismiss the Blue Book in the following way: ‘Only one witness to the inquiry claimed have seen or heard of the Blue Book.’ The same sentence with the word ‘only’ omitted, could just as easily be used to support the fact of a Blue Book, as follows: One witness to the enquiry claimed to have seen or heard of the Blue Book.

In fact the flaws in this long-awaited report by Mr. Blick are just as glaring as those contained in the Sherman Preliminery Investigation and each report hinders the pursuit of justice!

Publication of the book Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra by Hamish McDonald, Foreign Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and Professor Desmond Ball, special professor at the Stretegic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU, Canberra and Australia’s leading intelligence expert, made many disturbing claims and the task fell to Mr. Blick to defend his colleagues. Perhaps it was naďve to expect that any other finding could be expected from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security into the secret workings of the Intelligence department’s Defence Signals Directorate.

In listing some of the more blatant defects in Mr. Blick’s report, I should point out that the Sherman report was also so deeply flawed that the International Commission of Jurists held a two day colloquium during which the paucity of Mr. Sherman’s findings were exposed. When second Sherman report was commissioned, it proved to be merely a repetition of the first with its blemishes intact. It should also be noted that DSD, our biggest and most important intelligence service, is the same agency that recently came under fire over intercepted messages from the Tampa after it rescued 438 refugees in August last year.

Eye witnesses to the Balibo murders and to that of Roger East do exist. (3)

Mr. Blick quotes many other 'witnesses from the most senior people in JIO down (including one of the two authors of the report) recalled the term 'Blue Book’ or the compilation of a document fitting its description but containing reports.’ What does it matter if this report had a red, yellow or blue cover? Surely, the only way to put a stop to all these 'reports’ is to establish a full, judicial enquiry. For over a quarter of a century officials in denial and those who for personal reasons want the matter of the murders at Balibo to be swept under the carpet, may have been playing for time and relying upon the deaths of all the relatives to close the chapter. Well I have news for them. We can all drop dead tomorrow and it will not make one jot of difference. Relatives of the Balibo Five not born at the time of the murders want justice. Members of the judiciary and the general public who love their children will not tolerate government bodies showing contempt for the Rule of Law in order to cover up for multiple murderers. Journalist’s knowing that they are not immortal want justice as it could one day be one of them who is missing presumed dead.

Surely everyone must have realised by now that the more one tries to cover up the truth, the more likely it is to surface.

Shirley Shackleton South Melbourne AUSTRALIA 3205

1DSD destroyed its vast and irreplaceable archive of ``raw'' intelligence intercepts and working drafts of decryptions and translations, made since World War II, when it moved from Melbourne to Canberra over 1992-94. This is possibly in breach of the Archives Act which includes prison terms for unauthorised destruction of official records.

2 e.g. What do the Australian Navy's records show? Several sources involved with the Timor crisis in 1975 believed the RAN had a destroyer or submarine near Timor to pick up VHF communications at such sensitive times. Indeed the Indonesians complained about the presence of the submarine HMAS Oxley near Timor a week later. Blick does not appear to have asked US agencies what material they might have on the Balibo attack. Somewhere in Australian or US archives or the memory of former officials still more information lurks. And of course the Indonesians have yet to open up.

3 See Mark Davis’s 1999 documentary on Dateline for eye-witness account that Yunis Yosfiah, Minister for Information in the Habibe government shot the journalists in cold blood. Also in January last year, following a seven-month investigation, UN civilian police investigators recommended the prosecution of the former Indonesian minister, General Yunus Yosfiah, and two others who had been members of the attacking force at Balibo.

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