Subject: UK Gov says no cover-up on Balibo deaths

Also: MP CALLS FOR ANSWERS ON SHOOTING

Bristol Evening Post

'NO COVER-UP OVER JOURNALIST'S DEATH'

11:00 - 02 February 2006

A Foreign OFFICE minister yesterday denied that the Government misled the relatives of a Bristol cameraman killed in East Timor. Douglas Alexander also rejected calls to meet senior politicians in Indonesia to discuss the death of Brian Peters and four other journalists in 1975.

His remarks provoked a scathing response from Bath MP Don Foster, who is fighting a campaign to bring Mr Peters' killers to justice.

The 26-year-old was killed by Indonesian troops while filming a clandestine attack on East Timorese soldiers.

Documents released in November revealed Sir John Ford, Britain's ambassador in Jakarta at the time, asked the Australian embassy to refrain from pressing the Indonesians for details on the deaths.

Speaking yesterday during a parliamentary debate, Mr Foster said the then Labour government's reluctance to discover more about the deaths was due to "Britain's sorry role in Indonesia's war on East Timor".

The Liberal Democrat MP said the present Government "has a responsibility to come clean... and to help the relatives find answers and obtain justice".

Mr Alexander replied: "I do not accept that the relatives of the deceased have been mislead and clearly not deliberately.

"Indonesia continues to maintain that the journalists were killed in crossfire."

He said it was "unlikely" high-level discussions with Indonesia would reveal anything new.

But he did admit that it "would have been better" if the Foreign Office had made its own inquiries in the weeks following the deaths - instead of relying on the Australian authorities.

The New South Wales coroner in Australia is due to open the inquest into Mr Peters' death in July. It is expected to take three months.

Mr Alexander said the Foreign Office would be "happy to consider" any appeal for information from the coroner. He also promised to release documents about the case to Mr Foster.

But the MP was not impressed, saying: "I thought it was very disappointing. He did not tell us anything we didn't already know.

"We have an absolute right for the Government to find out what happened."

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MP CALLS FOR ANSWERS ON SHOOTING

11:00 - 01 February 2006 The Government was today being accused of helping to cover up the death of a former Bristol cameraman - and withholding information from his family. Bath MP Don Foster is campaigning on behalf of relatives of Brian Peters, pictured, and four other journalists murdered in East Timor in 1975.

He was today demanding that ministers fully co-operate with an Australian coroner, who will open the long-awaited inquest into Mr Peters' death later this year.

Mr Peters was 26 when he was stabbed and shot by Indonesian troops while filming a clandestine attack on East Timorese soldiers in the town of Balibo.

Documents released in November revealed how Sir John Ford, Britain's ambassador in Jakarta, asked the Australian embassy to refrain from pressing the Indonesians for details on the deaths. He wrote: "We have suggested to the Australians that, since we, in fact, know what happened to the newsmen it is pointless to go on demanding information from the Indonesians, which they cannot or are unwilling to provide."

This contradicted a Government claim given in Parliament in 1994 that: "We pressed the Indonesians for information at the time."

Mr Foster was highlighting the murders during a high profile debate in Westminster Hall, and was demanding that secret files about the case be released.

see also Hansard transcript

 


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