Subject: Coroner won't act on Roger East killing

Northern Territory News (Australia) June 18, 2007 Monday

  Coroner won't act on journo killing

  THE Territory coroner has ruled out investigating the suspected murder of a Darwin journalist by the Indonesian military.

  Roger East is suspected of being killed by invading Indonesian forces at Dili's wharf on December 8, 1975, after travelling to East Timor to investigate what happened to five colleagues who were killed two months earlier. He was 29.

  NT deputy coroner Celia Kemp said Mr East's death was not in her jurisdiction.

  ''This is because his death did not occur in the Territory, Mr East's body was never in the Territory and at the time of his death Mr East was not a person who 'ordinarily resided in the Territory','' she said.

  East Timor activist Rob Wesley-Smith, who has been pushing for a coronial into East's death for more than a decade, has written to Attorney-General Syd Stirling seeking a review of the Coroner's Act.

  ''Darwin was the last place Roger lived in Australia, he'd only been in East Timor a few weeks, and while nobody knew for sure that he intended to live here when he returned, no one knew any different either,'' he said.

  ''There must be a lot of people that could fall under that classification if that's the case.

  ''And if the NT doesn't have jurisdiction then who does?'' 


Last Communication from Roger East in Dili. as reprinted in insert into 'The New Darwin', early 1976 I think, (a publication of the DRC which Roger had worked for). Re-presented here in response to item on list today re 'NT Coroner won't act on Roger East killing'.

Australia's nearest neighbour, tiny East Timor, has cast the die. It's 'Independence or Death', a western cliche, but here a daily salutation - and the Timorese people mean it.

The mortar that binds the East Timorese is the thoughts of Independence after 400 years of colonial rule. They will settle for nothing less.

Fretilin's army is basically anti-colonial, strongly Catholic-tinted and, not surprisingly, has many vehement anti-Communists in its midst.

Djakarta has elected to win support from its nervous neighbours by attaching the Red label to Fretilin.

However, Fretilin's initial planning is a blending of socialistic and cooperative policies which would appear natural for a colony bereft of secondary industry and winning only a subsistence existence from the soil.

Membership of Fretilin by Australian standards would include thinkers from the centre to the extreme left - the latter in a fringe grouping in the Central Committee.

Secretary of the East Timor Department of Foreign Affairs, Jose Ramos Horta, admits the committee's views vary on many issues, the sole exception being independence.

"I expect to see a multi-party set up in East Timor after we cross the present hurdle.

"We are a tolerant people who have waited a long time for the democratic process. We'll share it when it comes."

Fretilin believes the Governor, Colonel Lemos Pires, now living on the Island of Atauro, the St Helens of his choice, aided and abetted the UDT to stage its ill-fated August coup.

Fretilin had been told of the coup plot and a request to the governor to disarm the plotters is said to have been turned down.

Fretilin was defenceless when the fighting started and its members hounded, jailed and some murdered. UDT lost when the Portuguese-trained soldiers defected in favour of Fretilin.

UDT's leadership is now split three ways. Some are languishing in Timorese jails and others in the more comfortable surrounds of Australian cities.

The remaining standard bearers are in Indonesia, hosted and promised a triumphant return, albeit in the wake of mortar bombs.

Their platform of independence, which over a year ago saw them in a political alliance with Fretilin, is now abandoned. They are opting for Indonesia after 450 years of Portuguese domination.

Apodeti, the party pressing for union with Indonesia, is a bad bar-room joke. Its political rallies could be staged in the proverbial ten by four room which includes a table.

Founder and President, Arnold Araujo, 62, a respected horse thief, is currently being detained at Fretilin's pleasure.

The Portuguese jailed him for nine years for war crimes committed against the Timorese during the Japanese occupation.

This leaves only Fretilin which wants to embrace an offer of a United Nations supervised plebiscite.

East Timor's problems grow daily. Its primary ricebowl in the Maliana Valley is now a battlefield. Other crops have been destroyed or neglected in the turmoil of the fighting. Hunger is a reality and starvation a growing threat.


* Veteran Australian journalist Roger East gave up his job with the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to report on the scene in Timor.

He has elected to stay and see it through even if it means heading for the hills.

Fretilin's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, has sanctioned Roger's presence and given him the freedom to write it as he sees it.

It is said Roger risked his life to send a real last message from the Marconi Centre at the airport, as the paratroops landed.

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