Subject: Bring remains home, pleads Balibo widow

Bring remains home, pleads Balibo widow


Paul Mulvey

July 23, 2009 - 7:59PM

On the eve of walking the red carpet at the premiere of Balibo, Shirley Shackleton has called on the government to bring her husband's remains home, 34 years after the Balibo Five were killed in East Timor.

Ms Shackleton wants the film to educate and outrage a new generation.

But she also hopes it will prompt Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to repatriate the ashes of Greg Shackleton and his four colleagues which lie in a single coffin in a Jakarta cemetery.

She has long called for an examination of the ashes to determine whether they are actually those of the Australian-based journalists killed by Indonesian forces in the border town of Balibo in October, 1975.

"We're still trying to get repatriation of the remains. They're still stuck up in that hole in Indonesia two years since Mr Rudd said we're definitely going to bring the remains home," Ms Shackleton said.

"If there's a speck of ash that's Greg, I want him home."

The film depicting the murder opens the Melbourne International Film Festival on Friday night, nearly two years after NSW deputy coroner Dorelle Pinch found the Balibo Five were deliberately killed by Indonesian troops to cover up the invasion of East Timor.

Ms Pinch's inquest heard evidence that successive Australian governments, which had maintained Mr Shackleton, Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart were killed in crossfire, had lied about their deaths.

Ms Shackleton hopes the film will induce Mr Rudd to fulfil his vow to bring their remains home.

"If it doesn't, we can't trust him. So I have to believe we have to trust him, because we couldn't trust any of the other prime ministers."

But the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told Ms Shackleton in a letter this week the families of the five men must agree on bringing the remains back before anything can be done.

While four families have said they want the remains returned, one family wants the contents of the coffin to be confirmed before making a decision.

"We're waiting to hear their decision. They need to tell us so we can do something about it," a DFAT spokesperson said.

Ms Shackleton also said she hoped the film would help bring the alleged leader of the attack team, Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah, to justice.

"The two things I think are important to come out of this film - the remains to be repatriated and Yosfiah to be questioned, because we will never know what happened until he tells us," she said.

"Rudd has also said he will have a judicial inquiry into the murders by extraditing Yosfiah."

She will walk the red carpet on Friday on the arm of Damon Gameau, the actor playing her husband.

"He is just as nice and thoughtful and kind and considerate as Greg," Ms Shackleton said.

"It's weird, it's a lot like talking to Greg when I talk to him."

Initially opposed to the movie, Ms Shackleton changed her mind when she was given a personal screening at the Nova cinema in Carlton where she sat alone, crying, laughing and remembering.

"It was really nice to be able to howl my little eyes out," she said.

"I also laughed a lot too, it's a jolly good film."

While Robert Connolly's film has taken some poetic licence, Ms Shackleton says she "absolutely" approves.

"It's not a documentary, it works very well as a film," she said.

"I hope it will educate a whole new generation and make them angry."


From Shirley Shackleton: Robert Connelly’s film BALIBO is worth waiting for

Over all the fiction is justified - Kalbuadi shoots Brian at Balibó and Murdani strolls along the wharf in Dili when Roger is shot. They gave the orders for the killings so I don't think it is wrong to hold them responsible in that unambiguous manner.

Robert has a deft hand at representing Aussies and our lack of deference.

After visiting the opening of the Balibó House, my son Evan said, 'That's the first time I've heard any official say anything good about my Dad.' He was eight when Greg was murdered.

I think he will be proud of Greg when he sees this; the actor who portrayed him did a fine job. Robert Connelly was going to show the actual footage of Greg's last report, but Damon wanted to have a go at it. He was excellent and I think it might have been a bit confusing for youths who know nothing about Balibó if that actual report to camera had suddenly appeared. I could be wrong of course.

I cried a lot, starting at the first scene where Roger is on his knees at the wharf.

Taking Roger to Balibó through villages strewn with innocent victims was a helpful ruse to show the aftermath of the attacks on the border and I was not offended by the use of fiction as I had expected to be.

They do not faithfully represent Roger in any way shape or form, but La Paglia makes him believable and more importantly, memorable. Roger is portrayed as a curmudgeon who becomes a true professional, which is irritating since he already was a professional of the first rank... I have a chapter in my book The Circle of Silence (out in May next year) called Will the Real Roger East Stand up Please?

Roger and Jose go to Balibó in the film ­ which they never did. Roger wrote the first believable reports of the murders by hard slog in finding eye witnesses, which is not mentioned. However in this film Roger mirrors Greg’s determination in getting to the truth. I found this poetic. Robert based Roger on a man who is about to retire (which is true) and needed to be persuaded (which is not true.)

Since Roger’s murder was and is ignored by Australian government officials it makes the bastards look even worse and that's fine with me. Though wild horses wouldn't have been able to stop him from going to Timor, we can’t say Roger did not suffer all the reservations and fears portrayed. He knew precisely what would happen politically; his reports are heartbreakingly perceptive. The scene where Roger shouts as he is shot is pure Hollywood and bares no relation to him in any way, shape or form. I have interviewed eye witnesses who described him as dignified when the end came.

Of course I would have preferred that the film nailed the bastard Australian, New Zealand and British govts. who showed complete disregard and contempt for their murdered citizens and for their moral failure in supporting the Suharto dictatorship in order to make money from East Timor’s agony.

Shirley Shackleton

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