Subject: Balbo film fails to move Indonesia's Foreign Minister

NZ Herald

Film fails to move minister

4:00AM Tuesday Aug 11, 2009 By <>Audrey Young

The release of the Australian film Balibo centred on the killing of five journalists in East Timor in 1975 will not change Indonesia's approach to the case, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said yesterday while visiting Wellington.

His country and East Timor had taken an approach to their "dark chapter" based on truth and reconciliation "rather than a justice approach".

"I don't think any new approach [is] needed here to reopen in particular the case of Balibo Five."

New South Wales reopened the case two years ago with a coroner's inquest concluding they were killed to prevent them covering the invasion by Indonesia.

The film is co-produced by and stars Anthony LaPaglia as the journalist Roger East who was dispatched to East Timor to cover the deaths of five journalists, including New Zealander Gary Cunningham, only to be killed himself a day after the Indonesian invasion.

Despite campaigning by the families of the victims, no one has been brought to justice over the killings and Indonesia has long taken the position that the newsmen were caught in cross-fire.

The president of the now independent Timor Leste, Jose Ramos Horta, attended the film's premiere in Melbourne this month and had no doubt they had been tortured and killed by Indonesian forces.

But he also paid tribute to Indonesia's development into a better country, calling its democracy "one of the most inspiring in the Southeast Asia region".

Dr Wirajuda said that beginning a judicial process would lead nowhere and it would be difficult to get evidence and witnesses after more than 30 years.

"It would only bring out new emotions with no practical purposes," Dr Wirajuda told the Herald.

"I can't imagine how the families of the victims would feel to be reminded of these unfortunate events."

Dr Wirajuda, who has been Foreign Minister since 2001, is expected to be moved into another senior post when newly re-elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono names his Government in October. He held talks in Wellington yesterday with Foreign Minister Murray McCully and while the issue was not raised yesterday by Mr McCully, he has raised it in a recent meeting.

By far the stickiest bilateral question - a threatened ban of New Zealand's $100 million beef exports - may be handed to Dr Wirajuda's successor.

An Islamic clerical body, the Ulema Council, no longer recognises certificates that the meat conforms to Islamic dietary laws.

Dr Wirajuda said it had been decided to postpone the ban from October to early next year until the certification issue could be resolved.

"We have to sort out our difficulties at home, in particular the co-ordination of the government agencies, but ... also the Ulema Council," Dr Wirajuda said.

This would give the Indonesian Government time to work out new rules and whether it recognised the New Zealand certification companies or would require certification from an Indonesian source.


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