Subject: We must end the deeply humiliating scandal of Balibo

December 12, 2009

Crikey

Shirley Shackleton: We must end the deeply humiliating scandal of Balibo

'Balibo Five widow' and writer and activist for East Timor Shirley Shackleton writes:

Disgraced ex-Indonesian army Colonel Purwanto made a grab for the headlines this week after seeing the film Balibo in Jakarta. His admission that "the Balibo Five were not killed in cross-fire but killed to prevent them from breaking the news of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor", which is the fiction peddled by the Indonesian military for 34 years was not news to anyone interested in the facts of the atrocity that took place in an undefended village called Balibo (October 16, 1975) approximately seven weeks before the bloody Indonesian invasion of East Timor (December 7, 1975).

The latter date is the anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in World War Two, which might provide an insight into the pig-ignorant cowboy fantasies of the Javanese warlords who boasted that they would be in Balibo for breakfast, Dili for lunch and Baucau for dinner.

Purwanto was punished for his role in the Santa Cruz massacre by being cashiered, which was surprising since the leader of the assassination squad responsible for the cold-blooded, premeditated murders of Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart was decorated and promoted.

In a repeat performance, Yunus Josfiah again was promoted for his part in the murder of the leader of the Timorese Resistance Army, Nicolau Dos Reis Lobato, in 1979. Josfiah told TEMPO magazine that he had filmed the death of Lobato and liked to sip whisky while watching the film. I wonder if he filmed the death throes of the Balibo Five.

The plot has thickened since Tuesday’s media frenzy. Purwanto has made many conflicting statements in what now appears to be a blatant attempt to provide an alibi for his commanding officer’s part in a deliberate crime against humanity merely to confuse an Australian Federal Police investigation into the Balibo murders.

I wonder what pressure in being brought to force Purwanto to become the fall guy for his senior officers by creating mediocre versions of the murders, none of which are credible.

In a civilised society, justice is not about vengeance, it is about accountability. Indonesian citizens need and deserve accountability. At Notre Dame University a month ago, President Yudhyono was asked to explain his bloody occupation of East Timor -- this was a warning not to be underestimated, all over the world because of their brutality, the Indonesian military is known for its Mafia-like crimes.

The courageous Indonesian journalists who defied the ban are facing five years in jail and heavy fines. That’s the story I would like to cause an international media frenzy; what intestinal fortitude, what exemplary courage!

We have an extradition treaty with Indonesia and it is used on other matters, so there is nothing to prevent it being implemented in this case. If you are told that we Australians cannot afford to upset the Indonesians, consider this -- Australia gives Indonesia half a million aid dollars per annum and there are 16,000 Indonesian students studying in Australia plus $15 billion a year in bi-lateral investment and trade.

We must have good relations with Indonesians. There will never be a better time to come clean and end a deeply humiliating scandal that will continue to destroy any hope of good will between our two countries.

Shirley Shackleton was married to the late Channel Seven reporter Greg Shackleton, one of five Australian television journalists who were killed in Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, known as the “Balibo Five”. Shirley is a well-known campaigner for East Timor leading up to the 1999 independence ballot and beyond. Her memoir The Circle of Silence is a testimony before, during and after Balibo. It will be published next year by Pier Nine.


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