Subject: SMH: Balibo inquest warrant issued as Whitlam faces questions by
- The Australian: Jakarta MP shrugs off Balibo inquest arrest warrant
- The Australian: Editorial: Tell us all, Gough
The Sydney Morning Herald Friday, March 2, 2007
Balibo inquest warrant issued as Whitlam faces questions by court
A SYDNEY coroner yesterday issued an arrest warrant for a former Indonesian minister to be compelled to give evidence about his role in the killing of five Australian-based newsmen in Balibo, East Timor, 31 years ago.
A deputy state coroner, Dorelle Pinch, also revealed that the former prime minister Gough Whitlam had been interviewed by a court lawyer and might be ordered to appear at her inquest into the deaths, along with other senior figures in his government.
The arrest warrant against retired Indonesian lieutenant-general Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah, who was information minister in 1998-99 and remains a member of parliament, can only be executed if he enters Australia. As he has not been charged with any offence, he cannot be the subject of an extradition request.
Ms Pinch said it was issued because Mr Yosfiah had refused repeated invitations to appear, most recently this week. "It's an indication of how seriously I regard the necessity of having him here," she said.
Mr Yosfiah yesterday laughed when told of the warrant. "Let it be. How can they do that?" he told Australian Associated Press. Asked if he was concerned, he said: "No, why must I worry? I don't feel guilty."
This week Mr Yosfiah was identified by a former Canberra intelligence analyst, Colonel Geoff Cameron, as having led special forces in the covert October 16, 1975 attack on Balibo in which five newsmen from the Nine and Seven networks died.
Former members of local militias with the Indonesian troops have told the Coroners Court that former captain Yosfiah ordered the newsmen killed as they tried to surrender. One said he led the shooting.
On Wednesday, a former navy linguist at the Defence Signals Directorate listening station in Darwin said he'd been called by Mr Whitlam's department within an hour of his report that five Australian journalists had just been killed and their bodies "incinerated or burnt to a crisp".
Ms Pinch said evidence heard over the past four weeks was taking the inquest into the "inner sanctum" of Canberra privy to sensitive intelligence.
In October 1975, this comprised Mr Whitlam, his foreign minister Don Willesee, his defence minister Bill Morrison, their department heads, and the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
"It seems likely that this group of people people will be able to give relevant evidence," she said.
Counsel assisting the coroner, Mark Tedeschi, QC, had interviewed Mr Whitlam within the last week to obtain evidence. His statement would be studied before hearings resume on May 1.
Aside from Mr Whitlam, the surviving members are Mr Morrison, the former Prime Minister's Department head John Menadue, and then Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Alan Renouf.
The NSW Chief Justice James Spigelman has clarified he was no longer working on Mr Whitlam's staff at the time.
The Australian Friday, March 2, 2007
Jakarta MP shrugs off Balibo inquest arrest warrant
Tracy Ong, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Additional reporting: Mike Steketee
A SENIOR Indonesian parliamentarian accused of being involved in the killing of five Australian journalists in East Timor has thumbed his nose at a NSW coroner who issued a warrant for his arrest.
Yunus Yosfiah, a former high-ranking military commander and minister in the Habibie government, laughed yesterday when told Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch had issued the warrant because he had refused a request to give evidence at the inquest of the Balibo Five.
The coronial hearing into the 1975 shootings intensified yesterday with the revelation that former prime minister Gough Whitlam met counsel assisting the inquiry Mark Tedeschi last week. A transcript of their discussion will be presented to the coroner.
Mr Whitlam and other surviving members of his "inner circle", said to be the then defence and foreign ministers, their heads of departments, and possibly the head of ASIO, could be called as witnesses when the inquest resumes in May, Ms Pinch said.
Bill Morrison was the defence minister in October 1975 while Don Willesee was the foreign minister. Willesee died in 2003.
"It seems likely that this group of people will be able to give relevant evidence," Ms Pinch said.
Mr Whitlam would not comment on his discussions with Mr Tedeschi, but a clue is contained in his 1997 book Abiding Interests, where he confirms evidence given this week that his government learned immediately after the attack that five men had been killed. He makes an apparent reference to the concern of Australian intelligence that its extensive spying on Indonesians should not be revealed.
Mr Whitlam wrote that he sought information on the deaths of Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart, in a letter dated November 7, 1975, to then Indonesian president Suharto.
He added that the letter was not followed up by the Fraser government, which took power four days later after governor-general John Kerr's sacking of the Whitlam government.
Mr Yosfiah, who has been identified by witnesses to the inquiry as the man who opened fire on the Balibo Five, said there was "no point" in giving evidence to the inquest. "Let them do what they like. I've done nothing wrong," he said.
The warrant issued has no effect unless Mr Yosfiah enters Australian territory.
He said he had no intention of giving video evidence, much less of travelling to Australia to appear before the coroner.
The inquest this week heard that an Indonesian army message saying the five Australian journalists had been killed was intercepted in Darwin and translated and sent to Mr Whitlam, his ministers and officials within seven minutes.
Within an hour, an official from the Prime Minister's department had telephoned the navy listening station and asked: "Is this report true?"
In the days following the shooting, Mr Whitlam and his ministers said they were still trying to confirm the deaths.
The Australian Friday, March 2, 2007
Tell us all, Gough
A full admission on Balibo would help in the healing
JUSTICE moves at a snail's pace when international relations is involved. But after more than three decades, it would actually serve the cause of better relations between this nation and Indonesia to expose the full truth of the Balibo executions. Gough Whitlam, and Malcolm Fraser too, should feel not only free but obliged to tell us what they knew of the five Australia-based newsmen's deaths in the early stages of Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor.
The NSW coronial inquest into the deaths of Brian Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie and Tony Stewart has already heard that both the Whitlam and Fraser governments allegedly lied when they said they believed the five were killed in crossfire between Indonesian forces and Fretilin troops. The inquest has also heard evidence from former interceptors that Indonesian communications indicated they were murdered on orders from Indonesian officers, presumably because the Indonesian forces didn't want their preparations to invade the Portuguese territory made public.
This week, a previous assumption that the Australian Government knew within days of the men's death was challenged. The claim now is that officials around Mr Whitlam which implies Mr Whitlam, too were told within minutes of an interception by the Defence Signals Directorate of an Indonesian message that the men had been deliberately killed at Balibo on the same day October 16. This comes from a seemingly unimpeachable witness, former navy translator Robin Dix, on duty at a DSD station when the message was heard.
Mr Whitlam had something else on his mind that day the supply crisis that brought down his Labor government had just begun. But partly to blame the victims, as he does in his 1997 book Abiding Interests, for ignoring his warning that the Australian government could not protect them in East Timor is not a good look. He has admitted in his book only that his government was "able immediately (after the Balibo incursion) to learn that five men had been killed", but he was "advised" not to reveal how it knew. It is time for him to say a lot more than this.
The inquiry before Deputy NSW Coroner Dorelle Pinch is already engaged in surprising secrecy, with in-camera sessions as well as public evidence, and this has raised suspicions the DSD is trying to conceal its own missteps in hindsight. The intelligence-gathering methods of 31 years ago would hardly need suppression now nor would the Indonesian military be unaware some of their signals were being monitored as their forces gathered for the invasion that would culminate in the seizure of Dili in December. This secrecy is regrettable even cabinet papers are released after 30 years but perhaps we will learn more about the confidential evidence later. In the meantime, Mr Whitlam, who has provided an unreleased statement to the inquest, should take the Australian people into his confidence on this tragedy, finally.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service
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