Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weak Aussie leaders and Balibo Five's eternal wait for justice

Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the killing of five Australian newsmen at Balibo in East Timor.

Their executions by Indonesian special force troops was the subject of an inquiry by NSW Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch in 2007, with Ms Pinch finding that the men were killed because they may have made public Indonesia's invasion of East Timor.

In her report, Ms Pinch said she found Mr Yosfiah, an Indonesian parliamentarian who once held the position of information minister, was involved in the killing and led the attack on the journalists.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the head of the Indonesian special forces Major General Benny Murdani to Colonel Dading Kalbuadi, special forces group commander in Timor, and then to Captain Yosfiah, she said.

In her inquest into the death of Brian Peters, Ms Pinch found the conduct of Indonesian military might have constituted a war crime and referred the matter to the federal attorney-general Philip Ruddock. She also recommended that the Australian Government urgently liaise with the families to facilitate repatriation of the remains.

The bodies of the five men -- Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart, Greg Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters -- were dressed in Portuguese uniforms, photographed and then burnt, with their ashes mixed together and later buried in Jakarta.

Her findings were released a week before the 2007 election and then Opposition leader Kevin Rudd said: ``This is a very disturbing conclusion by the coroner concerning the fate of the Balibo Five back in 1975.

`` I believe this has to be taken through to its logical conclusion. I also believe those responsible should be held to account.'' He also said: ``My attitude to this is dead-set hardline. I've read a bit about what happened in Balibo, I've been to Balibo, walked up there, I've seen the fort, I've seen where these blokes lost their lives.

``You can't just sweep this to one side. I know it's a long time ago.''

Rudd was prime minister for 2 1/2 years and there is no evidence that he did anything to ensure that the coroner's report was taken to its logical conclusion, nor that he did anything to bring those responsible to account.

He is now foreign minister and the likelihood that he, or the Gillard Government, will do anything to deliver justice to those who have campaigned for action for the past 35 years grows slimmer by the minute. Piers Akerman for the Daily Telegraph (UK)

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