The Australia East Timor Friendship Association of SA today released the following statement after the announcement by Paul Symon, the Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) that he intended to appear in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to put forward his organisation’s case to stop the release of documents related to the 16 October 1975 murder by personnel of the Indonesian military (TNI) of 5 Australian based journalists in Balibo, East Timor: These men are now known as the Balibo 5.

“The statement by Paul Symon, the ASIS Director-General on 27 April 2018 that he would appear in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to prevent the release of the agency’s documents related to the murder of the Balibo 5, is an indication that he will go to any lengths to attempt to cover up what ASIS knew about the murders of these men and the subsequent liquidation of about a third of the East Timor population by the Indonesian military (TNI) during its 24 year illegal and brutal occupation of that country.

Australians who believe in justice and human rights welcome the tenacity of Professor Clinton Fernandes of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Canberra Campus of the University of NSW who has been calling for the release of these documents for many years.

Mr Symon claims that this is a matter of national security. AETFA SA believes that this is totally untrue.

What he and the Acting Attorney General, Greg Hunt, are attempting to do is to prevent Australians from knowing to what lengths ASIS has gone to in the past to support cover-ups of crimes against humanity committed by the TNI in East Timor and West Papua and similar crimes committed by the Chilean military and the CIA in Chile in 1973.

Of course, the claim about dangers to Australian security were made by the former attorney-general, George Brandis, when he authorised the ASIS illegal surveillance of the Timor-Leste negotiating team during the early days of negotiations over the maritime boundary in the Timor Sea. What it was about was Australia trying to get a very unfair commercial advantage over our loyal WW2 ally and the poorest nation in SE Asia and had nothing whatsoever to do with national security.

In addition, the decision by Greg Hunt and Paul Symon means that they are prepared to oppose justice for the Balibo 5 and their families.

We are frequently told by the members of the current government that they believe in the rule of law, democracy and uphold human rights. Massive crimes have been committed by the TNI in Indonesia, East Timor and West Papua. These crimes are viewed by many human rights observers as being as serious as those committed by the Nazis during WW2.

Australians who pride themselves as supporting human rights, democratic rights and freedom want to know why our governments have refused to act against violations of these principles and, indeed, been willing to protect the perpetrators.

Fair minded Australians would support Greig Cunningham, the brother of Gary Cunningham, one of the Balibo 5, when he said that after 43 years the families are entitled to know the truth. The Balibo 5 and their families also deserve justice, as do the East Timorese and the West Papuans, who have suffered genocide at the hands of the TNI. The silence from Australian governments and our security organisations indicate that they have little commitment to the principles of justice, democracy or the rule of law.

When the history of the murder of the Balibo 5 is finally written, Professor Clinton Fernandes, and representatives of the Balibo 5 families, like Shirley Shackleton and Greig Cunningham, will be seen as heroes, and our political leaders and security personnel who aided and abetted the TNI will be seen as being extremely tawdry.

Australians need to ensure that our future political leaders will work for peace, justice and human rights in world affairs and to do this we will need to be an independent, free and non-aligned nation”.