The Information Officer of the Australia East Timor Association SA, Andrew Alcock, issued the following statement today (16.10.2015)
“Friday, 16 October 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of a dreadful crime against humanity – the deaths of the “Balibo 5”, five Australian-based news workers.
* Greg Shackleton
* Tony Stewart
* Gary Cunningham
* Malcolm Rennie
* Brian Peters
These men were murdered by the Indonesian military (TNI) as they bravely reported on the illegal incursion it was making into East Timor just weeks before before Indonesia began its full scale invasion of 7 December 1975.
And on the 8 December, Roger East, another Australian journalist, who initially went to Timor to investigate what had happened to the Balibo 5 and who decided to stay and report on the invasion, was also murdered by invading Indonesian soldiers.
Indonesian leaders have always maintained that the Balibo 5 were killed in crossfire. And during many years of the occupation.
In 2007, a NSW Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Brian Peters found that the journalists were murdered by Indonesian forces in what the court considered constituted a war crime.
On 9 September 2009, it was announced that the Australian Federal Police were launching a war crimes probe into the deaths of the Balibo 5.
Even though, the 2007 Inquiry was able to name Special Forces Captain Yunus Yosfiah as the TNI officer who ordered the murders of the men, the AFP concluded in 2014, that there was insufficient evidence to prove an offence had been committed. Many believe that there was political pressure put on the AFP to halt its investigation.
Yunus Yosfiah later became an Indonesian government minister.
Australians who believe in justice consider that a great wrong was done to the Balibo 5 and Roger East and that Australian Governments, instead of showing outrage at the crimes committed by the TNI, connived with the Indonesian dictatorship of General Suharto and the Indonesian administrations that have followed since to cover up what happened.
While what happened to the Australians was a blatant crime, AETFA SA believes that what happened to the people of East Timor was a far greater one. The 24 year illegal occupation of their country by Indonesia led to the wiping out of almost a third of the civilian population.
Shamefully for Australians, the record shows that Australia continued to aid and train the TNI throughout this time.
Australia partly absolved itself when the Australian military played a very important part in the UN INTERFET force that entered East Timor after the mass violence committed by the TNI and its militias following the 1999 independence referendum. However, Australian leaders could have played a much more decisive role to prevent the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor. After all, the East Timorese proved to be very loyal allies to Australia during World War 2 and suffered greatly for being so.
This 40th anniversary occurs at a time when TNI coup which was aided by the CIA and which saw at least a million Indonesians butchered. Since then, apart from the invasion of East Timor, the TNI has also been involved in genocide and crimes against humanity in West Papua, Acheh and parts of Indonesia itself.
None of the TNI officers involved in these crimes have ever been brought to justice even though they are considered to be as serious as those committed by the Nazis.
To many, the TNI has become the largest force for terrorism in our region.
As we commemorate, the deaths of the Balibo 5, Roger East, numerous West Papuans, East Timorese, Achehnese and Indonesians at the hands of the Indonesian military, many Australians are wondering why our governments still aid the Indonesian military and why western governments have not taken action to the alleged war criminals in its ranks before an international tribunal to face justice. If Indonesia was truly democratic and supportive of human rights, it would have already taken action against these criminals.”
AETFA SA – 40 YEARS OF SOLIDARITY WITH TIMOR-LESTE FOR INDEPENDENCE & JUSTICE
( AETFA SA was originally the Campaign for an Independent East Timor SA until Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002)