Subject: Shirley Shackleton Responds to 2nd Sherman Report
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 09:35:28 -0500
From: "veronika crescenza" <>



By Shirley Shackleton + 61 3 9699 1002

After a quarter of a century it still makes me ill when I am treated in a cavalier fashion by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). I was given to understand that the families feelings would be taken into account by giving us time to read the 2nd Sherman report and to deal with our grief over details associated with the deaths of our loved ones. This didn't happen.

I received the report at 1.37pm on 16 February 1999, less than an hour before it was tabled by Alexander Downer. The delivery man told me the instructions were written on the package to make sure it didn't arrive until p.m. "You're lucky to have got it now!" I was told.

I have always seen the deaths of the journalists as a small but vital part of the whole Timor tragedy. Just because Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser lacked the guts to push for a full judicial enquiry a quarter of a century ago, this government cannot continue to play games with words in order to divest themselves of their responsibilities - the deaths of the journalists and the wholesale attempt to murder a whole nation are crimes against humanity. Our actions show what kind of human beings we are. I am asking the Howard government to hold a full judicial inquiry.

Since nothing was done to change the terms of reference for this second Sherman report, it must be seen as a cynical exercise. Mr Sherman continues to take his original information on Indonesia's history in East Timor from the Australian government and I'm sorry to say that is like taking it from Indonesian propogandists - it leads to terrible weaknesses in the 2nd report in very subtle ways indeed.

For example Mr Sherman has a penchant for believing what some witnesses say and not others. There was no fighting in Balibo according to Rogerio Lobato and Olandino Guterres; yet Mr Sherman's conclusions have led come commentators to report that the journalists were not murdered, it was monumnetal blunder. So what happened? Did they all commit suicide, or did some third party kill them and Indonesian soldiers tried to cover it up?

Mr Sherman makes other basic mistakes. He refers to anti Fretilin forces. In the circumstances he describes, this is quite wrong, the correct terminology should be pro-Indonesian forces.

Mr Sherman makes a scurrilous attack on Timorese witnesses and threatens them with serious court action. Why has he singled out Timorese? Some, who saw what happened at Balibo were forced to carry Indonesian equipment. Mr Sherman also finds no case of premeditation regarding the deaths at Balibo - contact Dr Poulgrain, Australia (07) 3844 4542 for verification of the following. He knows a colonel in Indonesian intelligence who has alleged that 20 Indonesian soldiers were sent to Balibo to kill the journalists.

Sherman also states "any finding by me of less than cold blooded murder of the journalists fails to meet the requirement of satisfying the concerns of the next of kin." He neglects, however, to say who has made this outrageous attack on our integrity.

The truth is, all of Sherman's witnesses could be lying. In his own words the terms of reference means "they (the witnesses) could refuse to answer questions without giving a reason". It must also be remembered he lacked the power to summon witnesses.

This expensive charade must cease. I call upon Mr Howard to hold a full judicial enquiry. The families will not rest until this happens.

And where is Kym Beasley in all of this? We the families are united. We ask him to make a statement in favour of a full judicial inquiry.

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