Subject: SMH: Ruins of a family home house memories of Balibo five

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Sydney Morning Herald January 5, 2002

Ruins of a family home house memories of Balibo five

As a child, Ric Lay had never been to Balibo.

But the town - particularly one house just off the square - was etched in his memory. The house was the Lay family home. It is also the last residence of the Balibo Five - the Australian-based journalists killed by Indonesian forces on the morning of October 16, 1975.

"I knew about the house because every time it was shown on the news when I was small in Australia, my Dad would say that's [our family home]." Ric's grandparents owned a small shop in Balibo, and Ric's father, Pi Sin, and his 10 brothers and sisters grew up in the house.

Today, it is in ruins standing as a memorial, not only to the Balibo five, but also to the Lay family and Timor's Chinese diaspora.

The family fled to Atambua in West Timor in 1975 and later moved to Sydney, where they lived in Fairfield, which was also home to other Timorese Chinese refugees.

Now Ric and his uncle Tony are back in Dili, with the new family business, the Tropical Hotel and Restaurant.

While many businesses are doing well out of the large international presence in East Timor, Ric says owners must focus on the local market and what theTimorese, not the United Nations or foreign aid workers, will pay for goods and services.

East Timor is a "good bet" for Australian investors, he says. "With the spin-off from [the Timor Gap], it's a fair bit of money to split between [a population of] half a million people."

Ric has not been to Balibo since he travelled there for the first time in 1994 with his father and other family members to perform a ceremony for his great-grandfather, who is buried on the hill overlooking the town square.

Ric is interested in building some sort of memorial or museum in the house. But the family fled without papers or deeds to the house and he is unsure whether they will be able to claim it back. "If the Australian Government wants to have a chat to the Timorese Government [about the house] maybe they could sort something out," he says.

Christine Kearney


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