Subject: AGE: Murdered Timor reporter disowned, documents show

The Age September 21 2002

Murdered Timor reporter disowned, documents show

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

New Zealand's Labour Government is the latest to reveal the skeletons in its closet over Indonesia's 1975 East Timor invasion, but the Melbourne family of a Wellington-born cameraman killed there says it is not satisfied.

The 126-page release by Foreign Minister Phil Goff on September 6 reveals New Zealand covered up its knowledge in 1975 that Indonesian regular troops were invading East Timor.

As in Australia, a Labour government was in office in the key period, led by Bill Rowling. It lost power to the National Party under Robert Muldoon on December 12, 1975, five days after Indonesian paratroopers landed in Dili.

A secret document from New Zealand's high commission in Australia to the foreign minister on October 17, 1975, stated: "The Indonesians have told the Australians of their plans for a full-scale invasion of East Timor, the initial stage of which - the dispatch of 800 troops via Batugade, Balibo, Maliana and Atsabe - was due to start on 15 October. Press reports are already revealing that this operation is under way."

On October 23 Mr Rowling held a media conference. His advisers prepared a draft speech "for possible use should it become publicly known that Indonesia has moved units into Timor". To his relief, it was not revealed, so he was able to praise Jakarta, saying he was "impressed by the restraint the Indonesians had shown".

Greig Cunningham, a New Zealander whose brother Gary was killed with four others in the border attack, said he welcomed the disclosures but was angry about a document he had been shown last week, dated June 29, 1976, disowning responsibility for his brother.

"It is all well and good for Mr Goff to say what New Zealand has done to compensate for its silence but it has done nothing for its own citizen and his family," he said. The document came from a 1994 partial document release, of which his family had not been informed. It revealed that the Muldoon government did not wish to take up Mr Cunningham's death with the Indonesians, but to leave it to Australia.

The document stated: "There would seem to be no clear cut case against Indonesia for any specific violation of International Law and as such there is no presumption for us to press a case in conjunction with Australia. We can expect that to do so would harm our own relations with Indonesia. Mr Cunningham, while a New Zealand citizen, was an Australian resident, was employed by an Australian organisation, was a member of the Australian Journalists Association, and his closest relatives live in Australia".

"This document has made us very angry, to see how quickly the New Zealand Government was prepared to ditch any responsibility for Gary," Mr Cunningham said.

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