Subject: AP/ABC: Memorial opened for Balibo five

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AM - Memorial opened for Balibo five

House turned into memorial for journalist killed during Indonesian invasion of East Timor

October 31, 2003 3:58am Associated Press WorldStream


DILI, East Timor (AP) ­ Relatives of five journalists killed during the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor joined 3,000 others Friday in a ceremony memorializing a house where the men stayed before they were shot.

The so-called Balibo Flag House will be filled with remembrances of Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, Britons Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters and New Zealander Gary Cunningham.

A sixth journalist, Briton Roger East, who was killed while reporting on the deaths of his five colleagues, will also be remembered.

``Today, we mark the end of that journey and a beginning for the people of Balibo,' said Steve Bracks, the premier of the Australian state of Victoria. ``But more importantly, we establish a lasting tribute to the journalists who lost their lives in Balibo.'

The five spent their final days at the house before being shot dead as they filmed invading Indonesian forces attacking Balibo on Oct. 16, 1975. They were working in East Timor for Australia's Seven and Nine television networks.

The family members of the slain men, East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, lit candles and planted trees near the house. Local leaders laid wreaths in their honor.

Shackleton's widow, Shirley, said she wanted a judicial inquiry into the killings. No one has ever been charged.

``I don't want the killers strung up,' she said earlier this week. ``But I want them in the witness box. I want to know what happened.'

The Indonesian invasion marked the beginning of the country's brutal, 24-year occupation of East Timor in which more than 200,000 people killed.

The violence peaked in 1999 when the Indonesian military and its proxy militias launched a wave of attacks on supporters of the country's independence ­ killing 1,500 and laying waste to the half-island.

U.N. troops finally restored order and East Timor gained full independence in May 2001 after a short period of transitional rule.

The dilapidated home, restored with Victorian government funding and support from the construction giant Multiplex, will also be used as a community center for local Timorese.


AM - Memorial opened for Balibo five

Print version of story:

AM - Friday, 31 October , 2003 08:18:42 Reporter: Mark Bowling

LINDA MOTTRAM: The village of Balibo, in East Timor, has for almost three decades been a place steeped in sadness and intrigue. It's the border village where, in 1975, five Australian-based newsmen were killed as Indonesian forces advanced towards the occupation of East Timor. Now, the families of the so-called Balibo five have made an emotional visit for the opening of a unique memorial today at the house where the five died. From that distant place, our Correspondent Mark Bowling reports. MARK BOWLING: There's little more to Balibo than a crumbling Portuguese fort and burnt-out houses, destroyed by Indonesian-backed militiamen three years ago. In the village square stands the house where the Balibo five took refuge decades before, in October 1975, as they prepared for an attack by Indonesian soldiers coming across the border. The newsmen died in suspicious circumstances, either killed accidentally in the heat of crossfire of battle, or deliberately sought out and executed by the invading troops. Journalist, Greg Shackleton, tried but failed to protect his colleagues from attack by painting an Australian flag on the wall of the house where they took refuge. Returning to the site is Greg Shackleton's widow, Shirley. SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Very emotional, to stand where they stood and to see what they saw and to realise these were their last sights. And it makes it very terrible, really, because cold-blooded murder, first degree. MARK BOWLING: The Balibo house has been renovated courtesy of the Victorian Government, which bought the burnt-out building and decided to convert it into a community centre that would be both a memorial and a practical help for the impoverished village people. Remarkably, as workmen remove layers of burnt and peeling paint, they discovered the faded outline of the flag painted by Greg Shackleton, and the single word above it ­ Australia. The relatives of the Balibo five will attend an opening ceremony today together with Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks. They're pleased that the house will be put to practical use, for vocational training and for use as a kindergarten. But their coming together in Balibo has resulted in something else. While the Australian Government produced the Sherman Report, the official version of what happened here in 1975, Margaret Wilson, the cousin of newsman Malcolm Rennie, has joined other relatives pressing for a full judicial inquiry. MARGARET WILSON: The judicial inquiry will still be something that we will put possible more energy now into. This is a bit of a shot of energy, to actually come here and see it and feel it more intensely. MARK BOWLING: This is Mark Bowling in Balibo, East Timor, for AM.

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