Subject: SMH: Indonesian forces targeted Balibo Five, inquest told

The Advertiser: Commander's Balibo threat

Indonesian forces targeted Balibo Five, inquest told

Hamish McDonald

February 15, 2007

INDONESIAN special forces knew five Australian newsmen were in Balibo before they attacked the East Timor village 31 years ago, and intended to kill them, a Sydney court heard yesterday.

In October 1975 Fernando Mariz was a young Timorese conscripted by the Indonesian forces at their headquarters at Batugade, just inside the then Portuguese colony, mostly controlled by the pro-independence Fretilin movement after a brief civil war. Two or three days before the October 16 attack he and other Timorese were listening to Radio Maubere, the public broadcast station taken over by Fretilin in the colony's capital, Dili.

The radio said five Australian journalists were at Balibo, on a hilltop overlooking the Indonesian foothold, to film Indonesian military activity and Indonesian warships firing from nearby waters.

Mr Mariz told the State Coroner's Court that he had told his Indonesian unit commander, known as "Major Leo" about them. "Don't worry, we know already that they are there," Major Leo had replied. "We have good medicine for them."

The Timorese said he had understood from this that the Indonesians intended the journalists to be killed. "We know the mentality of these people," he said, referring to the Indonesian forces he met in the fighting.

An inquest before Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch is investigating the deaths of the "Balibo Five" newsmen - the Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, the Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie, and the New Zealander Gary Cunningham - in particular that of Peters, the only NSW resident.

Yesterday another Timorese auxiliary, codenamed M. 4 to protect his identity, said he had travelled to Balibo from Batugade soon after the attack and had been told by other partisans how the journalists died. They had come out from a house with their hands up, and been taken to the Indonesian chief of the attacking forces. According to these accounts, the officer shouted at them: "You are communists!" before they were killed.


The Advertiser: (Australia)

February 15, 2007 Thursday

Commander's Balibo threat


AN INDONESIAN commander allegedly told a soldier he had some ''good medicine'' for five Australian journalists after hearing they were in the East Timorese town of Balibo in October, 1975.

Two or three days later, on October 16, the five Australian newsmen were killed in the dusty border town.

Official reports claim the men died in crossfire between Indonesian and Fretilin forces but witnesses have told an inquest into the death of one of the men that they were killed by Indonesian troops.

Former Indonesian soldier Fernando Mariz told Glebe Coroner's Court yesterday he heard on radio that the newsmen - Brian Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart and Malcolm Rennie - were in Balibo.

Mr Mariz told the inquest that when he asked his commanding officer, ''Major Leo'', what he was going to do, the major replied: ''Don't worry about it, we have good medicine for them.''

Arriving in Balibo, Mr Mariz said he noticed a house on fire.

East Timorese-born Indonesian fighters said the journalists' bodies were being burnt after Indonesian troops killed them.

Mr Mariz identified commander Yunus Yosfiah, who became Indonesia's information minister, as the officer who ordered the journalists killed. The inquest continues today.

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