Subject: Debate Continues Over Balibo Five Grave

- Debate continues over Balibo Five grave

- transcript: Questions raised over Balibo Five grave


Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News November 20, 2007

Debate continues over Balibo Five grave

Family's lawyer says Balibo 5 buried together

The lawyer representing the family of one of the Balibo five says he is satisfied that all the men were buried together.

Previously restricted church documents in Jakarta have thrown doubt on the contents of a grave which is believed to contain the remains of the five Australian-based journalists killed in Balibo in 1975.

The ABC has found a note from the All Saints Church in Jakarta that refers to remains believed to be four of the five journalists killed.

But Rodney Lewis, the lawyer for the family of one of dead camerman Brian Peters, says the note only represents the state of information as known in 1975.

"Having sat through six weeks of evidence and in particular the eyewitness accounts of what actually happened, I think everybody is properly satisfied all five died together and that their bodies were burnt together," he said.

Some previous accounts have suggested that all the bodies of the Balibo five were burnt together before being mixed up and then divided into four boxes before burial, while others suggest that only the remains of four of the journalists were ever recovered.

Mr Lewis says the important issue now is the repatriation of the remains.

"I've already had contact from the Department of Foreign Affairs through the Crown Solicitor's office of New South Wales so that process is already under way," he said.

Both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd have said they will move to repatriate the remains of the journalists.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says he wants more information over the claims as the contents of the grave have long been a point of contention.

"The then embassy doctor has made some comments about what he thinks happened to the bodies and that the bones may have fused together," he said.

"I'd be interested in more information about that. We will be responsive to the wishes of the relevant families.

"If they want the remains brought back to Australia we'll do our best to try to facilitate that."

Last week a New South Wales coroner ruled that the five had been deliberately killed by Indonesian forces during the invasion of East Timor.

Indonesia maintains that they were killed in a crossfire.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation November 20, 2007 -transcripts-

Questions raised over Balibo Five grave

By Geoff Thompson

TONY EASTLEY: Both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have committed themselves to pursuing the repatriation of the remains of five Australian-based newsmen killed by Indonesian forces 32 years ago.

Repatriation of the remains of the Balibo Five from Jakarta was one of the recommendations of a NSW Deputy Coroner last Friday. The Coroner determined that the five journalists were deliberately killed in 1975 by the Indonesian military.

However, exclusive access to the contents of funeral records in Jakarta suggests that only the remains of four of the five newsmen may be contained in the Jakarta grave bearing their names.

Indonesia Correspondent Geoff Thompson reports from Jakarta.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Just off the train tracks at Kebayoran Lama Cemetery, in south Jakarta, a grave keeper is tending to what is believed to be the final resting place of the Balibo Five.

It's a black granite grave with a black granite cross, sitting on top of a grassy mound. The tombstone is also black granite, and on it is gold engraved writing.

The first name is Gary James Cunningham, followed by Gregory John Shackleton, Malcolm Harvey Rennie, Anthony John Stewart, and finally, Brian Raymond Peters. All men, it says, died on the 16th of the 10th, 1975, and below them all it says, "No words can explain this pointless death in Balibo".

(Sound of Anim speaking)

Here too is a 53-year-old grave keeper known as Anim. 32 years ago, on the fifth of December 1975, he witnessed the apparent burial of the remains of all five journalists. Back then, at just 21 years of age, Anim was the same age as Tony Stewart when he was murdered in Balibo.

"Some people came here with a coffin, saying it contains the bones of some people," says Anim. "I was just ordered to dig a grave and bury them," he says.

The tombstone carries the names of all five newsmen, and it is the remains in this grave, which both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have committed themselves to repatriating if the families of the Balibo Five so wish.

There has always been confusion over the exact contents of this Jakarta grave, particularly whether it contains the remains of four or five people.

NSW Deputy Coroner Dorelle Pinch found that the evidence before her suggested that the bodies of all five journalists were burnt together and their remains mixed before being divided into four boxes for burial.

Now exclusive access by the ABC to the contents of restricted church documents throws further doubt on this Jakarta resting place.

The Register of Services at the All Saints Church in Jakarta contains an entry for a burial service at 10:00am on Friday 5th December, 1975.

The note in the register reads as follows:

"Burial at Kebayoran Lama of remains believed to be of four of five Australian journalists killed in Portuguese Timor"

No names are recorded in the note.

At Kebayoran Lama Cemetery in Jakarta, this is Geoff Thompson for AM.

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