Subject: Widow calls for greater recognition of Balibo Five
Friday June 13, 03:11 PM
Widow calls for greater recognition of Balibo Five
One of the widows of the Balibo Five has expressed surprise at Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's decision to visit the cemetery where veterans of the Indonesian national revolution are buried.
Shirley Shackleton's husband Greg Shackleton was one of five journalists who were deliberately killed by Indonesian forces at Balibo in East Timor in 1975.
Their remains are thought to be buried in Jakarta's main cemetery, and Ms Shackleton would like the Prime Minister to visit that cemetery.
Ms Shackleton would also like Mr Rudd to talk to the Indonesian Government about bringing home the journalists' remains in the near future.
Last November, a New South Wales Coroner found there was enough evidence to prosecute two people over the deaths and she referred the matter directly to the Attorney-General.
Seven months on, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is still considering the charges.
"I think it's fine that he's in Indonesia, I have nothing against the Indonesian people," Ms Shackleton said.
"What I found surprising was that Mr Rudd was putting a wreath on Indonesia's so-called heroes' graves, that you perhaps don't realise that Indonesia has never been invaded, that the people they were being honoured for, that they were fighting, were their own people.
"So I'm really surprised that Mr Rudd's advisers led him into that, and also my husband is up there with four very courageous journalists... they're in the main Jakarta cemetery."
She says Mr Rudd should have paid respect to the Balibo Five.
"If he can pay respect to Indonesian soldiers for a fairly murky past... I'm just amazed that no-one suggested it, and I'm trying to get a message through to him to ask very respectfully, would he consider doing that," she said.
Ms Shackleton says she has written a letter to Mr Rudd and is expecting to find out why the bodies have not been returned to Australia.
"We need to have our people back in Australia and proper respect paid, a proper burial service in the country where they were born," she said.
"They bring back all kinds of soldiers and people murdered overseas or people who have fallen in battle."
Legal action Britain is considering launching legal action against two of the surviving former Indonesian military chiefs.
"They're getting frustrated because absolutely nothing is happening over here," Ms Shackleton said.
"It would be far better for it to be done from here, and there's no reason for me to suspect that the Prime Minister isn't considering it.
"Of course, I would like to see charges laid, [but] I don't want the murderers... strung up - I want them to explain who told them to go and why they were told to kill them, because obviously it was a set-up."
She says the Balibo Five had to die to protect somebody's reputation.
"It will all come out one day - I just hope I'm alive to hear it," she said.
"I don't think [Mr Rudd] ought to waste his time trying to cut through what is going on, what has gone on for 33 years, but if his relationship with Indonesia amounts to anything, all he has to do is say is, 'We would like them brought back'.
"And if it is worth anything, then the Indonesian people will say, 'Well, we will be glad to get rid of them'."
A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland says it is up to the AFP to decide if there is sufficient evidence to launch a prosecution over the deaths of the Balibo Five.
- Adapted from a story first aired on ABC's The World Today, June 13