Subject: Balibo widow says its another lie

also ABC: Balibo Five were killed deliberately: soldier; Expert rejects new Balibo account

Balibo widow says its another lie

Tuesday, December 08, 2009 ? 09:50am

The widow of one of the Balibo Five says an Indonesian army officer's admission they were executed to cover up the invasion of East Timor is another nail in the coffin of lies.

Gatot Purwanto was a special forces commando when he took part in the 1975 assault on Balibo.

He's the first senior Indonesian figure to contradict the official explanation that the five Australian-based journalists were killed in crossfire.

Shirley Shackleton, widow of the Seven Network's Greg Shackleton has rubbished Purwanto's claim the soldiers were provoked by gunfire coming from the direction of the house where the journalists were hiding.

She's told Fairfax radio the village was deserted, and it was bloody murder.



Balibo Five were killed deliberately: soldier

By Gavin Fang for AM

Posted Mon Dec 7, 2009 6:47pm AEDT

A former Indonesian soldier has come forward with new evidence about the killing of the Balibo Five, suggesting they were shot deliberately but not executed.

Gatot Purwanto says he decided to give his version of events after watching the controversial Australian movie Balibo, which depicts the newsmen being killed by Indonesian soldiers.

The now-retired soldier's story differs from both the official Indonesian line - that the men were killed in crossfire - and the findings of an Australian coronial inquest.

Robert Connolly's movie Balibo is banned in Indonesia, but last Thursday the country's Independent Journalists Alliance decided to screen it anyway.

In the crowd that night was Mr Purwanto, who had more than a passing interest in the events in East Timor more than three decades ago.

The former Special Forces soldier was at Balibo the day the five newsmen were killed.

He says he was about 30 metres away when Indonesian soldiers fired on the house the men were sheltering in.

"We knew they were foreigners, but we didn't think about whether they were journalists or not, because in a battle, the instinct is if they're not friends, then they could kill us," he said.

The now 62-year-old says he was with Special Forces captain Yunus Yosfiah when the Balibo Five were spotted.

A coronial inquest into the deaths of the men found Mr Yosfiah, who was later an Indonesian Government minister, ordered the killings.

Awaiting orders

Mr Purwanto disputes there was any order to execute the newsmen. He says the soldiers were still waiting for orders from Jakarta when the shooting happened.

But in his version of events, Indonesian soldiers were well aware of who they were shooting at, although he claims they only fired after they were provoked.

"After we surrounded them there were shots coming from their direction, so our people shot back," he said.

Mr Purwanto says after the shooting the soldiers decided to burn the bodies of the newsmen to conceal what had happened.

He says Indonesian soldiers did not want news leaking out about their invasion of East Timor.

Doubts remain

But Shirley Shackleton, the widow of one of the men killed at Balibo, says Mr Purwanto's version does not add up.

Ms Shackleton says she still believes her husband Greg and the other men were executed on orders from Jakarta.

"He (Mr Purwanto) says on the one hand they didn't die in crossfire, but then later on he says 'Oh we shot them because shots came from behind them', but there was no-one there shooting," she said.

"He's curious. He seems to be trying to clear his conscience. I'm only supposing that, but at the same time he is trying to stick to the old story. He's just not saying crossfire."

Despite the new claims, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah says the killings are best left in the past.

"Well this is the account from one eyewitness. The Government has already said in the past that this is a case which has been closed," he said.

Ms Shackleton says she will now be calling on the Australian Federal Police to question Mr Purwanto as part of the war crimes investigation into the killing of the newsmen.


ABC Connect Asia

Expert rejects new Balibo account

Updated December 8, 2009 12:01:18

Gatot Purwanto' account is the first time a senior Indonesian has broken ranks with the official line that the five Australian-based journalists -- Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart, Gary Cunningham, Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie -- died accidentally in crossfire in the small town of Balibo.

But not everybody accepts his version of events.

Presenter: Sen Lam Speaker: Clinton Fernandes was consulting historian to the film Balibo, and a senior lecturer in politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy Listen: Windows Media

FERNANDES: I think Gatot Purwanto is a very cleverly disguised plant. What's happened is the Indonesian government has said that the Balibo movie now being screened illegally in Indonesia has completely cornered in or boxed in the Indonesian government, that's a direct quote. Now what's happened is Purwanto has surfaced in order to lend credibility to the defence version of events, in other words to the perpetrator's version of events. He is saying that they were in fact in Balibo but they were shot coming out of the house or near the house in which the journalists were detained and that's when they opened fire. So in other words he's trying to provide the perpetrators with a legitimate excuse as to why they did not deliberately murder the Balibo Five. You see he has come out now because the perpetrators are feeling under pressure. When the film was made we tried to make it as realistic as possible and I organised for an Indonesian sub-title version of the DVD to be prepared and then sent in to our friends in Indonesia who very courageously are screening it in defiance of the censor's ban. The perpetrators are feeling under pressure as a result of which they've brought in Purwanto to try and cool things down.

LAM: So despite the fact that he Gatot broke ranks with the official line that the Balibo Five died accidentally. You don't give his story much credibility?

FERNANDES: I don't think he's broken ranks, I think he's surfaced in order to close ranks. Gatot Purwanto is a long-standing member of Indonesia's special forces community. He was military commander in East Timor from 1982 onwards, and in fact he was dismissed because troops under his command committed the Santa Cruz massacre. He is now providing a legitimate excuse for the killings by saying yes we were there, yes we killed them; however we did so because there was shooting coming out of the house in which they were hiding.

LAM: So in a way he's like the fall guy for more senior officers, is that what you're saying?

FERNANDES: Well what I'm saying is that he's trying to show that the perpetrators killed the Balibo Five because allegedly they were shooting in the house in which they were hiding and that's why they had to be killed. Whereas for a war crimes trial what's need to show that they were murdered defenselessly. He's trying to say that they were killed because they had weapons. Ok so he's coming up with a story that has a grain of truth to it but it contains at its heart a falsehood, namely that the Balibo Five were armed, and they were not armed. He is actually trying to provide himself as a perpetrator's witness, that's what he's trying to do.

LAM: Well Gatot is reluctant to be called upon to give evidence to the Australian police, but do you think his senior officers should be asked to give evidence?

FERNANDES: Oh absolutely, well look we definitely have an extradition treaty with Indonesia and we have lots of cooperation with them on various other aspects of criminal procedure, such as people smuggling, drug trafficking and so on. And they should be made to cooperate with a war crimes investigation, and if there is enough evidence so they can be extradited to Australia under the 1995 extradition treaty.

LAM: Do you have anyone in mind?

FERNANDES: Absolutely, Yunus Yosfiah and Christoforus da Silva, the two persons identified as the perpetrators on the coronial inquest.

LAM: Indonesia of course wants to move forward, it says it's all in the past. What's your personal view, I mean given that some Indonesians say many crimes were committed during that period, what makes the Balibo Five so special?

FERNANDES: There are two reasons why the Balibo Five are special, firstly when the five journalists were killed the Indonesians actually called a halt to their operations wondering what the Australian government's reaction would be. When there was absolutely no reaction critical of Indonesia that was the real green light to the Indonesians that they could treat the Timorese as they wished, and that is precisely what they did. They committed major human rights atrocities against the Timorese in part because getting such encouragement through tacit encouragement of their treatment of the Balibo Five. Secondly, the reason the Balibo Five are important is that it is a bilateral issue between Indonesia and Australia; it is not in the past. We find war criminals even from the 1940s during World War Two still being hunted. There is no statute of limitations for such serious crimes, and the matter should be pursued to its rightful conclusion.

Back to December Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu