Subject: Final resting place of killed Balibo Five a mystery

Final resting place of killed Balibo Five a mystery

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Mon, 07/12/2010 10:53 AM

A government spokesman said Sunday he had never heard of a grave at Tanah Kusir cemetery in Jakarta, believed to be the final resting place of five foreign journalists killed in then East Timor in 1975.

Shirley Shackleton, 78, the widow of Greg Shackleton, one of the five murdered journalists, visited the cemetery on July 9 and requested an Australian government forensic team investigate whether her late husband was really buried there.

“There must be forensic tests to prove the bodies buried in that cemetery are really the five late [Australian-based] journalists,” Shackleton said as quoted by

At the cemetery is a black marble gravestone inscribed with the names of the five journalists.

However Defense Ministry spokesman I Wayan Widhio said in a text message that he had never heard of the grave.

Shackleton had sent a letter to the Indonesian government, requesting permission to repatriate her husband’s remains on Jan. 20, 2010, but has so far not received any response.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah declined to say whether the government would allow Shackleton to bring back the remains of her husband and his colleagues to Australia.

“Technically the families can request the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to facilitate that,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

In an Indonesian book titled Eyewitness to Integration of East Timor by journalist Hendro Subroto, the five Australia-based newsmen ­ Australians Gregory Shackleton and Anthony Stewart, New Zealander Garry James Cunningham and Britons Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters ­ were buried at the cemetery on Dec. 5, 1975. The funeral was attended by then Australian ambassador to Indonesia Richard Woolcott and the secretary- general of Indonesian Journalists Association Sunardi.

However, a member of the armed forces who joined the military operation there, Gatot Purwanto, said he did not know exactly the validity of the information about the cemetery. He said that after the five journalists were killed, he was ordered to relocate the bodies.

The journalists were killed in 1975 during the invasion of Balibo in Timor Leste or East Timor as it was known before gaining independence from Indonesia.

Both the Indonesian and Australian governments maintain the journalists died in crossfire between the Indonesian Army and East Timorese guerillas. An Australian coroner’s investigation, however, said that an Indonesian military special team was behind the deaths.

Shackleton’s widow was in Indonesia to stand as witness in a case to overturn the ban of the film Balibo at Jakarta State Administrative Court on July 8.

She said the depiction of her husband’s death in the movie directed by Robert Connolly was accurate, maintaining that she believed her husband was murdered after surrendering to Indonesian troops.

Shackleton said she was convinced of this by evidence given to an Australian inquest on the deaths of her husband and his fellow newsmen.

Wahyu Dhyatmika from the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) said Shackleton learned about the cemetery in Tanah Kusir from a friend who was a journalist for ABC Australia.

“Her friend said there was a cemetery in Tanah Kusir, Jakarta, with the names of her husband and the four other dead journalists written on a gravestone,” he told the Post. He added that Shackleton then asked permission to exhume the bodies to conduct DNA tests proving their identities once and for all.

Wahyu said the cemetery was moved to Tanah Kusir in 1979. The journalists were believed to be buried at Tanah Abang in Jakarta in 1975, before the cemetery was moved to its current location. (rdf)

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