TAPOL condemns Jakarta Governor's refusal to attend Balibo inquest

1 Jun 2007
Carmel Budiardjo, TAPOL

When the governor of Jakarta, Sutiyoso, rejected a request earlier this week to attend and testify at the inquest into the death of British journalist Brian Peters now underway in Sydney, New South Wales, he was showing contempt for a long-delayed effort to examine the circumstances that led to the deaths of five journalists from Britain, Australia and New Zealand in October 1975. By rejecting the coroner's request, Sutiyoso made it plain that he and other former Indonesian army officers are well aware of what is going on in Sydney and are stricken with a guilty conscience about what happened in Balibo all those years ago.

The five journalists were seeking to observe conditions along the border between East and West Timor, having heard of preparations being made by Indonesia to invade East Timor which was then still a Portuguese colony.

The decision of the former general not to attend the inquest is a reflection of the attitude of the Indonesian authorities who have consistently turned their back on the tragic deaths of five men who had courageously decided to carry out a mission which they knew was fraught with danger, at a time when East Timor was in great peril.

Testimony already given at the inquest confirms that the men did not die in crossfire as the Indonesian authorities have claimed but were killed by an Indonesian military unit under instructions to prevent information about what was occurring along the border from reaching the outside world.

TAPOL strongly condemns Governor Sutiyoso for his refusal to attend the inquest and urges the Indonesian government to show respect for the New South Wales coronial authorities in their efforts to get to the bottom of this tragic incident. However hard they may try to cover up the events that led to the deaths of the five journalists twenty-two years ago, the truth will finally get official recognition thanks to the decision of the coroner to proceed with an inquest which promises to reveal the precise circumstances under which the five men died.