Athena Yenko – Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam advocated a cover-up of the Balibo Five East Timor controversy, Shirley Shackleton believes. Shackleton is the widow of the Australian journalist Greg Shackleton who was allegedly killed in duty during the 1975 East Timor invasion.
The Balibo Five includes Australian recordist Tony Stewart, New Zealander cameraman Gary Cunningham; and two other British – cameraman Brian Peters and reporter Malcolm Rennie. Despite the cry over war crimes involving their deaths, Mr Whitlam had always upheld that the men were killed in the crossfire between the two warring forces, the Indonesian troops and East Timorese Fretilin forces.
Shackleton acknowledged that Mr Whitlam had good contribution as Australia's ex-prime minister. However, in relation with the issue surrounding the deaths of the Balibo Five, "he was appalling," she said.
Shackleton's fury came in the wake of an announcement from the Australian Federal Police or AFP saying that the agency had dropped the investigation on whether the killing of the Balibo Five constitutes war crimes. AFP said that "it has insufficient evidence to prove an offence."
"As a result, the AFP has exhausted all inquires in relation to this matter and will be taking no further action," AFP announced in a press conference on Tuesday.
Shackleton holds the Office of International Law responsible for the AFP's decision to drop the investigation. The Office had given the AFP advice based on bogus claims, she said. "I will keep on this until I die."
Curiously, in a Sept 9, 2009 media release from the AFP, the police seemed to have had implied that the investigation has the tendency to be dropped in the future. It said that the investigation regarding the war crime allegations has the tendency to be problematic since witnesses and proofs are offshore and there had already been "a significant period of time" that had passed since the alleged crime took place.
John Milkins, son of Cunningham, became sentimental upon learning of AFP's decision that coincided with the death Mr Whitlam. His father would have been 67 the day that the ex-prime minister died.
For Milkins, Mr Whitham had taken a "dark secret" in his death. He said that Mr Whitham's view of the incident had always been a subject of objection for the Cunninghams. As for AFP's decision, he said there should be a re-examination of the case "if there's been a miscarriage of justice because of a faulty legal premise."