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East Timor News Digest 11 – November 1-30, 2007

News & issues

Truth & friendship commission Balibo 5 inquest Social/communal conflicts UNMIT/ISF Human rights/law Health & education Opinion & analysis East Timor media monitoring

 News & issues

Poor disappointed with Horta's promise to eradicate poverty

Asia Calling - November 17, 2007

Saul Amaral – After seven years of independence, Timor Leste is still the poorest country in Asia and the 27th most impoverished country in the world. According to the 2007 Timor National Media Survey 82 percent of the population is still living in poverty.

To address this, President Ramos Horta is implementing a two hundred million US dollar program to reduce poverty and create educational opportunities for the unemployed.

Saul Salvador di Dilli finds out more.

I am here in Comoro District, Dili. The situation is daunting. Children do not go to school while most locals live on low incomes.

Like Miguel dos Santos aged 45 who only earns 25-30 USD a month. He does not have a permanent job and is now a farmer. He says he's struggling to make ends meet.

"I don't have a job. I am a farmer right now and I'm suffering. Sometimes there's no food and I live in a shack. Sometimes I don't have a daily income. I think we spend 50 cents to a dollar day just to buy food. I get my money from selling cassava, flowers and corn that I grow in my garden."

Other locals are also unhappy with the current situation. Like 21 year old Agusto dos Santos. He says he's disappointed with President Ramos Horta, because he hasn't fulfilled his promise to reduce poverty. "As a young man and student, I feel sad and unhappy with what the president promised us before. They're just empty promises."

However President Horta says rebuilding Timor Leste's struggling economy will take time. He is implementing a 250 million US program that he claims with alleviate poverty.

Joao Zacarias Freitas Soares is the president's special advisor on youth issues.

"The priority is that we provide clean drinking water for everyone, we build more schools that have chairs and tables particularly in rural areas. This is not aid for individuals but infrastructure building that we work to alleviate poverty in the long term."

Some Fretilin parliamentarians, however, are concern that such a large project is being handled by the President not the government. Joaquin Amaral argues it a bad sign for the separation of power.

"We can only hand a budget for a project to the government and not to the president. If we want to talk about how effective this program will be, there must be schemes or objectives. This fund has no objective and it's difficult for us to measure its success."

Un swayed by Fretilin's opposition to the program the parliament approved the project and it's going ahead.

"The parliamentarians from Fretilin do not want the president to help the poor people. My concern is that this country weak and new, let us make a contribution to decrease the poverty in this country."

Joao Zacarias Freitas Soares says they will accept funding proposals from communities. He claims the end poverty project will address young and old people as well as orphans.

"Our mechanism directly not divide the subsidy for them but we give the material which according to the their proposal which they submitted for us, and about this program not look for ages but including Youth, old people and also, for kids which their mother and father no power and very poor."

He claims the end poverty project will address young and old people as well as orphans. Meanwhile back in Commoro District, Maria Carvalho aged 32 says, they are still struggling to get by each day.

"There is not enough food and beverage, clothes and children can not go to school. It is hard life."

East Timor holds talks with sacked troops

Reuters - November 15, 2007

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao began talks with former soldiers whose dismissal sparked protests that led to bloodshed in the tiny country last year.

In June 2006 the government of then-prime minister Mari Alkatiri sacked 600 soldiers, more than one third of the country's defence force, after they had lodged a petition alleging discrimination in the institution.

The sacking prompted a series of protests that degenerated into factional violence, leaving 37 people dead and forced more than 100,000 from their homes.

Some of the sacked soldiers had joined the rebellious former military police chief Alfredo Reinado, who led an armed revolt against the previous government.

Gusmao warned the sacked soldiers during a meeting with 20 of them in the town of Aileu not to join Reinado.

"I want to talk to those of you who don't have weapons. I am representing the people through the election and who does Alfredo represent?" he said.

"I am the one who defends the petitioners because they are not the ones who burned houses and made disturbances during last year's crisis," Gusmao told reporters, referring to the bloodshed.

Former major Marcos Tara, who led the group who met Gusmao, said he wanted the ex-soldiers to be reinstated but regretted the fact that few of his colleagues had turned up.

"I just want to open the way for the petitioners to have a dialogue so that they can regain their dignity in the military and obtain aid from the government," he said.

He said those who had failed to show up for the talks might have been intimidated by others who opposed dialogue with the government.

Rebel leader Reinado told Reuters in July that he was prepared to hold talks with the new government provided international forces sent in to restore order after last year's violence left.

Last year Reinado escaped along with 50 other inmates from a prison where he was being held on charges of involvement in the violence. Reinado has refused to give up his weapons even though the government had ordered security forces to stop hunting him.

Ramos Horta backs Howard rival in Bennelong

Melbourne Age - November 6, 2007

Peter Ker, Sydney – East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta has weighed into the 2007 federal election campaign by passionately endorsing a direct opponent of Prime Minister John Howard in the Sydney electorate of Bennelong.

Despite foreign leaders traditionally staying out of Australia's domestic politics, Mr Ramos Horta has lent his support to Margherita Tracanelli, who is contesting Bennelong for the Climate Change Coalition party.

In a glowing 103-word email tribute seen by The Age yesterday, Mr Ramos Horta said Ms Tracanelli was "very hardworking, articulate and eloquent". He then speculated over her winning Bennelong, which Mr Howard holds by 4.1 per cent.

"She will be a convinving (sic), powerful voice in the Federal Parliament," he said. Ms Tracanelli worked for Mr Ramos Horta in East Timor as a communications consultant during the 1990s.

In the statement, which was prefaced with a note saying "Here it goes, a sentence for you" and signed with the letter "J", Mr Ramos Horta praises Ms Tracanelli for her commitment to environmental causes.

"Margherita Tracanelli is one of those human beings with a heart and passion," he said. "For me, a good leader, a true leader, is someone who has a heart, who is compassionate and is passionate about what she/he believes in, someone who cares about the poor and the dispossessed of this planet.

"Margherita is one such person who cares and is passionate about our environment, our planet, about the harm we have done to our own common home, the home of humanity, the home of our children."

Ms Tracanelli also has a handwritten personal reference signed by Mr Ramos Horta dated October 30, 1996.

The Age contacted Mr Ramos Horta's media spokesman, Joel Maria Pereira, in Dili yesterday in an attempt to confirm the tribute. Mr Pereira said he could not contact Mr Ramos Horta because the President was visiting regional parts of East Timor and would not return to Dili until later this week.

But Ms Tracanelli said she was good friends with Mr Ramos Horta, and he had written the note on Sunday in full knowledge that it would be made public. "I told him I was going to stand and he said 'I would vote for you'," she said. "I normally wouldn't use him but I thought this is an occasion in which I should pull out all the stops."

Ms Tracanelli said Mr Ramos Horta was fully aware of the significance of Bennelong being the home seat of the Prime Minister. But she added there was no bad blood between Mr Ramos Horta and Mr Howard. "He knows it is worthwhile because he understands the security issue of climate change," she said.

Ms Tracanelli also has a 2004 reference from former Australian Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove relating to her work in East Timor, but being more than three years old, it does not endorse her political ambitions to claim Bennelong.

Earlier this year, US President George Bush said he would not prejudge the decision of Australian voters when asked if Australia's alliance with the US would weaken under a Rudd Labor government.

Mr Ramos Horta has links to many Australian politicians. Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer previously described him as "a friend" while former Victorian Labor premier Steve Bracks now works as an unpaid adviser to the East Timorese Government.

The Climate Change Coalition has several high-profile candidates in NSW, with science guru Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on the Senate ticket, and former deputy mayor of Sydney, Dixie Coultan, contesting the lower house seat of Wentworth against Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Paper trail peters out for whistleblowing diplomat

Canberra Times - November 2, 2007

A former diplomat has slammed public servants' "willingness to lie", after an investigation into claims he was pressured to break the law ended because of a lack of evidence.

The Greens have used the case to push for a whistleblowers' authority independent from the bureaucracy.

Peter Ellis, who headed Australia's aid program in East Timor, was removed from the embassy in Dili after he refused to lie to a human rights group about why AusAID broke its contract in 2005. Public servants who lie can be fined or sacked under Commonwealth law.

AusAID later told the organisation, Forum Tau Matan, its $65,830 grant was cancelled because it had signed a petition asking Australia to respect East Timorese sovereignty while negotiating gas rights.

The Australian Public Service Commission investigated the incident, but found insufficient documents to prove what Mr Ellis was initially told to say. It noted Mr Ellis was motivated by his "conviction that he was legally and ethically obliged" to be honest. But it agreed with the Foreign Affairs Department that public servants did not have to give "transparent reasons" for funding decisions.

Documents seen by The Canberra Times show Mr Ellis discussed the contract breach with Australian ambassador Margaret Twomey on May 25, 2005. In a file note that day, he said Ms Twomey told him "being less than honest" was a tool of the "diplomat's trade". Ms Twomey later denied making the statement, saying her comments were part of a "brainstorming" session and not an order to lie.

The documents also show AusAID assistant director-general, Alan March, suggested Mr Ellis tell Forum Tau Matan there was "no single reason" it was stripped of funding.

However, Foreign Affairs officials later confirmed to the Senate the contract was broken because of the petition. The commission found it was "probable" Mr Ellis's clash with Ms Twomey contributed to the rare decision to deny him a posting extension, a decision he says cost him about $100,000. But it accepted Ms Twomey's explanation she had other concerns about Mr Ellis's performance.

AusAID did not record why it refused the extension, but later said one reason was its officers in Dili were inexperienced, "given the political crisis and the violence that occurred in East Timor in 2006".

Mr Ellis, who now works overseas as a governance adviser, said AusAID's explanation was "an embarrassing mistake", given it decided to end his posting months before the East Timor crisis unfolded. "[It] is a clear sign that the AusAID executive was grappling for excuses after the fact," he said.

"Public servants were prepared to lie to cover up an awkward ministerial decision that they considered was too robust and likely to attract criticism internationally and domestically. [I] had to go to extreme measures to stop this deception from happening."

Neither the Foreign Affairs Department nor the commission interviewed him about his whistle-blower report. They instead consulted only the senior officers he made the claims against.

Greens Senate candidate Kerrie Tucker said the Ellis case showed the need for an independent whistle-blower authority "able to report directly to Parliament".

"If we are going to have a public service which is able to be frank and fearless, you have to have good whistleblower protection." Meanwhile, the organisation at the centre of the dispute has since rejected a World Bank grant because some of the money came from Australia.

Forum Tau Matan cancelled the contract, saying it would prefer to act with "freedom, self-respect and dignity" than accept the funds. Its coordinator, Joao Pequinho, told The Canberra Times the grant, which would have been used to train young East Timorese leaders, was worth $US20,000 ($22A,000). His organisation was happy to work with institutions "which share our goals". "However, experience has taught us that AusAID has different objectives, and we prefer not to receive funding from them," he said. Neither the commission nor AusAID would comment.

 Truth & friendship commission

Indonesia-Timor Leste commission ignore criticism from UN

Jakarta Post - November 3, 2007

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta – The joint Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) will ignore UN criticism and focus on finalizing its report without testimonials from officials of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).

"Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda has asked us to ignore minor voices, including criticism from the UN, and focus on finishing our final report.

"We will not summon any officials from the UN again because we have invited them four times without any results," CTF co- chairman from Indonesia Benjamin Mangkoedilaga told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said members of the commission had almost completed the three-part report, but refused to give details.

CTF conducted its final public hearing last week. Commissioners representing both countries then convened to discuss what would be included in the final report, which will be based on public hearings, submissions, research and document reviews it conducted over two years ago.

The commission has announced it will submit its final report to the governments of both countries in January.

CTF co-chairman from Timor Leste Dionisio Babo Soares said throughout November the commissioners would discuss whether gross human rights violations occurred in the former Indonesian province.

"After we have established the existence of gross human rights violations we will decide which institutions are responsible for them," he told the Post.

Soares said the commission would only propose amnesty to people who cooperated, admitted their mistakes and apologized. However, during the commission's six public hearings, none of the summoned have admitted mistakes let alone apologized.

"In the public hearings we have not heard an apology, but the public hearings are only one mechanism, and we also have closed hearings and document review. We will consider all of these when deciding whether to propose amnesty," Soares said.

The commission's authority to propose amnesty has become a source of local and international criticism as many have said it opens the possibility for impunity.

CTF's credibility was further put to question when in July the UN prohibited its officials from testifying to the commission. Criticizing the commission for offering amnesty to those who committed serious crimes, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told UN officials not to testify before the panel.

Indonesia and Timor Leste agreed to establish the CTF to investigate the violence that followed the UN-supervised independence vote in East Timor (Timor Leste's former name) in 1999.

Violence blamed on militia backed by the Indonesian Military left hundreds dead and forced thousands from their homes. Much of the area's infrastructure was destroyed in the upheaval.

Indonesia claims only about 100 people were killed in the violence, before Australian troops arrived, followed by a UN peacekeeping mission.

Both Indonesia and Timor Leste have set up parallel systems to prosecute those responsible for the violence, but UN reports have described their efforts as inadequate, with no Indonesian high- ranking military officers being punished.

 Balibo 5 inquest

Doubt over Balibo journos' grave

Australia Associated Press - November 20, 2007

Funeral records suggest the remains of only four of the five Australian newsmen killed in East Timor 32 years ago are in a grave bearing their names.

Both the Coalition and Labor have committed to repatriation of the bodies of the five men, known as the Balibo Five.

Repatriation was recommended by NSW Deputy Coroner Dorelle Pinch who found last week the men were killed by Indonesian troops seeking to cover up an invasion of East Timor in 1975.

Ms Pinch found that the bodies of all five men were burnt together and their remains mixed before being divided into four boxes for burial at Kebayoran Lama cemetery in Jakarta.

But records, obtained by the ABC from the All Saints Church in Jakarta, are not conclusive, ABC radio reported this morning.

A register of services note for Friday December 5, 1975, reads: "Burial at Kebayoran Lama of remains believed to be four of five Australian journalists killed in Portuguese Timor."

The gravestone carries the name of all five newsmen and says the men died on the 16/10/1975 with the inscription "no words can explain this pointless death in Balibo".

Killing of newsmen in Timor ruled a war crime

Sydney Morning Herald - November 17, 2007

Hamish McDonald – After 32 years of secrecy, the killing of the Balibo Five newsmen has been branded a war crime, and Australia may launch prosecutions against the Indonesian soldiers involved.

The explosive findings yesterday by the Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch – that the five were deliberately killed by special force soldiers after surrendering – will be referred to federal lawyers and police for war crime prosecutions.

The Australian Government could then find itself obliged to seek the extradition of at least two former Indonesian soldiers – including the retired army general and information minister Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah - for wilful killing of civilians, contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

The packed Glebe courtroom grew tense – and Maureen Tolfree, sister of one of the five, Brian Peters, sobbed – as Ms Pinch summed up how the newsmen died.

"They were not armed; they were dressed in civilian clothes; all of them at one time or another had their hands raised in the universally recognised gesture of surrender; they were not killed in the heat of battle; they were killed deliberately on orders given by the field commander, Captain Yunus Yosfiah."

Ms Pinch said she would refer the matter to the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock. But Mr Ruddock said yesterday it was not up to him to launch prosecutions against alleged war criminals. "The Australian Federal Police is responsible for investigating war crimes and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for prosecuting persons charged with contravening Commonwealth laws," Mr Ruddock said.

Prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions would be a first for Australian authorities, which used separate war crimes legislation for the post-1945 trials of Japanese offenders and more recent action against alleged Nazi fugitives.

It would be a test of political courage for Australian leaders, and on the Indonesian side there will be concern this is merely a prelude to further international prosecutions over Jakarta's 24- year occupation of East Timor during which numerous massacres and atrocities have been documented, or over its bloody withdrawal from the territory in 1999 for which it has conducted trials widely seen as token.

The Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, suggested a Labor government would allow war crimes prosecutions to proceed. "This is a very disturbing conclusion from the coroner," he said. "It may now be 32 years ago, but this is a matter of concern to all Australians, not just those in journalism, but everyone who is concerned about the proper reporting of events around the world.

"I believe this has to be taken through to its logical conclusion. I also believe that those responsible should be held to account."

The Prime Minister, John Howard, said yesterday he would take advice on the finding. "I take what she said seriously, it's a long time ago, it doesn't mean that the relatives of those people who died aren't entitled to have a proper response to the coroner's findings," he said.

Then-captain Yunus and another Indonesian special forces soldier, Christoforus da Silva, were the only two named participants in the killing of the five newsmen after they surrendered with their hands up in the village square of Balibo in the early morning of October 16, 1975.

Ms Pinch said Channel Nine cameraman Brian Peters was probably the first to fall, with colleague Malcolm Rennie and Channel Seven's Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart killed soon afterwards on the orders of Captain Yunus – to prevent news getting out of the Indonesian attack on then Portuguese Timor.

"There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the head of Indonesian Special Forces, Major- General Benny Murdani to Colonel Dading Kalbuadi, Special Forces Group Commander in Timor, and then to Captain Yunus," she found. Murdani and Kalbuadi are dead.

The bereaved families hailed the finding. John Milkins, the adopted-out son of Mr Cunningham, said the findings were immensely important and courageous. "It is the first step in what has been a very long journey," he said. "And the words 'war crimes' are going to echo in Australian history for quite some time. The Balibo Five have been an iconic piece of history in Australia and it will continue.."

In Jakarta, the findings were immediately dismissed as "Australia's internal process" by military spokesman Air Vice- Marshall Sagom Tamboen.

"To us the case has been very clear and it is [a] closed case now," he said. "Their accusation is not proved. However if the Australian Government sees that as truth, the solution to the problem, I believe, lies between both governments."

Dino Pati Djalal, spokesman for the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said "the book is closed on that", and would not be drawn on what would happen if Canberra pursued the findings. "But I believe the Australian Government is very careful in handling this issue," he said.

Balibo Five share some blame: coroner

Sydney Morning Herald - November 17, 2007

Hamish McDonald – In the blame game of Balibo, the state coronial inquest yesterday put responsibility onto the five journalist victims for refusing opportunities to escape their danger, and the Indonesian military for executing them.

Implicitly excused are Australian government departments, especially Foreign Affairs, which failed to put together a detailed advance brief about the Indonesian attack and the knowledge that some Australian reporters were "outside Dili" and might well be in the threatened border area. The question of any negligence by Canberra was ruled outside the parameters of the inquest before it started.

The Deputy State Coroner, Dorelle Pinch, said the five newsmen had had many warnings and the last, unsent letter of Nine cameraman Brian Peters, written hours before he was killed on October 16, 1975, showed a realisation of how exposed they were.

The two TV teams could have left with a Portuguese TV crew who went back to Maliana on October 15, or with some Fretilin defenders who pulled out of Balibo at 4.30am on October 16 as a preliminary bombardment started, or with the last Fretilin soldiers who fled at 6.45am.

They wanted to stay "un momento" longer to capture more images, Ms Pinch said. "They misjudged the timing. On the basis of the evidence before me, the journalists themselves bear the responsibility for being alone in Balibo at the time the Indonesian and Partisan military forces entered."

But in making their decision to stay and attempt to surrender, the Balibo Five did not factor in the Indonesian plan to kill them as witnesses to a covert operation whose exposure might force the then prime minister, Gough Whitlam, to oppose Indonesia's armed invasion.

"Outside the Indonesian military, no one in Australia or East Timor was aware of that plan either," she said. "I am aware that there has been speculation that government agencies in Australia had forewarning that the journalists were to be killed. All of the evidence before this inquest is to the contrary."

Ms Pinch also dismissed speculation that Australian governments had known the circumstances of the journalists' deaths since 1975 and that this information was contained in secret intelligence material.

"On all of the evidence before me, including the intelligence material, reports based on it and the evidence of those who saw or knew of it, there is nothing to indicate how the journalists were killed e.g. whether they were shot or stabbed, and whether they were killed deliberately or accidentally," she said.

"The sigint [signals intelligence, intercepted radio messages] material did confirm the evidence of eyewitnesses that the bodies were burnt," she said, but added that witness accounts and diplomatic reporting had given fuller details.

The then foreign minister, Don Willesee, had wanted to inform families immediately after he learned of the deaths from an intercept on October 17, but had been dissuaded by the then defence minister, Bill Morrison, and senior officials until "collateral" information came in the public domain and the identities of the dead were confirmed.

The responsibility for delay in confirming the identities of the journalists rested squarely on the Indonesian Government, she said.

"The Indonesian military had recovered the documents, including some passports, of the journalists on the day they died and were in a position to provide confirmation of identity as soon as the Australian embassy made inquiries about the journalists."

Instead there was a cover-up, which included posing the bodies with captured uniforms and weapons, burning them to eradicate signs of how the deaths happened, orchestrating false accounts, misleading Australian investigators, and denying, up to now, Indonesian involvement.

Ramos-Horta says Indonesia to blame for journalist killings

ABC News Online - November 17, 2007

East Timor's leader has called on Indonesia to take responsibility for the 1975 killing of five foreign reporters.

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta says Indonesia must assume with courage and responsibility what happened," claiming the reporters had been "captured alive and killed."

The Indonesian government has rejected results from an Australian inquiry that found Indonesian soldiers had deliberately killed five British, Australian and New Zealand reporters to prevent them exposing the invasion of East Timor more than three decades ago.

Jakarta maintains the five died in crossfire in a skirmish ahead of Indonesia's invasion, but an Australian inquest's coroner says evidence exists war crimes may have been committed.

Truth never too old, as Balibo demons laid to rest

Australian Associated Press - November 16, 2007

Amy Coopes, Sydney – As forces from West Timor spilled into the Balibo town square on the morning of October 16, 1975, two Australian-based newsmen looked on, their cameras fixed on a helicopter as it swooped overhead.

It was a piece of footage which may have sealed their fate – incontrovertible evidence that Indonesia was invading East Timor.

Brian Peters and Gary Cunningham, cameramen from channels Seven and Nine, had been in the hotly contested border town for just three days when the dawn raid began. Keen to capture footage, the pair made their way to the town's ancient fort to film the pro- independence Fretilin forces in battle.

Within hours, Peters, a Briton, fellow Nine journalist and Briton Malcolm Rennie and their Seven colleagues Cunningham, of New Zealand, and Australians Tony Stewart and Greg Shackleton, were dead.

A NSW coroner today found the men – now known as the Balibo Five -- were captured and killed by Indonesian troops to prevent news of the invasion getting out.

Shot or stabbed as they attempted to surrender while declaring themselves "Australian" and "journalists", Peters and his colleagues were then dressed in military uniform and photographed with weapons before their bodies were incinerated.

It was a deliberate and "horrific" act serious enough to warrant a war crimes investigation, Deputy NSW Coroner Dorelle Pinch ruled.

Her findings are at odds with three decades of "disinformation" by Indonesian authorities, who still maintain the men died in crossfire as Indonesian troops fought Fretilin defenders.

"For us it is a closed case and we are still in the position that they were killed because of crossfire between conflicting sides at the time," Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman Kristiarto Legowo said after the coronial findings were handed down. "Whatever the coroner's recommendation, it will not change Indonesia's position on that."

The inquest was the first and only public inquiry into the killings to be held on Australian soil, with testimony from scores of diplomatic and Timorese witnesses and former prime minister Gough Whitlam.

After filming at the fort that morning, Peters and Cunningham returned to the 'Chinese House' where they had been staying, as troops closed in.

No Timorese groups in the conflict had helicopters, and the newsmen had just secured proof that Indonesian forces were among the wave of soldiers storming Balibo.

What happened next was unclear, Ms Pinch said. There was evidence three of the men were shot. Another – probably Peters – was attacked in the street and the fifth man was stabbed as he was forced from the bathroom where he was hiding by Indonesian Special Forces Commander Christoforus da Silva.

However, eyewitnesses agreed on some points. "The journalists clearly identified themselves as Australians and as journalists," Ms Pinch said.

They were unarmed and wearing civilian clothing, and were not in the company of Fretilin soldiers. All of them, at one time or another, had their hands raised in the "universal" gesture of surrender.

"The journalists were not killed in any crossfire between Fretilin and Indonesian soldiers. They were not killed in the heat of battle," Ms Pinch said. "They were killed deliberately on orders given by the field commander, Yunus Yosfiah."

Captain Yosfiah, an Indonesian Special Forces commander, led the group of soldiers which confronted the five, and was allegedly the first to open fire, yelling "attack".

Witness Antonio Sarmento described soldiers wiping the men's blood across an Australian flag, which they had painted on the outer walls of their house in the hope it would offer them some protection.

Yosfiah, who later became Indonesia's information minister, also ordered the men be clothed in Portuguese military uniforms and placed alongside guns in an attempt to make them look like combatants, Mr Sarmento said.

After photographing and filming the corpses, Yosfiah ordered the men's bodies be burnt and warned those present never to tell anyone what had really happened.

No Indonesian officials gave evidence at the inquest. Yosfiah did not answer invitations to appear, but in interviews he has denied ordering the men's killing.

On its opening day, the inquest was told there was a tacit understanding Australia would support the invasion of East Timor so long as Indonesia's involvement was not made public.

If it were to become widely known, Australia warned it would need to publicly oppose the move. "It was of paramount importance that the presence of Indonesian troops remained secret," Ms Pinch said.

General Benny Murdani, commander of the invasion, met with Richard Woolcott, Australia's ambassador to Jakarta, the day before the Balibo Five were shot and said Australia had three options – to support Indonesia, oppose Indonesia or keep quiet.

Alan Renouf, then head of Australia's foreign affairs department, told the inquest he received a cable on October 15 indicating almost 4,000 troops would enter East Timor, and that Suharto would deny Indonesian involvement.

The Defence Signals Directorate intercepted numerous Indonesian military radio communications indicating the army was tailing the journalists and knew they were in Balibo ahead of the attack.

"Don't worry about it, we have good medicine for them," one commander said, according to former Indonesian soldier Fernando Mariz.

Commonwealth officials Ian Cunliffe and George Brownbill, who visited the Shoal Bay receiving station in 1977, told the inquest they were showed an intercepted Indonesian wire implying official orders were given to kill the five.

"As directed or in accordance with your instructions, five journalists have been located and shot," read the October 16 telegram, which has never again been seen despite some 2,500 hours of official searches.

A signal intercepted on October 17 said: "Among the dead are four white men. What are we going to do with the bodies?"

Office of Current Intelligence (OCI) analyst Gary Klintworth said he knew immediately it was the journalists and prepared a briefing, which he was then ordered to destroy by his boss John Bennetts.

Preserving good relations with Indonesia was considered "paramount", Dr Klintworth said, and releasing information suggesting Australia was eavesdropping was potentially damaging.

Prime minister Gough Whitlam did not confirm the deaths until October 21, when the Jakarta press began carrying reports. Many of the intelligence officers said they assumed Mr Whitlam and his senior ministers would have been informed as a matter of urgency.

But Mr Whitlam, who was at the time embroiled in the so-called loans crisis and other problems in the senate, said he wasn't told of the shooting until October 21. Mr Whitlam also told the inquest he could not recall seeing any of the crucial intercepts, and said he had twice warned Shackleton not to go to East Timor.

"I warned him the Australian government had no way of protecting him or his colleagues," Mr Whitlam told the coroner, adding it would have been "irresponsible" of Shackleton not to pass on this advice.

The newsmen, all in their 20s and with little experience of filming in theatres of war, declined two invitations to leave with retreating troops on the morning of October 16, telling one witness: "We are international journalists, they will not kill us".

Bill Morrison, Mr Whitlam's defence minister, said he knew within hours that the newsmen had been shot, but didn't pass on the information because it was "on the pain of death to go anywhere near (Whitlam's) office at that stage".

Ms Pinch accepted Mr Whitlam's testimony, adding there was no evidence to suggest he or subsequent governments knew the journalists had been murdered and had covered it up.

She also said there was no proof anyone except the Indonesian military knew of the plan to execute the journalists, despite then foreign minister Don Willessee's recent "deathbed confession" that the Australian government had advance warning.

"I am aware that there has been speculation that government agencies in Australia had forewarning that the journalists were to be killed," she said. "All of the evidence before this inquest is to the contrary."

The coroner's brief has been referred to federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock for consideration of war crimes charges. Ms Pinch also recommended urgent government action on the repatriation of the remains of the Balibo Five, which were buried in Jakarta without their families' consent.

A national industry-wide safety code for journalists was also recommended.

"They were murdered in cold blood – it was just getting someone to listen and help us," said Peters' sister Maureen Tolfree, a driving force behind the inquest. "I think Brian and all the other boys would have been proud of this moment."

Gary Cunningham's son, John Milkins, said it had taken decades, but the truth was finally out. "I believe that we are in a situation where after 32 years we finally have the truth and we have the iconic words 'war crimes'," he told reporters.

Ms Pinch said she hoped the inquest would "demonstrate that the truth is never too young to be told, nor too old".

"Few events have become as poignantly etched into the Australian psyche as the deaths of five Australian journalists in Balibo, Timor Leste, who have become known in Australian folklore as the Balibo Five," she said.

Howard taking advice on Balibo Findings

Australian Broadcasting Corporation - November 16, 2007

Prime Minister John Howard says he is taking advice on what the Government can do in relation to a coroner's finding that five Australian-based journalists were deliberately killed in East Timor 32 years ago.

Deputy state coroner Dorelle Pinch delivered her findings at the Glebe Coroners Court into the death of Brian Peters, one of the Balibo five. She found the five were killed to prevent them from revealing that Indonesian forces were involved in an attack on the town of Balibo in 1975.

The case will be referred to the federal Attorney-General to consider possible prosecution for war crimes. Mr Howard says he is seeking advice and the Government will do anything it needs to.

"I think the best thing I can do in relation to that is to take some advice as to what is the appropriate thing to do," he said.

"I want to study what the coroner has said. I take what he said seriously. It was a tragic event and we will treat the coroner's report seriously as it should be and if there's anything we need to do, we will do it."

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says he would like to discuss recommendations made by the coroner with family members of the Balibo five.

"One of them relates to the possible repatriation or removing of the remains of those who were killed, and we will be consulting with the families to see what their wishes are in relation to that and we'll help out if there is any wish to take action on that front," he said.

Mr Downer also says he will look at the coroner's recommendation for a code of conduct for Australian journalists overseas.

"Our journalists of course, others as well, they take a lot of risks and they operate in a very difficult and dangerous environment, so my department would be very happy to sit down with representatives of Australian journalists and work out a code of conduct which we might be able to assist with," he said.

Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says any information referred to him by the coroner will be passed on to the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Ruddock says it is not his role to assess whether any offence has been committed, as the AFP are responsible for war crimes investigations and the DPP is responsible for prosecuting anyone charged.

The sister of Mr Peters, Maureen Tolfrey, says she would like to see members of the Whitlam administration help in the repatriation of the victims' remains from Jakarta.

"I would like to say to Gough Whitlam and Richard Woolcott, you connived to hide the bodies and the remains, perhaps you could connive now to bring them back to Australia and let them lie in rest," he said.

Balibo Five case closed: Indonesia

Australian Associated Press - November 16, 2007

Indonesia says the case of the Balibo Five is closed and insists an Australian coroner's claim its soldiers may have committed war crimes won't damage relations between the countries.

Deputy NSW Coroner Dorelle Pinch on Friday found Indonesian soldiers deliberately killed five Australian-based journalists in October 1975 to stop them reporting on Indonesia's invasion of East Timor. She says war crimes may have been committed and will refer the matter to Australia's attorney-general.

Indonesia has always insisted the Balibo Five were killed in crossfire in the border town of Balibo during its invasion of East Timor.

In Jakarta, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo said the coroner's finding would do nothing to change its position.

"It will not change Indonesia's stance that for us it is a closed case and we are still in the position that they were killed because of crossfire between conflicting sides at the time. Whatever the coroner's recommendation, it will not change Indonesia's position on that."

A spokesman for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also said the case was "closed" and was confident the coroner's findings would not damage relations between Canberra and Jakarta.

"Our relationship is very strong," Dino Patti Djalal told AAP. "It is endurable to withstand any issue. So I don't think this news will rock our boat. It's a pity what happened to them but we've moved on."

However an Indonesian military spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Sagom Tamboen, suggested relations could be damaged by the issue. "I can see that this thing could worsen relations between Indonesia and Australia," he said.

Air Vice Marshal Tamboen rejected the coroner's findings. "If they concluded that the TNI (the Indonesian military) seemed to arrange it (the deaths), where did they get their sources? It's a premature conclusion."

Air Vice Marshal Tamboen said the report of the coroner, who tried and failed to have key former Indonesian officers give evidence at the inquest, was one-sided. "They never asked us. And the matter is already closed. What is their new evidence?"

The military spokesman questioned whether the NSW coroner was able to brand the killings a war crime. "Is that what international conventions say? Are they a competent body to say that?"

The Indonesian embassy in Canberra would not comment on the findings.

Ms Pinch said the Balibo Five had been killed on the orders of Indonesian special forces officers including Yunus Yosfiah, later to become a minister for information.

Contacted in Jakarta, the now retired Yosfiah refused to comment. "I've talked about that many many times," he said, before hanging up.

Yosfiah, who refused repeated requests to give evidence to the NSW inquest, has denied ordering or taking part in the killings.

The inquest ruling comes days after Indonesia's parliament agreed to ratify a key security treaty between the two nations, known as the Lombok Treaty.

The signing of the treaty a year ago was a key step in a thawing of relations between the two nations, after Indonesia's ambassador to Australia was recalled amid a row in 2006 when Australia granted protection to 43 Papuan asylum seekers.

Indonesian human rights group Kontras welcomed the Balibo finding, but feared any action would be limited by the two nations in order to maintain their good relationship.

Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid said Indonesia had shown reluctance to assist in the case. However, he said Indonesia needed to learn lessons from its past mistakes, such as the Balibo Five killings, in order to build a stronger democracy.

"In terms of human rights awareness this case is very important to deliver the message about the universality of human rights," Hamid said. "Of course its not easy for us to convince Indonesian authorities to bring those responsible to justice."

Much would depend on how the Indonesian and Australian governments approached the case.

"If you look at the case of Papua or the Lombok pact, these two examples show how both governments are still putting the issue of human rights as internal affairs," Hamid said.

"The Lombok pact seems to be a way that both governments are trying to not interfere in each other's domestic affairs. "But for us, human rights abuses are not domestic issues. Australia and Indonesia have obligations under international law."

Hamid said if Indonesia continued to resist legal efforts at justice over East Timor abuses, it could undermine its current role in the United National Human Rights Council and as a non- permanent member of the UN Security Council.

"In spite of the limited result in the future of the justice process, I think it's really important to send a message to Indonesia, to the world, that an Australian court has condemned war crimes, wherever they are committed."

The Balibo Five case caused tension between the two nations in May, when the then Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso angrily cut short a Sydney visit, after being invited to testify at the inquest.

'They got a lesson'

Sydney Morning Herald - November 10, 2007

The report from a coronial inquest into the Balibo Five deaths is handed down next week. Mal Walden recounts the gut-wrenching day he heard the news.

October 15, 1975, late in the day, and the shrill ringing of a telephone shattered the silence of Channel Seven's almost-empty newsroom.

Everyone else had left for the evening's post-news ritual at a nearby hotel, where the topic this night would undoubtedly have centred on a recent outburst by the volatile news editor, John Maher, who was incensed at seeing his reporter Greg Shackleton wearing an army fatigue shirt while reporting from East Timor.

"What the hell does he think he's doing?" came the rant. "He'll get himself killed. Send a cable immediately to Dili and get him out of that bloody shirt." With that, Maher lit another cigarette and disappeared into his office, trailing a cloud of smoke.

The phone continued its incessant ringing until I finally answered it, taking a call from Olwyn Shackleton that was to haunt me for the next 32 years. Between inconsolable sobs, I listened to a grief-stricken woman reacting to an intuitive notion that her son was dead.

"I'm Greg's mother and I know what has happened," she said. "A mother's intuition, call it what you want, but I know he's been killed. I know it. I feel it. I just know. Oh my God!"

Olwyn Shackleton was wrong. Her son Greg was alive when she made that call, but he was to die in tragic circumstances the following morning.

Greg Shackleton joined Channel Seven's Melbourne newsroom in 1973. A clean-cut, image-conscious, 23-year-old father-of-one, Shackleton was competent, friendly and, most of all, ambitious. It could be that his competitive edge led him to his fate.

Two years into his transition from radio to television, Shackleton learnt that the channel's senior news reporter had failed in his attempt to reach East Timor to cover the lead-up to a threatened Indonesian invasion.

He saw this as an opportunity to prove his ability and send a message to those who snickered at the mirror he kept in his top drawer to maintain his immaculately groomed appearance. There was just one hurdle to overcome. He had to convince his boss, Maher, to give him the chance.

"When you have a good reporter bursting to go and cover something, what do you do?" Maher asked in hindsight. "I pleaded with them to be careful and not to be foolish. But this was a very big story and it was on our own doorstep."

On Thursday, October 9, 1975, Shackleton boarded a 7am flight from Melbourne to Darwin with the veteran cameraman Gary Cunningham and his young assistant, Tony Stewart. Exactly one week later they – along with the British cameraman Brian Peters and Nine Network reporter Malcolm Rennie – would be dead.

Stationed in the dusty town of Balibo, 10 kilometres from the Indonesian border, the five were woken by the sounds of artillery, mortars and tank fire just before dawn on Thursday, October 16. There have been differing reports on how, and in what order, they died, but the indisputable fact is that by early evening they were burnt beyond recognition.

Back in Melbourne I had walked into the newsroom to be told: "We've lost the Timor crew." I was trying to interpret what was meant by the term "lost" when I remembered the previous night's call from Shackleton's mother, Olwyn, and raced to my desk to find her number. I was intending to give it to Maher but I saw through the glass partition of his office that he was already on the phone. I saw him suddenly slump into his chair and bury his head in his hands. At that moment, I knew that the term "lost" meant far more than just missing.

Moments later the station manager, Ron Casey, walked into Maher's office and they stood facing each other and then moved to the window and stared outside. Had they turned to their left and looked up at the adjoining building, they would have been looking directly into the window of the Army Intelligence Network. Unbeknown to both men, that office of the Defence Signals Directorate had already received a cable confirming our worst fears on the fate of the five newsmen.

Across the Timor Sea, less than one hour's flying time from Dili, the Royal Australian Navy Station at Shoal Bay had listened in horror to an Indonesian radio message, transmitted on a secret wavelength. The essence of that message was that the incursion had succeeded and "all traces of the white men had been obliterated".

A short time later, Casey and Maher, both red-eyed and grim- faced, left the newsroom. I was later to learn that Maher had gone to St Patrick's Cathedral in the city to light three candles and pray to Saint Jude, his patron saint of lost causes. In the newsroom, phones were ringing furiously. Friends and colleagues were calling for more information, which we didn't have. In fact, our hopes were being raised by some reports suggesting the five men may have been captured.

That afternoon the report from the DSD went to the Defence Department's Joint Intelligence Organisation in Canberra. According to coronial evidence, the report was circulated to the defence minister, Bill Morrison, the foreign minister, Don Willesee, and the prime minister, Gough Whitlam. Whitlam denies this.

The mood of the Labor ministers that day was sombre. The Opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, had announced that in the wake of the Khemlani "loans affair" the Liberals would block supply in the Senate.

On Friday, October 17, Casey and Maher flew to Canberra to meet officials from the Foreign Affairs Department. As they were leaving Melbourne, a communication teleprinter just behind my desk rang with three short bells. I ripped off its message:

"Editor Channel Seven News Melbourne VIC

Most concern fate three Channel Seven newsmen... Reports reaching Dili indicate they were killed by invading forces... Radio Kupang reported yesterday that UDT forces captured 'quote' five communist journalists who supported Fretilin and they got a lesson 'unquote' ... Please convey to families concerned our profoundest concern for their fate... Fretilin soldiers on the border will observe one minute's silence tomorrow midday... My personal warmest regards...

Francisco Xavier Do Amaral President Fretilin."

The ominous words confirmed our worst fears. "Captured, got a lesson" and "killed". It was no accidental killing.

I read it several times before walking quietly out of the newsroom and into a nearby toilet. There were sobs already coming from one of the cubicles, so I left for one downstairs where no one would hear mine.

That afternoon representatives from channels Seven and Nine met the Foreign Affairs Department and, against their advice, Casey and Maher later visited the Indonesian embassy. According to Maher, they were met by a very young official who was sympathetic but very secretive.

"He indicated to us that our boys had been killed," Maher recalled. "He put his own life on the line by telling us this, but he convinced us of the worst and we flew home."

On Monday, October 20, the Indonesian press carried a report on the bodies of four Europeans found in a house at Balibo, and said that while their nationalities had not been determined, there was a sign nearby of Australia.

In Sydney at the eight-week inquest into the death of Brian Peters, the Channel Nine cameraman, Whitlam testified that he was briefed by Defence and Foreign Affairs officials on Tuesday, October 21, that five Australian journalists had been killed.

On November 12, Australia's ambassador to Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, received a box containing bone fragments, some camera gear, notebooks and papers belonging to Shackleton, Rennie, Peters and Stewart.

On December 5, a funeral service was held in Jakarta. The wreath from the Australian Embassy read: "They stayed because they saw the search for truth and the need to report at first hand as a necessary task."

For Maher, the events of Timor took a personal toll and he was haunted by the tragedy until his death in 2004. He regarded the close-knit newsroom team as his extended family. "I was not keen on the operation from the start," he said. "But it was my responsibility."

To compound his loss and guilt, Maher was targeted by the publishers of the suburban tabloid Toorak Times, who printed a personal attack accusing him of being a murderer. For weeks, they ran scathing headlines referring to Maher as the "Killer News Boss".

Maher said: "I thought, if this is all I've got to put up with, it's nothing compared with the hell the boys' families are going through. I decided to cop it sweet."

A week after the Jakarta funeral services, the Foreign Affairs Department informed us that the personal belongings of the dead newsmen were waiting to be picked up at their office in the city. I volunteered to collect them and send them on to their families. As I drove back to the newsroom with the damaged gear and water- stained notebooks, I read Shackleton's final entry:

"Balibo, October 15th. We have just received our first food supply in days. Fretilin members brought us some potato chips and coke. It reminds us of our final night in Melbourne..."

As I read that entry, I looked at the date – October 15. It had been written the night Shackleton's mother rang Seven's newsroom believing her son had been killed. It was not a mother's intuition, as she had said. It was a terrible premonition. Tragically, several years after Greg Shackleton's death, his mother took her own life.

As we await the outcome of this coronial inquest, we're left wondering whether they will all now be able to rest in peace.

[Mal Walden was a journalist in Channel Seven's Melbourne newsroom at the time. He now works for the Ten Network.]

Balibo Five 'cover-up' claim

The Australian - November 7, 2007

Dan Box – Whitlam era foreign minister Don Willesee believed the Balibo Five were "murdered" by Indonesian soldiers and in his dying days told his daughter the Australian government had conspired to keep news of the deaths from the victims' families.

His account, that ministers "were supposed to keep a lid on (the deaths) until the next week", is supported by his former chief of staff Geoff Briot and Gerald Stone, a former news director for the Nine Network, which employed two of the five journalists killed.

This version of events is in contrast to evidence given on oath by Gough Whitlam at a coronial inquest, due to report next week, during which the former prime minister said he was not told about the deaths until five days after they happened.

Writing in The Australian today, Geraldine Willesee describes how her father "in his dying days... talked again, bitterly and unforgivingly about Australia's role in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor", in 1975.

Ms Willesee says the recent inquest jogged her memory of how her father, who died in September 2003, said the five – Brian Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart and Malcolm Rennie – were "murdered" by Indonesian soldiers, contradicting official reports at the time that they were caught in crossfire.

The inquest by the NSW Coroner into the death of Peters has heard from witnesses in the East Timorese village of Balibo who said the men were deliberately killed by Indonesian soldiers, including the former Indonesian information minister and special forces officer Yunus Yosfiah.

Evidence before the inquest also suggests the Australian government knew the men were dead on the day of the invasion, October 16, but this was not publicly confirmed for 10 days, leaving the men's families to suffer in the interim.

"(I) couldn't stand the thought of those poor families going through the whole weekend not knowing. So I quietly made sure that they'd be told," Willesee told his daughter.

Mr Stone yesterday confirmed that an unidentified man, whom he believed to be from the military, had approached Nine Network news director John Foel two days after the attack and told him the journalists had been killed.

"He had been approached by somebody who asked him to have a drink... and who told him, 'There is no reason to look for your boys, they are dead'," Mr Stone said.

As this account was unverified and the man had not given his identity, Mr Stone said, he had chosen not to pass it on to the journalists' families.

The inquest has also heard that a navy linguist, Robin Dix, translated an intercepted Indonesian military radio communication on the day of the invasion that was subsequently sent to the office of the then prime minister, Mr Whitlam, as well as other senior government officials.

"Five Australian journalists have been killed and all their corpses have been incinerated or burnt to a crisp," the message read, Mr Dix told the inquest. "I will never forget it. I remember it word for word."

Mr Briot yesterday referred The Australian to his own, largely unreported, testimony at the inquest, where he said the then senator Willesee came under pressure to withhold the news for fear of revealing that Indonesian military signals were being routinely intercepted.

"He was annoyed that he had been pretty heavily leant on not to say anything that might give away the secret information that he had," Mr Briot told the inquest.

"His reaction was that he wanted to inform the families of those who had been killed and he was effectively talked out of doing that on the grounds it may effect national security."

When asked who had put this pressure on the minister, Mr Briot identified the then head of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, Gordon Jockel, and his counterpart at the Defence Department, the late Arthur Tange. Mr Jockel could not be contacted yesterday.

Despite the suggestion that a number of senior government officials, including the then foreign minister, knew of the deaths the day they happened, Mr Whitlam has maintained he was not told until October 21, as he had been travelling around the country and could not be reached on a secure line. Mr Whitlam's diary from the time shows he left Canberra for Sydney on the afternoon of October 17 and attended the Gymea Lily Festival a day later, before returning to Canberra on October 20.

In his testimony to the inquest, Mr Whitlam said he had warned Shackleton not to go to East Timor as the government would be unable to guarantee their safety, and that the reporter was "culpable" in the deaths of his colleagues as a result.

There was no response from Mr Whitlam to a request yesterday for comment.

Hounded by guilt on Balibo

The Australian - November 7, 2007

Geraldine Willesee – The nightmare of East Timor followed my father to his deathbed. "Two hundred thousand dead... 200,000." A lifetime of politics poured into a single nugget of horror. "Two hundred thousand dead."

My father, Don Willesee, was the Australian foreign minister when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. When the five journalists were shot dead at Balibo. And for 26 days afterwards.

In his dying days in 2003 he talked again, bitterly and unforgivingly, about Australia's role in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. But we didn't return to the Balibo Five. We hadn't talked about the dead journalists since the time he'd confessed to a decade-long recurring nightmare in which his own journalist children suffered the same fate in an unknown war zone.

But evidence given in this year's inquest into the death of one of those journalists, Brian Peters, hit memory buttons. My father told me two things about the Balibo killings. Two government secrets. The revelations came at emotional moments, the first only months after the media workers were shot dead on Thursday, October 16, 1975.

I was alone with Dad and he suddenly started talking about Balibo.

His eyes teared up and his voice steeled. "You know, we were supposed to keep a lid on it until the next week. But I couldn't stand the thought of those poor families going through the whole weekend not knowing. So I quietly made sure that they'd be told."

I was stunned into silence, as much by my father's wet eyes as by the information. I never asked how he did it, assuming – wrongly -- that a staffer or department official had been co-opted. But he'd been in Canberra a very long time and had quickly found someone able and willing to defy the cover-up decree and then stay quiet about it.

At the inquest, journalist Gerald Stone, a television news director in 1975, gave evidence that he had been told in Darwin on Saturday, October 18, by "a government agent", that the boys were dead. I had called him earlier to ask if he could shed any light on how and when the families had been told of the deaths. I told him my father's story of secretly having the families informed. That triggered his memory.

Stone and a colleague, in Darwin looking for their crews, were approached by a man who they instantly agreed was "a spook". He told them they could stop looking for their boys because they were all dead. And then he walked off. Needless to say, Stone had no intention of passing on, unverified, a story from a stranger.

Thankfully, my father never found out about this ham-fisted approach. But the cover-up of the journalists' killings meant distressed families still had days to wait before getting the truth.

The other thing my father told me was that the Indonesians had murdered the five Australians.

Context is all, and this statement came during an animated discussion about what happened at Balibo. It was still the 1970s and I was mounting an argument against the "caught in the crossfire and accidentally killed" claim, finally saying that the Indonesians had murdered them. "Of course they bloody well murdered them," he spat out angrily before walking off.

As the inquest progressed, I started digging and received almost 6kg of material from the national archives. Despite it being more than 30 years after the event, I was still denied full access to my father's ministerial files. Apparently nothing much happened in the foreign affairs portfolio for most of October 1975, except for the visit of the Indonesian ambassador to the foreign affairs minister the day before the invasion.

Notes of the meeting reveal a frosty exchange, with the ambassador assuring the foreign minister that Indonesia would not invade. The Australians already knew when they would invade. I tracked down my father's former staff and they confirmed the cover-up. One said: "Yes, your father took part in the cover-up -- with a gun at his head."

Another confirmed having seen the infamous intelligence intercept telling of the deliberate killing of the journalists by the Indonesians. Another told me Dad considered resigning over Balibo.

When I told one former staffer of Dad's attempts to inform the families, he expressed surprise: "I thought he'd been talked out of that," he said.

I asked one why my father had not followed through on his instinct to resign from the cabinet: "He was a Labor man, and in the end he couldn't bring himself to damage a Labor government."

Dad decided not to stand again at the next election. Publicly he said he was leaving because of his wife's ill-health. It was a moot point, of course: the entire government would soon be out on its ear. After 26 years in parliament, he had only 26 days left.

I contacted the coroner's office and gave them the information I had gathered. Shortly afterwards Geoff Briot, my father's former chief of staff, known in those days as the principal private secretary, gave evidence to the inquest. To my knowledge, he was the only person from the foreign minister's office to be called. Legally, my account is only hearsay. The results of the inquest will be delivered on November 16.

[Geraldine Willesee, a former Canberra journalist, is the daughter of former Labor foreign minister Don Willesee.]

Telegram shows Balibo Five were murdered: Shackleton

Australian Associated Press - November 7, 2007

Sydney – A telegram sent from a minister just days after the Balibo Five were killed in East Timor revealed they had been murdered, and proved the government was engaged in a cover-up, one of their widows says.

Shirley Shackleton received the communique from Whitlam era foreign minister Don Willesee days after her husband Greg and four other journalists were reported missing in East Timor in 1975.

In his dying days in 2003, Mr Willesee told his daughter the Australian government covered up the affair, The Australian newspaper reported today.

Mr Willesee's daughter Geraldine has written how her father talked bitterly and unforgivingly about Australia's role in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.

His version of events is contrary to evidence given by former prime minister Gough Whitlam under oath at a Sydney inquest into the death of one of the Balibo Five, due to report its findings next week.

Ms Willesee said her father claimed the five journalists – Brian Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart and Malcolm Rennie – were "murdered" by Indonesian soldiers at Balibo in East Timor, not caught in crossfire as officially reported.

Mrs Shackleton said she received a lengthy telegram from Mr Willesee within the 10-day period in which the government was still reporting the journalists to be missing.

"It was long," she told AAP. "He said that he was very sorry, he mentioned that they were dead, which no one else had said. The only official information I received over those terrible 10 days was from him."

She said she never mentioned the telegram when asked to provide a written statement to the coronial inquest because she was sure any cover-up would plague the inquest.

"I didn't mention the telegram because it didn't occur to me actually, because it seemed that all that stuff with Willesee had been just thrown under the carpet and I was never going to be a witness," Mrs Shackleton said.

The inquest heard Mr Willesee was under pressure not to reveal how the men died, since the Australian military found out through an intercepted Indonesian military radio communication.

Mrs Shackleton said national security may have been an issue at the time, but a continued cover-up will mean the Australian government must have other motives.

"Listen, 32 years on, it can't affect our national security, so why haven't they come clean?" she asked. "And why do they lie – because of trade, because of money? That's what it's all about still."

Mrs Shackleton is sure Mr Willesee's revelations to his daughter are accurate because he was the first person to tell her the men were dead. "He even mentioned (in the telegram) he was terribly distressed because he had journalist children," she said.

Mrs Shackleton said she was later instructed to destroy the telegram. "I was given a lawyer, who I found out later was a big Whitlam fan, and he advised me to tear it up because it was distressing," she said.

Balibo Five case closed, Indonesia says

Australian Associated Press - November 7, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesia insists the Balibo Five case is closed, despite fresh reports that a telegram sent by an Australian Government minister revealed the five journalists were murdered in East Timor.

A widow of one of the five, Shirley Shackleton said she received the telegram from Whitlam-era foreign minister Don Willesee days after her husband Greg and four other journalists were reported missing in East Timor in 1975.

In his dying days in 2003, Willesee told his daughter that the Australian Government covered up the affair, The Australian newspaper reported today.

A Sydney inquest into the death of one of the Balibo Five is due to report its findings next week.

Indonesia's foreign affairs ministry spokesman Yohanes Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo said Indonesia's position on the case had not changed.

"Basically, for the Indonesian Government, it is a closed case, as simple as that," he said. "I don't want to comment further. Whether they want to have such interpretations, it does not change our view and position. We have conveyed our position on the coroner's court as well – that they don't have jurisdiction here and I want to stress once again that it is a closed case."

The inquest sparked controversy in Indonesia in May, after a senior Jakarta politician who had been visiting Sydney flew home in anger after being asked to testify at the inquest.

Former Jakarta governor and now potential presidential candidate, Sutiyoso, was allegedly a member of a special Indonesian military unit that attacked Balibo in 1975.

Brian Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie and Tony Stewart were gunned down in the East Timorese border town of Balibo.

During the inquest, counsel assisting Mark Tedeschi QC, asked the coroner to recommend war crimes charges against those responsible.

 Social/communal conflicts

UN says East Timor calm despite Dili incidents

ABC Online News - November 21, 2007

The United Nations police say the security situation in East Timor is generally calm, despite nine incidents in Dili this week alone.

In one incident, a police officer was overpowered by a crowd, who took his pistol, which was subsequently recovered. Elsewhere, forty youths threatened police with steel darts and rocks, after a 17 year-old teenager was arrested for allegedly causing a disturbance.

A UN spokeswoman, Alison Cooper, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program, while the incidents are concerning, they should be treated as individual incidents and not as a collective culture of violence.

"All incidents of violence are a concern to us, but we're also realistic and pragmatic, and no society in the world has a zero balance on crime or violence," she said.

Ms Cooper says the UN mandate provides a maximum of 1708 troops in the country, and that number of troops has provided adequate security through tenser times, including controversial parliamentary elections.

She says four months after the elections, tensions have abated, but there are still some spikes of tension.

"We certainly don't believe there's a need to increase our current policing capacity here, but we wouldn't be looking to draw that down in the near future, either," she said.


UN says East Timor needs UN presence to continue

Kyodo News - November 30, 2007

Dili – A senior UN official said Friday East Timor will continue to need the presence of the United Nations in the country for some time to come.

Dumisani Kumalo, head of a UN Security Council delegation on a four-day visit to East Timor, said at a press conference at UN headquarters in Dili that the security situation in the country appears to be "very good" but the country still needs a lot of "international support."

"Absolutely, yes, the UN mission is still needed in East Timor, there is no doubt about that, it is needed in East Timor," Kumalo said. The short-term priority, he added, must be to continue national reconciliation and dialogue.

During the visit, the six UN delegation members met with a wide variety of East Timorese, including Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, President Jose Ramos-Horta, to gain a firsthand view of the challenges facing the young country.

Kumalo said the problems of internally displaced persons and those faced by 600 dismissed rebellious army members had been among the major issues raised people during their discussions.

He said people also raised the issues of justice and law and order. "They want to see more justice," Kumalo said bluntly.

He explained that visit was aimed to look at the UN role in the country and make recommendations to the Security Council about the extension of the mandate of the current UN mission beyond Feb. 26 next year.

"We haven't even had time to talk among ourselves what will be in that report, but I can assure you that there will be continued international support for the UN on the ground here to do its work, because we are very pleased with the work the UN has done," Kumalo said.

The delegation consisted of Kumalo, the head of mission from South Africa, Liu Zhenmin from China, Muhammad Anshor from Indonesia, Diana Eloeva from the Russian Federation, Peter Burian from Slovakia and Jackie Wolcott of the United States.

East Timor president says international forces still needed

Agence France Presse - November 16, 2007

Ramos-Horta said Thursday that his country would need international forces to maintain security for "another few years", after talks here with his Portuguese counterpart.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta said Thursday that his country would need international forces to maintain security for "another few years", after talks here with his Portuguese counterpart.

"As long as I am not sure that our police have been reorganised, I cannot say that we no longer need the international forces," he said in an interview with Lusa news agency during a two-day official visit to Portugal.

"The situation is generally peaceful and quite calm, but it remains unstable because we depend on international forces to ensure our country's security."

Ramos-Horta said that former colonial power Portugal had a "central role" in the reorganisation of East Timor's security forces, which was "essential for the stability of the country and so we are no longer dependent on others".

East Timor was separated from Indonesia – which had occupied it since 1975 – in 1999 following an independence vote marred by violence inflicted by the Indonesian military and its militia allies.

It was placed under UN administration before finally achieving independence in May 2002, but for the past year has been destabilised by violence which necessitated the deployment of international forces, partly under a UN mandate.

 Human rights/law

East Timorese soldiers convicted of murdering unarmed police

Associated Press - November 29, 2007

Dili – Four East Timorese soldiers were convicted of murder and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison Thursday for gunning down unarmed police officers during a spasm of violence in the fledgling democracy last year.

Eight police officers were killed and 25 other people wounded when the troops opened fire on them during a UN-mediated cease- fire. They were walking past the Justice Ministry with a white flag and their hands in the air.

East Timor descended into chaos last April when a third of the army deserted, fleeing to the hills with their weapons. Clashes between police and army forces gave way to gang warfare, looting and arson that left at least 37 people dead and drove 155,000 people from their homes.

Relative calm was restored by thousands of foreign troops – still needed to maintain peace – and a new president and government were installed earlier this year without major incident.

Former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato was sentenced to seven years in prison for arming civilians, but Thursday's ruling was the first against those directly involved in the bloodshed.

On Monday, the court will put on trial renegade soldier Alfredo Reinado, who last week threatened fresh violence against the government, said Judge Ivo Rosa Caeiro. Reinado is not expected to attend the hearings.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, gained independence in 2002 after more than two decades of brutal Indonesian occupation. Its new political leaders, including President Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, have vowed to tackle rampant poverty and restore damaged relations between the country's police and army.

East Timor marks anniversary of 1991 cemetery killings

BBC Media Monitoring - November 13, 2007

Jose Sarito Amaral, Dili – Thousands of Timor Leste citizens commemorated yesterday (12/11) the tragedy of 12 November 1991, when Indonesian soldiers fired on a crowd of youths in Santa Cruz cemetery, Dili. Around 200 people died then, but most of the victims' graves have not been found.

The Commission of 12 November Tragedy issued a petition addressed to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the murderers. The petition was submitted via the Indonesian embassy in Dili.

The tragedy was started when thousands of youth scattered flowers in Santa Cruz for the death of Sebastiao da Silva, who was shot by Indonesian soldiers. But the funeral was cut short by the shooting. Hundreds of people died and where they were taken is unknown.

The commission chairman, Gregorio Saldanha, said they asked Indonesia, especially the murderers, to show the bodies that were moved at that time. So far, he said, only 65 bodies have been found.

Saldanha guaranteed that this will not affect the good relations between Indonesia and Timor Leste. The witnesses and the victims' family only asked for the moral responsibility of Indonesia, especially the perpetrators, to show the victims' grave.

"In line with Timor Leste's tradition, every human being must have a grave, especially the 12 November victims, because they're not animals whose bodies are thrown away easily," said Saldanha.

Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres said the government will cooperate with President Yudhoyono to approach the perpetrators and witnesses of the tragedy to indicate the victims' grave, including the victims of other killings after the incident.

[Source: Tempo website, Jakarta, in English 13 Nov 07.]

Dili asks Jakarta to disclose the location of Santa Cruz victims

Tempo Interactive - November 13, 2007

Jose Sarito Amaral, Dili – Thousands of Timor Leste citizens commemorated yesterday (12/11) the tragedy of November 12, 1991 when Indonesian soldiers fired on a crowd of youths in Santa Cruz cemetery, Dili. Around 200 people died then, but most of the victims' graves have not been found.

The Commission of November 12 Tragedy issued a petition addressed to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the murderers. The petition was submitted via the Indonesian Embassy in Dili.

The tragedy was started when thousands of youth scattered flowers in Santa Cruz for the death of Sebastiao da Silva, who was shot by Indonesian soldiers. But the funeral was cut short by the shooting. Hundreds of people died and where they were taken is unknown.

The Commission chairman, Gregorio Saldanha, said they asked Indonesia, especially the murderers to show the bodies that were moved at that time. So far, he said, only 65 bodies have been found. Saldanha guaranteed that this will not affect the good relations between Indonesia and Timor Leste.

The witnesses and the victims' family only asked for the moral responsibility of Indonesia, especially the perpetrators, to show the victims' grave. "In line with Timor Leste's tradition, every human being must have a grave, especially the November 12 victims, because they're not animals whose bodies are thrown away easily," said Saldanha.

Deputy Prime Minister, Jose Luis Guterres, said the government will cooperate with President Yudhoyono to approach the perpetrators and witnesses of the tragedy to indicate the victims' grave, including the victims of other killings after the incident.

UN rights report lauds progress but warns gains still fragile

UN News - November 8, 2007

New York – The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) today released a report showing progress in promoting human rights in the nascent country while calling for further measures to help displaced persons and prevent impunity.

The citizens of Timor-Leste enjoy a range of human rights including freedom of speech, freedom to criticize the government, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, according to the report, which reviews developments from August 2006-August 2007.

The security situation has largely been brought under control, and this year's presidential and parliamentary elections were largely held in an environment free from violence and intimidation where all sides were able to voice their opinions, the report notes.

It also hails progress in expanding the activities of the Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice and in swearing in national judges, prosecutors and public defenders.

But the 32-page report voices concern about the high number of internally displaced persons who still live in makeshift camps and the lack of progress towards durable solutions to their plight. It points out that gender-based violence is common and a draft domestic violence law has been pending for several years.

Effective access to justice is constrained as the judicial system remains weak, particularly in the districts, according to the report. A considerable backlog of pending cases hampers the work of the courts, impeding the right of victims to legal remedy. Legal mechanisms to address property disputes, which are a serious obstacle to resolving internal displacement, do not yet exist.

The report also points to "serious cases of political bias compromising the impartiality of the police force" and warns that initiatives for the adoption of amnesty legislation risked fostering impunity.

"The ultimate aim of the country's leaders and the Timorese people of a peaceful and prosperous de particular in combating poverty, in reforming the security sector and in strengthening respect for the rule of law," the report states.

"Timor-Leste still faces considerable challenges. However, the Timorese leadership's stated commitment to human rights will help create an environment from which all Timorese can benefit," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for the President to promulgate a new penal code; for the parliament to pass laws on land and property rights; and on the government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to achieve a lasting solution to the problem of IDPs.

The Judiciary is called on to ensure criminal responsibility for crimes committed in April-May 2006. During that period, at least 37 people were killed and 155,000 others, or 15 per cent of the population, were driven from their homes in a spate of violence in Timor-Leste, which the UN helped shepherd to independence from Indonesia in 2002.

"UNMIT stands ready to support the Government and the people of Timor-Leste in this process," Mr. Khare stressed.

 Health & education

Timor Leste appreciates Cuban educational aid

Cuban News Agency - November 23, 2007

Havana – Timor Leste's Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, thanked Cuba for its cooperation in the field education through the "Yes, I can" teaching method which has been widely implemented in that nation in southeast Asia.

Gusmao – along with interim Parliament President, Vicente Guterres, Education Minister, Joao Cancio, and the Cuban ambassador, Ramon Hernandez – presided over the graduation ceremony of 400 students from Timor Leste who learn to read and write in three months thanks to the Cuban teaching method.

The national literacy campaign undertaken in Timor Leste, which is been supervised by eleven Cuban experts, includes 231 classrooms throughout the country, reports PL news agency.

During his speech at the event, Gusmao ratified the government's commitment to support the educational programs in that nation where nearly 50 percent of the population is illiterate.

The ceremony was also attended by delegates from the Catholic Church, the United Nations special representative and the diplomatic corps in the capital Dili.

 Opinion & analysis

Balibo case revisited

Jakarta Post - November 28, 2007

Aboeprijadi Santoso, Amsterdam – Little news basically came from Sydney's Coroner Court inquest into the deaths of Australian- based journalists in Balibo, East Timor (1975) – except that it established a much stronger case based on detailed evidence and witness testimony. The Indonesian government needs to respond to this seriously.

For the Balibo case marks an act of aggression violating Indonesia's own Constitution, and opened a chapter that denied the public the information and knowledge of what their Army did in East Timor.

"They were victims of cross fire. Bullets have no eyes, do they?" Lt. Gen. (ret) Dading Kalbuadi said when I questioned him about the Balibo case in November 1995.

He was reluctant to explain, but adamant of Indonesia's innocence. "Yes, we... had to take over East Timor, like 'Lawrence Arabic' (his English, original), you know...," he said, referring to the famous Lawrence of Arabia, the British colonialist who conquered Arab allegedly by combining military expeditions with a heart-and-mind approach.

Earlier Jose Martins, former Gen. Ali Moertopo's assistant, Paulino "Mouk Mauruk" Gama, the former Fretilin guerrilla who brought the news of the Balibo killings to the outside world, Raja Atsabe, former Governor Guilherme Maria Gonzalves whose son, Tomas, joined Indonesia's operation in Balibo, all told me very different stories. They suggested it was a cold-blooded killing (Radio Netherlands, 1995).

Portuguese and Australian journalists have established a more complete story, but it was not until 1999 that eyewitnesses began to speak out. The most complete story to date of the Balibo killings can be found in Jill Jolliffe's Cover Up, The Inside Story of the Balibo Five (2001).

Now the coroner court has not only studied past findings and government files, but covered 11 major witnesses and officials' testimony, including former prime minister Gough Whitlam, and examined those who examined witnesses' stories, including Jolliffe's detailed analysis and interviews.

Eyewitness accounts, differing only in minor aspects, told how the killings, allegedly ordered by the unit commander Captain Yunus Yosfiah (nom de guerre "Major Andreas"), exactly happened. They were cold-blooded killings – four were shot, one stabbed; deliberate executions of unarmed civilians known to the attacking unit as Australian journalists. This happened when most Fretilin guerrilla had already left town; thus, most witnesses were members or allies of Indonesian Army units, with only two from Fretilin.

Yosfiah reported the event to his superior Col. Dading Kalbuadi as Dading's order – that "anyone found in Balibo was to be killed, including the five journalists" – was "emanated from Major General Benny Moerdani". The coroner thus concludes, Gen. Benny apparently "wanted their silence... to conceal the fact that the attacks within East Timor were led by Indonesian forces." (Inquest into the death of Brian Raymond Peters, p. 68- 69).

At stake was that the outside world would be fully aware of Indonesia's interest in intervening in East Timor; i.e. to wage a secret war that would turn the short-lived local civil war into a prolonged one as a result of infiltration and attacks which began in Balibo on that fateful day of Oct. 16, 1975.

Hence, the Balibo attack and killing of the journalists actually contradicted the very argument – "what would you do when your neighbor's house was on fire" – which Indonesian representatives a year later officially put before the UN to justify the Dec. 7 invasion.

"Balibo" thus really marked the very start of Indonesia's bloody adventure in East Timor. One way to asses its significance, albeit for Indonesia, is to ask what would have happened had Soeharto listened to foreign minister Adam Malik's early advice (1974) to support East Timor independence.

Former Australian consul in Dili James Dunn, who often met Adam Malik when the latter was ambassador in Moscow, believes Malik, a freedom fighter, was sincere and perceptive in recognizing East Timor's rights.

In short, had it been followed up, Malik's message "would have resulted in a radically different world for Indonesia and East Timor. The democratization would have started much earlier", said Dunn seven years ago. In other words, "Balibo" is symbolic of the great opportunity that was lost for both East Timor and Indonesia.

The event not only victimized the five newsmen – Gary Cunningham, Gregory Shackleton, Tony Stewart, Brian Peters and Malcolm Renie – but, since it marked the starting point of a greater tragedy that was about to unfold in the following decades, it also signified the beginning of a dark era for the people of East Timor and the press in general.

Given the big stake the generals most worried about, perhaps it matters little whether or not the would-be eyewitnesses of Indonesia's aggression were foreign journalists or otherwise; what happened to the Balibo Five could perhaps have happened to local journalists.

Hence, it's time for them, too, to recognize "Balibo" as part of their own tragic loss of opportunity. It's a black day for anyone longing for a free press.

Most important is the need for post-Soeharto Indonesia to bravely face its Timor legacy. It needs to come clean, since to continue the denial would shamelessly prolong the saga. To continue to say it was a "cross fire" would be ridiculous, just as saying "the case is closed" would in effect justify impunity.

Above all, it would be a great opportunity to be a true patriot for Lt. Gen. (ret) Yunus Yosfiah – the only Balibo key figure left, and, being the minister who abolished the repressive SIUPP law, ironically was once regarded as a hero of Indonesian press freedom – to speak up and redress past wrongs.

[The writer is a journalist, formerly with Radio Netherlands.]

A fight with Indonesia neither Howard nor Rudd wants

Melbourne Age - November 20, 2007

Damien Kingsbury – The finding by the NSW deputy state coroner that the five Australia-based newsmen killed at Balibo, East Timor, in 1975 were murdered by the Indonesian military has the potential to again derail Australia's often fraught relationship with Indonesia. It has also injected a foreign policy consideration into an election campaign that has been largely bereft of foreign policy debate.

Prime Minister John Howard's comment that he will seek the repatriation of the remains of the five newsmen looks, at best, like a minimal effort to placate their families, even if decades too late.

But neither he nor pro-Indonesia Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd will get tough with Indonesia. Neither wants the complication of dispute with Indonesia in their election campaigns, and neither wants it in government.

Yet if war crimes charges are formalised, whoever is in government will have to handle the flak generated from an Indonesia that regards the Balibo five case, like so much else of its brutal history, as closed. Like the Indonesia-East Timor "truth and friendship commission" that was roundly rejected by the international community as a whitewash, with little truth and imposed "friendship", Indonesia now wants the claim that the newsmen were killed in a crossfire to remain the official "truth".

Should charges go ahead, there is little Australia can do to press the case. There is no extradition treaty between Australia and Indonesia so Australia's meaningful capacity to pursue this matter is limited.

The Indonesian Government will also not go outside its own judicial process to hand over alleged war criminals, regardless of international procedures.

Within Indonesia, accounting for the past is set against what was, and which to some extent remains, a culture of impunity. In short, there are so many individuals guilty of so many crimes that a full accounting is next to impossible, especially given Indonesia's still malleable judiciary. Further, while Indonesia's military is politically weakened, it still retains influence. Importantly, it can count on allies within Indonesia's fractious legislature who will oppose any war crimes trial on narrow political grounds.

From Australia's perspective, whoever forms the next government will have to watch more or less helplessly as the judicial process takes its course. It will then be left to explain to an angry Indonesia that the separation of powers means that there is no executive capacity to influence judicial processes. Indonesia should understand the separation of powers, given it has used the same claim in recent trials of Australian citizens. But some in Indonesia are unlikely to accept that position at face value, as they did not accept the legitimate acceptance as refugees of the 43 Papuan asylum seekers.

Australia's relationship with Indonesia has been characterised by regular diplomatic rows, and many observers believe that this is a sign of consistently poor relations. These rows have continued despite frequent claims that the relationship is strong. It is possible for Australia and Indonesia to have more secure and consistent relations.

Australia needs to say to both the Indonesian Government and people that it wants to have a positive and constructive relationship, and that it is there as a friend. It must explain that real friendships are based on honesty and transparency.

There is a claim that Australia and Indonesia clash over what amounts to cultural difference, and that frankness is not appreciated by Indonesian politicians. The lack of appreciation was certainly true, although it much less reflected culture than it did the untrammelled abuse of power. As Indonesia democratises, it is learning that transparency and accountability are a part of that process.

It may be that no Indonesians will ever stand trial in Australia, or Indonesia, or East Timor, or elsewhere, for war crimes. But it would be useful for the Indonesian Government to finally admit that those crimes were committed, against their own citizens as well as ours, and that they should never happen again.

[Associate Professor Damien Kingsbury is associate head of the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University.]

Balibo - Lesson still waiting to be learnt

Canberra Times - November 17, 2007

Clinton Fernandes – The NSW Coroner's inquest concluded yesterday into the deaths of five journalists at the border town of Balibo in East Timor in October 1975 was the first independent judicial inquiry with the power to compel witnesses. Technically, the inquest was into the death of 26-year-old Brian Peters, who possessed the residential connection required to give the Coroner jurisdiction because he lived in Sydney.

Since his death was so intimately connected with the deaths of the other four Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart and Malcolm Rennie, also in their 20s the court heard evidence concerning their deaths too.

The relevant background is that in October 1975 the Indonesian military was conducting a terror and destabilisation campaign in the border regions of East Timor. Its aim was to generate atrocities which could be falsely attributed to pro-independence East Timorese forces. It would then be able to disguise its invasion under the pretext of "restoring order".

The Indonesian government claimed in public that it did not want to invade East Timor. Privately, Indonesian strategists gave details of their military plans to Australian diplomats, compromising them and ensuring they would go along with the charade. The strategy depended on an information blackout about the Indonesian military's involvement.

If the journalists had obtained film footage of the military campaign and conveyed it to the outside world, the cover story would have been blown. The five were killed within days of arriving at Balibo. (A sixth journalist, Roger East, was killed a few weeks later in front of more than 100 witnesses.)

Were the Balibo Five shot accidentally in the heat of battle or were they executed deliberately?

In 1996, an inquiry by Tom Sherman, a former Australian government solicitor, endorsed the crossfire or accidental death scenario by concluding that the killings probably occurred in circumstances of continuing fighting. Sherman's conclusions relied heavily on the testimony of one witness from Lisbon (L1). It bore a striking resemblance to the version put forward in 1975 in a statement by a pro-Indonesian fighter.

That statement was later disavowed by its signatory, who revealed that it had been written by Indonesians who had forced him to sign it. L1's evidence was at odds with a range of other testimonies from 1975 onwards. Andrew McNaughtan, an Australian medical practitioner and activist, travelled to Portugal and tried to track down the mysterious L1. It was in the course of looking for L1 that he was introduced to Loreno Hornay, a commander of pro-Indonesian forces.

Hornay informed McNaughtan that Indonesian military personnel had planned to kill the journalists so that they could not inform the world about the terror and destabilisation campaign. McNaughtan wrote a devastating critique of the Sherman Report. The journalist Hamish McDonald pointed out other problems, such as Sherman's claim that he had read all the relevant intelligence files on Balibo in one day, and his reticence when it came to examining the conduct of Australian diplomats.

Controversially, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer asked Sherman to mount a second investigation. In 1999, Sherman once again reported that the journalists had been killed in circumstances of continuing fighting. But the case would not die. In December 2000, Brian Peters' sister, Maureen Tolfree, made a formal complaint about the killing at the NSW Coroner's Court. In 2005, the Coroner accepted her legal team's argument that Peters' death came within the court's jurisdiction.

The inquest began in February 2007. Sixty-six witnesses were listed, including a dozen East Timorese who had originally fought on the Indonesian side. The Coroner found that the journalists could not have been and were not mistaken for combatants. In addition, they clearly identified themselves as Australians and as journalists. They were unarmed and dressed in civilian clothes. They all had their hands raised in the universally recognised gesture of surrender. They were shot and/or stabbed to death by the Indonesian military in a deliberate act to prevent them from revealing the truth. The Indonesian military tactical commander gave the order to kill. He was almost certainly acting as part of a plan that emanated from the highest levels of the Indonesian military. The five corpses were dressed in military uniforms, guns placed beside them, and photographs taken in an attempt to portray them as legitimate targets. Since the killings were associated with, and occurred in the context of, an international conflict, the coroner has referred the case to federal authorities for possible war crime prosecutions.

War crimes can be prosecuted wherever they occur and regardless of the nationality of the victims or perpetrators. There is no statute of limitations. The Attorney-General can make an extradition request under the 1995 extradition treaty with Indonesia. Indonesia may refuse to extradite, but must then submit the case to its prosecutors. Australian law also provides the right to prosecute crimes privately even if the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to not prosecute the matter. This private prosecution may, however, be taken over by the DPP, who can then discontinue it if he deems it contrary to the public interest.

But upholding international law can hardly be against the public interest or Indonesia's democratic transition, despite the Indonesian military's opposition. The case has important lessons for the future. It shows how policymakers think they can dismiss public opinion but are later defeated by it.

More than a year before Indonesia's invasion, a senior official warned that it would not be possible to conceal Indonesian brutalities from the Australian public, nor to conduct a good working relationship with Indonesia in the face of sustained public condemnation. He argued Australia should support self- determination for East Timor despite Indonesia's objections. This might have given then-president Suharto firmer grounds for resisting his military's desire to invade East Timor. Instead, policymakers chose a supposedly pragmatic, hard-headed realism, and, according to a key Indonesian general, "helped Indonesia crystallise its own thinking".

As a consequence, negative public opinion bedevilled the Australia-Indonesia relationship for more than two decades. Civil society groups in Australia and overseas took up the cause of East Timor. They held rallies, disrupted press conferences, blockaded military bases, sabotaged military equipment and raised awareness wherever they could.

A continuum of activism developed between campaigners on the outside, armed freedom fighters in the mountains, and clandestine networks in the towns and villages. This movement of non-state actors grew in strength over the years, ultimately capitalising on the Suharto regime's diplomatic vulnerability during the Asian financial crisis.

The liberation of East Timor in 1999 represented a major crisis in Australia-Indonesia relations. Australian diplomacy, often criticised on moral grounds, had failed even by its own standards of pragmatism, practicality and hard-headedness.

In this context, the incipient West Papua solidarity movement in Australia should not be dismissed by policymakers. Indonesian personnel who were indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor have not been punished but promoted and in some cases (Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian and Colonel Timbul Silaen, for example) posted to West Papua. Their impunity encourages the commission of more crimes. It may be possible to dismiss the views of the solidarity movement for the moment, but difficulties may arise if more Australians realise the extent of problem.

[Dr Clinton Fernandes is senior lecturer in strategic studies at the Australian Defence Force Academy campus of the University of New South Wales and author of Reluctant Indonesians: Australia, Indonesia, and the Future of West Papua (Scribe, 2007) and Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia, and the Independence of East Timor (Scribe, 2004).]

Editorial - Balibo truths outed

The Australian - November 7, 2007

The truth about the murder of five journalists at Balibo on October 16, 1975, in the lead-up to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor is one of the longest and saddest cases of government abuse of Australians' right to know. The present Government engaged in two inquiries, the 1996 Sherman report and the 1999 review of the Sherman report, which have now been revealed as whitewashes. Thanks to a coronial inquest that is due to deliver its report next week, Australians have finally heard evidence from eyewitnesses that Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, New Zealander Gary Cunningham and Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie were murdered in cold blood by Indonesian soldiers led by former Indonesian information minister and special forces officer Yunus Yosfiah. They have also heard that the Whitlam government learned of the deaths the day they occurred but did not tell the families for 10 days.

In evidence that tests credulity, former prime minister Gough Whitlam claimed earlier this year that he was not told about the deaths because he was in Sydney and could not be reached on a secure line. This was contradicted by his former defence minister, Bill Morrison, who said he did not tell Mr Whitlam because the prime minister "had enough problems on his hands" dealing with a bill to block the government's money supply. Either way, it seems no more credible that Mr Whitlam would have been kept in the dark about the journalists' deaths than that a much later defence minister, Peter Reith, would decide not to inform Prime Minister John Howard in 2001 that reports were false that the children of asylum-seekers had been thrown overboard.

As The Australian reports today, only the former foreign minister Don Willesee took steps to inform the families, which unfortunately came to nothing. Initially, the families were kept in the dark to protect the fact that knowledge of the journalists' deaths was obtained by Australians eavesdropping on the Indonesian military. Yet at some point, the Australian government had an obligation to tell the families and the nation what it knew. It is only thanks to the persistence of the journalists' families that the truth is finally coming out. This is not good enough. The culture of secrecy that allowed the murder of the Balibo Five to be covered up for 32 years must come to an end.

East Timor: 'We don't want Australian troops'

Green Left Weekly - November 7, 2007

Tony Iltis – In 1975, when Indonesia invaded East Timor, beginning a 24-year occupation that cost over 200,000 Timorese lives (over a third of the population), Australia's support for this genocidal occupation was predicated on a policy outlined in the infamous "Woolcott telegram": that Australia's interest in East Timor was derived from the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

On August 31, 1999, East Timor voted for independence in a UN- supervised referendum. This was followed by a rampage of killing and destruction by Indonesian-organised militia gangs that continued for over a month until the deployment of an Australian-led UN military force and the withdrawal of Indonesian troops on October 20.

With East Timor officially becoming independent in 2002, the UN military and police presence was progressively reduced and was due to cease completely in 2006. However, in that year a new Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) was deployed in response to appeals from the Timorese government following mutinies, and clashes between rival factions, in East Timor's police and defence forces.

Australia explains its ongoing military presence in terms of regional stability and preventing a neighbour from becoming a "failed state". However, Canberra's hard-line stance in negotiations over the Timor Sea maritime boundary and resource exploitation, the meagreness of Australian development aid and its use as a bargaining chip in these negotiations, the perception of Australian and ISF interference in East Timorese electoral politics and growing evidence of Australian covert involvement in the unrest that led to the ISF's deployment, all suggest that Australian policy towards East Timor continues to be driven by the same concern as in 1975: a predatory interest in the Timor Sea oil and gas.

"We would like to see all solidarity groups calling for a withdrawal of Australian troops from East Timor. That's really important. It's different from the Australian presence in 1999. We really needed Australian troops then but now we don't", Tomas Freitas, director of the East Timorese NGO Luta Hamutuk, told Green Left Weekly. "In East Timor, the sentiment of the people if you go and talk to them in the street is that they don't like Australian troops ... Their tanks destroy the asphalt roads in Dili. My children can't sleep because they fly their helicopters really close to houses."

He added that money spent by ISF soldiers went straight back to Australia: "They don't rent from the community. They don't drink our water, they bring their own. They bring their own beer, cigarettes and food ... So what's the benefit for East Timor economically? Nothing!"

He pointed to harassment of Luta Hamutuk: "Sometimes when we have meetings they send tanks round our office." While Luta Hamutuk's grassroots approach to development includes organising community activism around issues such as opposing the eviction of street vendors and campaigning for access to electricity and the rehabilitation of roads, it is their role in scrutinising development projects and the oil and gas revenue that is the likely cause of Australian military harassment.

"We have two main programs, the first is monitoring the use of oil and gas resources, the second is monitoring state budget expenditure", the organisation's administration officer, Joaozito Viana, explained to GLW. "Contributing to the country includes monitoring the implementation of development projects. Because the projects belong to the community, they have to keep an eye on it."

Luta Hamutuk's analysis reveals that Australian aid to East Timor is far outweighed by the revenue derived from the Timor Sea oil and gas, and that the former is usually provided primarily to facilitate the latter. Within a month of Australian troops landing in 1999, Australian companies began operating three oil wells. "We did not even get 50 cents from those three wells, all the money's been taken by the Australian government. They sucked 110,000 barrels per day, let's say $1 million per day", Freitas told GLW.

He speculated that the delay in the deployment of Australian troops during the September 1999 massacres by Indonesian army-led militias was to put pressure on Timorese political leaders to allow Australia unrestricted access to these wells. "I think some of our leaders made a deal with [Prime Minister] John Howard and [foreign minister] Alexander Downer ... I think if that deal hadn't been agreed to I think maybe Australian soldiers would still be waiting in Darwin. The delay from September 1 until October 20 caused a lot of Timorese deaths."

In 2002 East Timor signed a treaty with Australia under which 90% of royalties from the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) went to East Timor. However, the JPDA lies on the East Timorese side of the median line between the two countries which would form their maritime boundary if international law, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), was applied. The 2002 treaty deferred a final decision on the maritime boundary. In 2004, Australia withdrew from UNCLOS. Having to share control of the JDPA with Australia also denies East Timor full control over which companies can operate and on what terms.

Luta Hamutuk opposed the signing of the treaty. "At that time we organised a demonstration against our own government and against Howard. We were arguing for establishing maritime boundaries first before exploiting oil and gas", Freitas said. "However, I think our government had no choice. We had no money ... I think that if [former Prime Minister Mari] Alkatiri hadn't signed that deal we'd still be dependent economically on the donors. Now we've got $1.3 billion in our development fund. If we didn't sign, how could we pay salaries to our police, our civil servants, our teachers, our doctors? Last fiscal year, our budget was $328 million and around 80% came from oil."

Freitas argued the funds were still inadequate for East Timor's development needs. "We've got $1.3 billion but the Australian government and the companies are getting more than that ... $1.3 billion is not enough to build our own oil refinery or our own LNG plant. An LNG plant costs $3-4 billion, a refinery $1-2 billion."

A current sticking point between East Timor and Australia is over where gas will be piped to from the Greater Sunrise gas field. "The pipeline should come to East Timor because Australia already has the pipeline from Bayan-Undong to Darwin", Freitas said. "We want to get the pipeline to Timor because that's going to create jobs ... Every year there are 6000 new unemployed... It's not just direct jobs but also the indirect economic effect."

While the proposal for the pipeline to go to East Timor has been supported across the Timorese political spectrum, Freitas suggested that the military intervention has given Australia leverage over the current government. He stressed the partisan nature of the intervention: "When the Australian presence came last year, the burning of houses started. Always Fretilin [supporters] houses got burned and they arrest the people who are pro-Fretilin but not the people who are pro-Xanana. I heard them asking boys in my neighbourhood: Are you pro-Fretilin or pro- Xanana [Gusmao]?"

He said that this had left Xanana dangerously dependent on the Australian forces: "Canberra can say to our leaders: 'If you keep making demands about the pipeline we will withdraw our troops' and Xanana would be scared about that because he doesn't trust our own defence force."

He called for Australian solidarity activists to support East Timor's rights over its oil and gas and to campaign for scholarships not soldiers: "Cuba gives us 600 scholarships for our young sisters and brothers to study in medicine in Cuba but Australia gives just eight scholarships ... In 1999, the Australian troops were really welcome, but this time we don't want them.

 East Timor media monitoring

November 29, 2007

TVTL Summary News

President Jose Ramos-Horta appeals the Timorese to honor Independence Day: President Jose Ramos-Horta appealed to the Timorese to honor Independence Day, as independence was achieved with the blood of heroes. The president also said all the Timorese should work together solve the country's problems; such as IDPs, Alfredo Reinado and the petitioners.

PM Xanana invites Australian PM Rudd to visit Timor-Leste

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao invited the new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Timor-Leste after the global warming conference in December in Bali. "Your visit will would help strengthen the friendship and cooperation between the two nations, even though it may last just a few hours," said Prime Minister Xanana via telephone. Prime Minister Xanana also said that Australia is the biggest partner and most important neighbour of Timor-Leste in development. (STL, DN and TP)

The UN Security Council will participate in the TL Anniversary of Independence

The government, along with people of Timor-Leste, commemorated the 32nd Anniversary of Independence (28 Nov 1975 – 28 Nov 2007). The Security Council delegation, which is visiting from 27-30 Nov 2007, were also in attendance (STL and TVTL).

UNPol present to support development

The presence of United Nations Police (UNPol) in Timor-Leste is to support the development of the country. The National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) were asked to seize this opportunity while UNPol is still responsible for security. "The country is yours; you are the future of the nation. Our question is how best to support the development process in this country," said the Dili UNPol Commander, David Lourent on Tuesday (27/11) in Caicoli, Dili. Mr. Lourent said that UNPol will work with the PNTL to maintain the stability and security of the nation. (STL)

The Security Council are concerned by the case of Alfredo Reinado

The cases of Alfredo Reinado and the petitioners are the preoccupation of the government of Timor-Leste, but also are of major concern to the Security Council. The Security Council asked that the state solve the two cases, because of their significance to the country. While meeting the national parliament, the Security Council stated that they would be ready to contribute to any solutions aimed at solving the problems in the country. (TP and DN)

If we do not fight against poverty, then independence has no significance

President Jose Ramos-Horta said that when the poverty in the country is not reduced, then independence has no meaning. "Independence has no significance when we do not pay attention to the poor. To have peace, we should reduce poverty," said the president on Wednesday (28/11) on the 32nd commemoration of the Independence Day in the Government Palace, Dili. President Ramos-Horta also said that the problem of poverty is a heavy burden on the president, so the government should work side-by- side with the state to fight it. (TP and DN)

Heavy weapons for the F-FDTL to arrive next month

The State Secretary of Defence, Julio Thomas Pinto, said that special weapons, to be used by the F-FDTL for night operations, will arrive in December. "The purchase was part of the program of 20:20, along side the establishment of a munitions store and a military court that the government runs, to develop the nation's defence forces," said Mr. Pinto on Wednesday (28/11) in the Government Palace, Dili. The State Secretary also said that the program of 20:20 was planned by the previous government, but the current government has a commitment to make it happen. (TP)

UN Secretary-General to visit Timor-Leste

The UN Special Representative of Secretary-General (SRSG) for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, said that the Secretary-General of United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, will visit Timor-Leste. The SRSG said that the visit of the UN Security Council is to witness the security situation of the country on the ground. (TP)

Dumisani Kumalo: "We have come here to understand the situation of Timor-Leste"

The Head of the Security Council Delegation Dumisani Kumalo said that the objective of the UN Security Council visit is to familiarise the Council with the development of the security situation of the country and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), in relation to the military and political crisis of 2006. On the same occasion, a member of the Delegation, the Ambassador from the United States, said that the Lord will help those who want to solve their problems; it is a Timorese problem, so they should solve the problems together. (DN)

The United Nations congratulates Timor-Leste 32nd Independence Day

The SRSG for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, heralded the celebration of the 32nd proclamation of independence of Timor-Leste on Wednesday (28/11) in the Government Palace, Dili. The SRSG said that the celebration is an important step for the Timorese, a chance to commemorate their history, move forward, and participate in the process of development. "Congratulations to the people of Timor- Leste; everyone is happy to celebrate this 32nd Independence Day, and we all are happy to work together and move forward together," said Mr. Khare. (DN)

November 27, 2007

TVTL Summary News

Fretilin still regards the current government as unconstitutional: During his visit, the President of Europe Union, Jose Manuel Durco Barroso, also met the former Prime Minister and Secretary-General of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri. Mr. Alkatiri said that during the meeting he informed Mr. Barroso that the current government is unconstitutional and incompetent, and lacks capacity. However, Mr. Barroso said that all Timorese have to be united to develop this fragile country. The Secretary-General also said that it is time for all the leaders to come together and work together based upon a national consensus to develop the country.

Fretilin congratulates the Australian Labour Party

The Secretary-General of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri, congratulated the new Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, on behalf of his party for the victory of the Labour Party in the Australian elections. "We know Mr. Kevin Rudd, a friend of East Timor before the 1999 referendum. We are proud of the Australians who cast their votes for him. Mr. Rudd was a senior member of the Labour Party and willingly supported Fretilin's membership of the progressive political parties association, named the International Socialists," said Mr. Alkatiri. (DN and DN)

UN continuously assisting the IDPs

The United Nations in Timor-Leste continuously provides assistance to IDPs who are now facing many kinds of problems in the camps, in the capital city of the country. The UN Spokesperson, Allison Cooper, said that in the area of humanitarian assistance, the UN is providing tents and making preparations for the rainy season. The preparations include increasing food, water, and medicine, and improving sanitation.

Fretilin asks Australia to maintain security in Timor-Leste

Fretilin asked the new Prime Minister of Australia to continue to maintain its forces in the country to provide security for the people of Timor-Leste. "As a major party in the country, Fretilin wants to talk to the Australian government, which ruled by the Labour Party, on how best to maintain their forces in Timor- Leste," said the Secretary General of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri. (STL)

UNPol seizes weapons in Dili

The United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) today announced that its police officers, working alongside their Timorese counterparts, and with support from the International Security Forces (ISF), have completed a successful weapons recovery operation in a troubled district in the capital city. The Dili district of Bairo Pite is often the scene of fighting between gangs. Police and army officers have recently seen weapons being used during fights, according to UNMIT.

"Operation Weapons Sweep" began on Wednesday and concluded on Saturday after an assortment of weapons ranging from bows, arrows, machetes, sling shots, knives, spears and homemade guns were recovered. Community officials also participated in the Operation by assisting police with the searching of homes based on the written authorization of their owners, UNMIT said.

"Involving community officials in police work is essential for reducing the incidence of gang violence on Dili streets," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare. "It sends a strong message to those indulging in violence that it will not be tolerated by the community itself, or by law enforcement authorities, and collectively we will move to confiscate the weapons that are used to execute violence," he said. (STL)

Lucia Lobato asks the National parliament to send a commission to Malaysia

Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato is asking the national Parliament to create a commission to Malaysia to ascertain the health of the former Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato. "Mr. Rogerio Lobato is currently under treatment in the Pantai Medical Centre of Malaysia, therefore I have suggested to the National Parliament that it send a commission to look at his condition," said Ms. Lobato in the national parliament.

Illegal Transaction at the border: PNTL & UNPol deployment will not solve the problem

The District Administrator of Covalima, Inacio Pires, said that there has been an illegal transaction at the border between the people of Timor-Leste and the neighbouring country. "Deploying the officers of the PNTL and UNPol at the border is not quite enough, there needs to be another solution," said Mr. Pires.

November 26, 2007

Government asks Alfredo not to enflame the situation

The Alliance government is asking Alfredo Reinado, the former Commander of the Military Police, not to make people panic. "We should remain calm, let" just sit and talk. We should not frighten people. I know Alfredo and Salsinha understand this. The government must face the problem and solve it, but we have to sit and talk about it," said the State Secretary for Security, who is also the Spokesperson of the Task Force, on Friday (23/11) in Hera. (STL)

European Commission to give East Timor $63m in aid

Dili, Nov 24 (Reuters) – The European Union will give impoverished East Timor about $100 million in rural development aid next year, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Saturday after meeting Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. The EU executive chief signed an agreement to provide 15 million euros for rural development and told a news conference that a further $100 million would be given in 2008. The European Commission will establish a permanent representative in East Timor to promote closer relations, Barroso said. During his two- day trip to East Timor, he will visit the parliament and also meet opposition leader Mari Alkatiri. (STL and TP)

Julio Pinto: F-FDTL has made progress

On the occasion of the promotion of 203 members of Defence Force of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) in Hera on Friday (23/11), the State Secretary of Defence, Julio Thomas Pinto, stated that the promotions showed the progress of the institution. (STL)

President Ramos-Horta: Military parades never solve any problems

President Jose Ramos-Horta asked Alfredo and the petitioners whether military parades will solve their problems. "If Major Alfredo and the petitioners want to win over the people then they should stay calm. Do not mess around and make people panic," said the president upon his arrival at Comoro Airport on Friday (23/11). According to the president, military parades are only performed by army forces in their barracks when the government sees fit – and cannot be performed by any group that wants to. (STL)

F-FDTL should uphold universal military values to win over the people

The State Secretary of Defence, Julio Thomas Pinto, stated that the F-FDTL should involve itself in the process of nation- building to win over the people. According to Mr. Pinto, the military has to have military spirit, an "esprit de corps", and help establish national unity. (TP)

MONALPON is planning to bring down the Alliance Gov.

The Movement of Maubere People for Liberation (MONALPOM) is planning to organise and mobilise its supporters through out the country to bring down the current government. The Coordinator of MONALPOM, Carlito 'Sanamia' Soares, said that MONALPOM will force the president to conduct a snap election to re-establish democracy in the country. "We will always consider the current government as unconstitutional, because of the decision made by the President," said Mr. Sanamia on Friday (23/11) in Comoro. (TP)

Ramos-Horta: Those who have been involved in crime will not come back to the barracks

President Jose Ramos-Horta said Alfredo would better spend his time thinking of how to explain to the courts his attack on the F-FDTL in Fatuahi rather than conducting military parades. The president also said that those petitioners who have been involved in crime should not dream that they will ever be able to come back to the barracks. (DN)

ISF provides no security for Alfredo and the petitioners

The Commander of International Security Forces (ISF), Brigadier General John Hutchison, said that ISF is not going to provide security for Alfredo and his groups in Gleno, Ermera District. "We are not providing any security to Alfredo and the petitioners in Gleno, Ermera since it is the responsibility of the Task Force formed by the government. Our mission this country does not involve anything political – we simply provide assistance to all Timorese by guaranteeing the security of the country," said Brigadier Hutchison. (DN)

November 22, 2007

UN: asks the Timor-Leste government to solve Alfredo's case according to the law

The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) is asking the government to solve the problems of Alfredo and the 591 petitioners according to the law of Timor-Leste. UNMIT Spokesperson Ms. Allison Cooper said that UNMIT is giving its recommendation to the government and the other organs of state for consideration. According to Ms. Cooper, the recent crises have their root in last year's crisis and the government should solve the two big problems of Alfredo and the petitioners. (DN)

Alfredo: "leaders are hiding the Tasi Tolu incident"

Former Commander of Military Police Major Alfredo Reinado asked why the court only pays attention to his case and ignores the incident of April 28 last year in Tasi Tolu where lots of people were killed. "The court is only talking about my case. The petitioners' case is ignored. When they hide the truth, the crisis will not last, no one will go to court," said Mr. Reinado on Wednesday (21/11) in Gleno, district of Ermera. (STL)

The petitioners' and Alfredo's military parade: Horta does not participate

President Jose Ramos-Horta will not participate in the petitioners and Alfredo Reinado's military parade, as he is still on his formal trip abroad and will return on Friday (tomorrow). According to the Presidential Media Officer, Joel Pereira, the presidential cabinet was invited by both the petitioners and Mr. Reinado to give speeches at today's military parade. The PNTL was also invited. (STL and TP)

The petitioners act with F-FDTL discipline

The spokesperson of the petitioners, Gastao Salsinha, said that they are still members of F-FDTL; they left the barracks because of discrimination which then created last year's crisis. "Discrimination made us leave the barracks, but that does not mean that we left our military functions," said Mr. Salsinha on Wednesday (21/11) in Gleno. Mr. Salsinha said that he acts as the spokesperson to find the solution for the petitioners because this is his moral duty. Mr. Salsinha said that the military parade in Gleno will show people that the petitioners are still members of the military since they act according to F-FDTL military discipline and have done so for over a year. (STL)

Hundreds of PNTL members to be sacked

Hundreds members of National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) are going to be sacked as over 300 members have potentially been involved in criminal and disciplinary cases. "If the evaluation panel determines that 366 members have been involved in serious cases then they will be sacked," said Commander PNTS-Designated, Hermenegildo da Cruz, on Wednesday (21/11). Mr. da Cruz said that some of the members will still be able to join the PNTL if it is found that they are not involved in serious cases. (STL)

Law for the lawyer: to be presented to NP in January 2008

The president of the Timor-Leste Lawyers Association (AATL), Jose Pedro Camaes, said that early in January 2008 the draft of lawyers' law will be presented to the national parliament and will be available to the public.(STL)

Audit team to arrive in Timor-Leste

The audit team, named Delinkh arrived in Dili on Wednesday (21/11) to perform an audit on the previous government's programs. The team will work together with the procurement unit to audit all the programs performed by the previous government. The Director of the Procurement, Francisco Costa Pereira, said that the team will audit the departments of agriculture, solidarity, procurement and tax. According to Mr. Pereira, the team will be on duty until December, and then will present the auditing result to the government via the council of ministry. As the ruling party of the previous government, Fretilin have said that they are not frightened by the audit team. (TP)

Mario Carrascalao: "The Alliance government is carrying out its program behind a curtain"

A Member of the national parliament from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Mario Carrascalao, said that in after a hundreds days of ruling the government, the Alliance government is carrying out its programs behind a curtain, as the public know nothing about any program implementation.

"The first a hundred days is a special opportunity to show people what a new government is about. But the current government has only been showing its political seriousness; showing honesty as a political sentiment. It's time for the government to publicise that all of the programs are going well," said Mr. Carrascalao in the national parliament. (DN)

November 21, 2007

The Alliance in charge for 100 days: as yet no sign of removing corruption

Director of Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (Mirror of the People), Christopher Samson, said that after one hundreds days in charge, the Alliance government has shown no sign of reducing corruption and the Prime Minister has said nothing about fighting against corruption. "In a hundred days the Prime Minister has not spoken about removing corruption, not once, except when submitting the program of the government to the national parliament," said Mr. Samson on Monday (19/11). Mr. Samson also said that there is conflict of interest in the structure of the government where the wife of a minister has a project and other ministers and state secretaries have companies that might provide the opportunity for corruption. (STL)

Paulo Martins: petitioners should be brave enough to tell the truth

Member of the national parliament for CNRT, Paulo Martins, said that the petitioners should be courageous enough to tell the truth in their meeting with the government to find the solutions to their problems. On the other hand, MP Riak Leman from PSD, said that the government should pay more attention to the spokesperson of the petitioners, GastAo Salsinha. Mr. Riak Leman also said that the problem of the petitioners and Alfredo Reinado is different. Reinado left the barracks with weapons while the petitioners were disarmed, so that is why there are two separate dialogues. (STL)

Tara: ready to cooperate with Salsinha

A Former officer in the F- FDTL, Major Tara, said that he is ready to cooperate with the spokesperson of the petitioners, Mr. Salsinha, and his group to solve the problems they have faced. "I think our cooperation is going well, the only differences are regarding location. But currently we are trying to cooperate to solve the problems they are facing," said Mr. Tara on Tuesday (20/11). (DN)

David Dias Ximenes: Dili is a cemetery

David Dias Ximenes, MP from Fretilin considered that the current situation makes the capital city of Timor-Leste, Dili, look like a cemetery. "I said it's a dead city because there is no daily security, and everyone feels insecure everyday. Just ask Mari Alkatiri and Mario Carrascalao – previously there were only small number of police, but they would respond to any incident promptly. Now police are everywhere, but the situation is not secure," said Mr. Ximenes. (DN)

Permanent deployment of police at schools: an important step for UNPol and PNTL

The Operational Commander of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), Mateus Fernandes, said that the process to deploy police at unsecured schools is an important step for the PNTL and UNPol. Commander Fernandes said that this important step will be coordinated with UNPol as all of the PNTL is under UNPol control. "Children are the future of the nation, they should be kept safe. There is also plan to encourage the IDPs to go back to their previous residences. We are still in the screening process. Soon after that we will deploy the police in the most affected areas," said Commander Fernandes on Friday (16/11). (DN)

IDP situation not solved: unwanted independence

Fernanda Borges, MP from PUN said that if the current government does not solve the situation of the IDPs in 2008, then Timor- Leste does not deserve its independence. "Many children, the future of the nation, are living in the camps. If the Alliance government cannot solve the problem then the future of the nation will have no direction," said Ms. Borges on Children's Day, Tuesday (20/11) in the national parliament plenary. (DN)

Fretilin and CNRT about to clash in NP

David Dias Ximenes from Fretilin said the statement of Pedro Martires da Costa from CNRT was an insult against former ruling party, Fretilin. Mr. da Costa said that the electricity and water problem currently plaguing the capital city is being orchestrated by some people who are trying to bring about the collapse of the Alliance government. "The statement is made from a technical point of view, not a political point of view," said Mr. da Costa. (STL and DN)

Minister of Justice creating injustice in Timor-Leste

Former Minister of Justice Domingos Sarmento, also an MP from Fretilin, said that Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato was being unjust when she sacked the Director of Land and Property, Pedro da Costa, before his term ended. According Mr. Sarmento, the decision made is unjust because Mr. da Costa's position is not a political post, but a technical post, as national director of public servants. (DN)

November 20, 2007

TVTL Summary News

UNPol pistol seized: A young man on Monday (19/11) seized a pistol from an UNPol officer when the officer pointed it at crowd of youths to disperse them. The crowds attacked the officer, and one of the young men snatched the pistol away from him and took it to Parliament House where it was submitted to the PNTL.

NP needs financial report to be discussed: Fernanda Borges, the Member of the National Parliament (NP) from the National Unity Party (PUN), asked the current government to present the general financial report to NP before holding the debate in the national parliament. Ms. Borges said that the national parliament needs details on the money being spent by the current government, including funds carried over from the previous government.

Policeman assaults a lawyer in the NP: Member of NP, Fernanda Borges, said that a member of the PNTL, Sub-Inspector Mario X. de Carvalho, assaulted a private lawyer on Saturday (17/11) in the NP. The lawyer was invited by the NP to give his statement on the law of private lawyers. However, the lawyer was then beaten by a police officer. The State Secretary of Security, Francisco Guterres, said that an investigation will establish what took place.

Salsinha: the government is still not contacting us

The spokesperson of the petitioners, Gastco Salsinha, declared that until now his side has not had direct contact with the current government with regards to dialogue. "Until now we have had no direct contact from the government with regards to dialogue," said Mr. Salsinha on Monday (19/11).

Mr. Salsinha added that the petitioners' position is to wait for the government to contact them to determine an appropriate setting for a dialogue that will help find a solution to the petitioners' problem. Mr. Salsinha also stated that the number of petitioners is 500, and they are from ten districts, and would prefer Ermera for cantonement rather than Aileu. (TP)

Lack of food: eleven places affected

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery reported that currently eleven places are facing a food shortage. The affected areas are: Quelicai, Laga, Baucau, Watulari, Uato-Carbau, Viqueque (eastern part), Lequidoe, Aileu Vila, Remexio, Laulara and Balibo (western). The State Secretary for Agriculture and Agronomy, Marcos da Cruz, said that the ministry has held a meeting with the United Nations to help remedy the situation, especially during the rainy season. (TP)

NP asking the government to submit financial report

The Member of the National Parliament (NP) from the National Unity Party (PUN), Fernanda Borges, asked the current government to present the general financial report to NP before holding the debate on the issue. Ms. Borges said that the financial report should be submitted as more time is required before the NP can finally approve it.

"We want to see the data of how the money being executed, including the carry over funds from the previous government. We want to know the situation of the current government in executing the funds," said Ms. Borges on Monday (19/11). (TVTL, TP and STL)

Dialogue to be a success: government to agree with Alfredo and Salsinha

The Chief of the Advocacy Division of Fontil Justino da Silva said that the dialogue between the petitioners and the Government will be successful if the current government defines the place in agreement with GastC#o Salsinha, Alfredo Reinado and their groups. Mr. da Silva said that when the security situation is guaranteed, the dialogue will be held successfully. Furthermore, Mr. da Silva should maintain his position as recommended by the Notable Commission and Commission of Inquiry. (TP)

Policeman assaults a lawyer in the NP

The Member of NP from PUN, Fernanda Borges, said that a member of the PNTL, Sub-Inspector Mario X. de Carvalho, assaulted a private lawyer on Saturday (17/11) in the NP. "The policeman named Mario beat the lawyer who was invited by the NP to give his testimony about private lawyers' law," said Ms. Borges in the NP. At the same time, the State Secretary of Security Francisco Guterres said that there will be investigation into the matter. (TP)

Youth seized UNPol pistol

On Monday (19/11), a young man named Jaime seized a pistol from a member of United Nations Police (UNPol) as the officer drew his pistol and pointed it at crowd of young men in order to disperse them. The crowds turned hostile and threw rocks at the UNPol officer. He then fired warning shots in the air. During the scuffle, some shots were fired and injured two of Jaime's fingers. Jaime then snatched the pistol away from the UNPol officer. The group then said they were going to the Parliament House and left. (TP)

Julio Thomas Pinto: dialogue that could decide the status of the petitioners

State Secretary for Defence Julio Tomas Pinto said that whether the petitioners will be restored as F-FDTL or not depends on the dialogue between them and the government. "The problem of Alfredo and the petitioners depends upon the dialogue. This problem is now under the State Secretary of Security as the spokesperson from the government side," said Mr. Pinto. (DN)

Francisco Guterres: the PNTL does not have the capacity to be deployed on the border line

The State Secretary of Security, Francisco Guterres, said that there are not enough PNTL members to be deployed at the border, Indonesia and Australia. Mr. Guterres said that members of the PNTL have been taking part in the screening process and mentoring process of six months to enable them to provide security to the community professionally. (DN)

November 19, 2007

Jose Luis de Oliveira: government needs to be patient if it is to solve the petitioners' case

The Director of the HAK Association and the facilitator of the first round of dialogue between the petitioners and government, JosC(c) Luis de Oliveira, said that even though Gastao Salsinha was not present for the first round of the dialogue in Aileu, the government should be patient in solving this national problem. However Mr. Salsinha, the spokesperson of the petitioners, said that the dialogue is illegal as they were not informed of it. Another dialogue between the government and petitioners will be arranged when a setting to encourage maximum participation from the petitioners is identified. (DN)

For and against in the national parliament: returning the petitioners to the F-FDTL

The attempt of the petitioners to return to the barracks of F- FDTL resulted in arguments for and against between the members of the national parliament. Jacob Xavier from PPT said that the petitioners could return to the barracks as long as they return to their previous status of F-FDTL members, excluding those who get benefits.

Francisco Miranda from Fretilin said that the petitioners' problem is not a political problem, it is a state problem that should be viewed from its legal aspects, including the legal consequences of any action. Pedro da Costa from CNRT said that if the petitioners are to reintegrate back into the F-FDTL, then the solution must be found through dialogue – but how can this be achieved if the petitioners do not participate the dialogue? (DN and TP)

Alfredo Reinado: "My problem and the problem of the petitioners are the same"

Alfredo Reinado said that his problem and the petitioners' problem are the same and he should participate in any dialogue held by the government, including between F-FDTL and the petitioners. Mr. Reinado said the problems are the same because he also walked out of the barracks of the F-FDTL to provide protection to the petitioners. "I will be the first person to act as a witness for the petitioners, because I stepped out of the barracks to give them protection, so my problem is the same the petitioners," said Mr. Reinado on Friday (16/11) in Gleno, Ermera. (DN and TP)

November 26: Security Council to visit Timor-Leste

A Delegation from the United Nations Security Council will visit Timor-Leste on November 26th to evaluate to the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Allison Cooper, UNMIT Spokesperson, said that the delegation will also visit the districts over four days (26-30th November). "The delegation will also visit the districts, although I do not know who exactly they will meet in the districts," said Ms. Cooper in the weekly UNMIT press briefing on Thursday (15/11) in Obrigado Barracks-Caicoli, Dili. (DN)

Luis-Vicente: "Fretilin criticises constructively"

Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres and Vice President of the National Parliament Vicente da Silva Guterres said that the constructive criticisms from Fretilin against the Alliance government are well-considered and a direct contribution to the development of the country. The vice president of the NP also said that Fretilin may advise the current government using their experience from when they were the previous government. (DN)

President Ramos-Horta: the GNR is a good model for PNTL

President Jose Ramos-Horta said that GNR from Portugal is better model for reforming the PNTL, and therefore he requests that President Portugal Cavaco Silva cooperate in this sector. "The reform of PNTL is very crucial for the stability of this nation, and we would like to strengthen our cooperation with Portugal in this sector. We believe that such a model as shown by the GNR is better for Timor Leste," said the president. (TP and STL)

Alkatiri: anti-terrorist conference necessary for Timor-Leste

The participation of East Timor's parliament in the international parliamentary Union conference held in New York was necessary to discuss global anti-terrorism. According to Marie Alkatiri, it is necessary for Timor Leste. "I think it is necessary for Timor Leste to act upon the regulations in order to reinforce our country based on the law and democracy," said the former prime minister. He added that the anti-terrorist conference takes place every year, and that the meeting may provide positive input to each national parliament to help fight terrorism. (STL)

November 16, 2007

UN not involved in the talks between the government and petitioners

The Spokesperson of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), Ms. Allison Cooper, said that UN is not involved in the talks between the government and the petitioners as the UN is not in control of law and order. However, the UN will provide security to the during the negotiation process. (DN)

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao: "Salsinha should be with the petitioners"

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is asking the spokesperson of the petitioners, Mr. Gastao Salsinha to participate in the dialogue as the government has a commitment to solve the problem. The first meeting of the talks had no participation from the petitioners of Mr. Gastao's group, and only fourteen petitioners of Major Tara's group.

Prime Minister Gusmao said that government needs Mr. Salsinha to come to the talks to reach a solution for his problems. "The government has a commitment to solve the problem, and hopes that all the petitioners will take part in the second day of the talks. Trust the government that the problem will be solved," said the Prime Minister. (DN and TVTL)

Mari Alkatiri: 100 days ruling, sees only rice and tents

Former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said that a hundred working days of the Alliance government has only seen rice and tents distributed to the IDPs. "I also hear that the projects are only contracted to friends, even the ministers' families are holding projects. "They ask for the previous government to be audited, but it seems that this is for themselves as in only in three months they have spent lots of money which has not benefited the people," said Mr. Alkatiri. (DN)

Interview with Gastao Salsinha: does not want his party to be involved

The spokesperson of the petitioners, Mr. Gastao Salsinha said that his party did not participate in the Aileu talks as they do not wish to confuse the cases of the petitioners and parties. "Some people have interest in the discussions, such as, Major Tara and Piloto. Major Tara is a member of Social Democratic Party (PSD), so he could be the mediator on behalf of the petitioners," said Mr. Salsinha. (DN)

Deadline for the screening process of PNTL to end December 1st

The United Nations Police (UNPol) spokesperson, Benjamin Osuji said 1460 members of PNTL have undergone the screening process and that only 104 officers are left to be screened. According to Mr. Osuji, the screening process will be completed 1st of December this year. (DN and TVTL)

November 13, 2007

TVTL Summary News

Commemoration of Santa Cruz Massacre 1991: In Dili, on the 16th commemoration of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, the victims and their families are asking the government to honor those who sacrificed themselves for the freedom of the nation by following in their footsteps and proclaiming the day as National Youth Day.

15 and 16 November: F-FDTL dialogue with the petitioners

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said that the government and the F- FDTL will hold two day talks on Thursday and Friday this week with the petitioners in Aileu district. "The dialogue has no relation to Alfredo Reinado. The dialogue is not with the government. Everyone knows that the F-FDTL is the one who should frankly conduct the dialogue with the petitioners as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry (COI)," affirmed the Prime Minister to journalists on Sunday in Dili. (STL)

TL government defends justice

The Vice Prime Minister, Jose Luis Guterres said that the government of Timor-Leste will try to stand up for justice, especially for the victims of the Santa Cruz massacre and to strengthen the relationship with the government of Indonesia. Mr. Guterres said that the report on the victims of the massacre will be provided to the Indonesian government. "The International Tribunal is created by the United Nations through the Security Council. The government has been given options which it has provided to the Commission of Friendship and Truth (CTF). Timor- Leste and Indonesia are still working together to solve the 1999 crisis. CTF's effort is to guarantee peace and to strengthen the two nations.'" said the vice prime minister. (STL)

Australia not a member of the International Criminal Court

"All the people of Timor-Leste are vulnerable to ISF abuse, if the national parliament does not ratify the presence of International Security Forces (ISF) because Australia is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC)", said a member of parliament. "Australian and USA are not members of the ICC which means they may have immunity when their military forces commit crimes in other nations," said Mr. Cecilio Caminha of the CNRT. (TP)

Ramos-Horta: "Alfredo's case is different with the petitioners"

President Jose Ramos-Horta said that the cases of Alfredo Reinado and the petitioners are different. The petitioners' case is a social, economic and political case while Alfredo's case is about justice.

Today, the government brings the ISF accord to parliament

The vice president of the National Parliament, Vicente Guterres said that today (Tuesday 13/11) the government is going to submit a proposed accord between the government and the ISF, to be studied and ratified. "The accord will be studied, and assessments will be conducted on the general security situation of the country. The decision will be based on the interests of the nation," said Mr. Guterres on Friday (9/11) in the national parliament. At the meeting of the national parliament, the presence of United Nations Police (UNPol) was also discussed. (DN)

Alfredo Reinado: "Petitioners need to be active in the military"

Alfredo Reinado said that even though there is still no way to gather all the petitioners, the state and government already agreed to include the petitioners in the dialogue. Mr. Reinado also explains that the current government's program is to solve the case of the petitioners, so they should be allowed to continue their daily activities as military men. "We will not let our military functions go," said Gastao Salsinha, the spokesperson of the petitioners. (DN)

The government to support NP and review the presence of ISF

The current government led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on Friday (9/11) shows its support to the national parliament through the evaluation to the ISF's presence in the country. The decision to support the presence of ISF means the submission of a bilateral accord to the national parliament to be studied and ratified. (TP)

November 8, 2007

Alfredo Reinado: asking people to be calm

Alfredo Reinado has asked people to remain calm and wait for the information and dialogue throughout the districts. "It is my moral responsibility going to go districts and inform people that they should wait for the process of dialogue," said Mr. Reinado on Friday (2/11) in Same. (STL)

IDPs protesting: distribution of expired food

IDPs in the Arte Moris, Comoro on Wednesday (7/11) strongly protested against the United Nations agency, World Food Program (WFP) stating the food it distributes is passed its use-by date. According to the camp manager, Augusto Soares, the oil and beans are expired. (TP)

Issuing arrest warrant: the task of police

The Vice Director of Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP), Casmiro dos Santos said that according to the Penal Code of Timor-Leste only the police can capture members of the public, not the military. Mr. Dos Santos also said that the request of Judge Ivo of the Dili District Court to International Security Forces (ISF) to arrest Reinado needs clarification. "The mandate issued to ISF to arrest Reinado has no transparency; JSMP has no information about the bilateral accord between the government and ISF. Many people know that the bilateral accord has not been ratified by the national parliament," said Mr. Dos Santos. (TP)

Jose Luis Guterres: audit to previous government to be clarified

The Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres has endorsed the international audit of the previous government. According to Mr. Guterres, an audit is a normal procedure when requested by the president"The audit will clarify information about the truth, rather than just accusing others." said Mr. Guterres on Wednesday (7/11) in Dili. (DN)

ISF rejects arrest warrant to Alfredo

The Spokesperson for the International Security Forces, Robert Barnes said that the Prosecutor General has sent an arrest warrant to the ISF, without the support of the Government. "Last week the General Prosecutor sent us an arrest warrant to capture Reinado, but the president of the republic asked ISF not to do so," said the spokesperson. (DN)

Duarte Nunes: never questioning again the presence of ISF

Duarte Nunes, a member of the national parliament said that it is not the time to continually question the presence of the ISF, as Timor-Leste is still unable to provide security by itself. Mr. Nunes also said that sometimes unwanted incidents by ISF occur, because they are asked by UNPol and PNTL to give assistance. (DN)

TL to participate in the General Assembly of UN

A delegation consisting of eight Timorese people will take part in the UN General Assembly (GA) of 2007. The importance of taking participation in the debate in the GA is to provide assistance to other countries when needed; and also knowing the working mechanisms of the United Nations. (DN)

November 7, 2007

TVTL Summary News

NP resolution for the President to visit Portugal: The National Parliament has passed a resolution for President Jose Ramos-Horta to visit Portugal on November 12. According to the Constitution, the visit of the President abroad needs to be approved by the National Parliament.

Subsidy to public servants: Arsenio Bano, the Fretilin parliamentary member said that the rive subsidy from the Government to the public servants is a waste. According to Mr. Bano the subsidy should go to the public as public servants already have their monthly salaries.

Anthrax attacks eastern part of Indonesia: The Secretary of Health has appealed to all people in Timor-leste to avoid consuming beef, due to the recent outbreak of anthrax in eastern Indonesia.

Alfredo Reinado: leaders who involved in the crisis should face trial Alfredo Reinado is calling upon the political leaders at the time of last year's political and military crisis to be tried in a court of law. "The law is for all people. Leaders who were involved in the last year's crisis should pay for their responsibility in the court," said Reinado on Friday (2/11) in Same. Reinado explained that there should be further clarification about the political and military aspects of last year's crisis.

President Ramos-Horta: rejects Boavida represents Timor-Leste in Taiwan

President Jose Ramos-Horta has rejected a newspaper report, that states the attendance of the Vice President of Democratic Party (PD), Joao Boavida at a conference in Taiwan this week, was arranged by the President. A dispatch of The Central News Agency of Taiwan published in Taipei on October 29, 2007 said that the vice president of PD, Mr. Boavida was their in collaboration with President Ramos-Horta. The dispatch said that Mr. Boavida will share his experiences of Timor-Leste in struggling for its independence. However, the President's Office says it has no knowledge about the conference. (STL)

A tragedy for ADF: an ISF soldier died in Dili

Defence Media Release: An Australian soldier has died while serving on operations as part of the International Stabilisation Force in East Timor. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said the soldier was found deceased yesterday afternoon in Dili.

"The soldier has died of a gun shot wound while in a barracks area. The circumstances of the incident are still uncertain and will be formally investigated.

"A full investigation will be conducted by staff of the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service. Additionally, a formal CDF Commission of Inquiry will be completed, consistent with new military justice arrangements," Air Chief Marshall Houston said.

"Any death of an ADF member is a tragic and sad loss for the entire ADF community. The soldier's next of kin have been informed and our priority is to ensure the family is receiving the support and care they need.

"I ask the media to please respect the family's need for privacy during this difficult time as they mourn the loss of their loved one."

Repatriation arrangements are currently being considered. The soldier's body will be brought home by ADF or permanently chartered ADF aircraft, and will be under constant escort by ADF personnel. Defence will not be releasing any of the soldier's personal details or any further information surrounding the circumstances of his death at this time. (STL and TP)

Fretilin: questioning the visit of NP to Indonesia

Fretilin has strongly questioned the visit of National Parliament (NP) led by the President of the Parliament Fernando Lasama de Arauj to Indonesia on Sunday (4/11). According to Fretilin, the visit was not approved by the heads of all political parties in the National Parliament. The Vice President of the National Parliament, Vicente Guterres clarified that there was no announcement to the member of the parliament for the limit of time. (TP and DN)

PNTL-UNPol to provide patrols to schools

The Acting Commander of PNTL, Afonso de Jesus said that the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and United Nations Police (UNPol) has coordinated to provide patrols at schools under threat in the Dili suburb of Comoro. "The police observe that the security situation across the country remains normal and controlled. However, there still some sporadic incidents however the are not serious incidents," said Mr. de Jesus. (TP)

IDPs threat to intimidate Australian citizen

The Fretilin Member of Parliament Arsenio Bano said intimidating Australian citizens is not a solution to problems. The IDPs at the Comoro Airport have threatened to intimidated Australian civilians as retribution for shooting deaths and injuries at the camp by the International Security Forces (ISF). "The parliament has to review and evaluate the trilateral agreement and stop the military operation in the refugees' camps," said Mr. Bano. (DN)

More police to deploy at the IDP camp of Airport

More PNTL and UNPol will deploy at the IDP of Comoro Airport, following the statement by IDPs to intimidate Australian citizens in the area. Mr. de Jesus said that PNTL and UNPol together with ISF and F-FDTL would react similarly to any other security issue. (DN)

UNPol, PNTL and government held a weekly meeting

The State Secretary for Security, Francisco Guterres, UN Police Commissioner Rodolfo Tor and DSRSG Eric Tan held a weekly meeting with the Acting Commander of PNTL, Afonso de Jesus on Tuesday (6/11) in Vila Verde, Dili. The meeting is conducted weekly to raise any important points of the week and to revise the incidents taking place around the country. PNTL and UNPol are agreeing to be pro-active to provide security in unsecured places. (DN)

November 6, 2007

TVTL Summary News

Timor-Leste national parliament visits Indonesia: Members of the national parliament, led by the president of the national parliament, held a visit to Indonesia. The trip was to develop the relationship between the two nations that will be followed by an agreement between Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

National parliament to review the ISF presence: Parliamentary members from the CNRT, PD, Fretilin, ASDT, PSD, PN, UNDERTIM political parties have voiced their concern about the presence of ISF in Timor-Leste. The members said the Vice President of the national parliament will all invite parliamentary members from all political parties to hold a meeting to re-evaluate and review the agreement covering the presence of the ISF in Timor-Leste.

The Head of Timor-Leste meets the Head of UNMIT: The Special Representative of Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare held a weekly meeting with the government of Timor-Leste in discussing the recent situation of the country. SRSG Atul Khare said that the meeting was to discuss issues relevant to the Government and the United Nations.

National parliament decides to review the presence of ISF

The national parliament has decided to review the agreement for the presence of International Security Forces (ISF) in Timor- Leste. Members of the national parliament, belonging to the CNRT, PD, Fretilin, ASDT, PSD, PN, UNDERTIM parties made the decision based on concerns that the ISF is threatening Timor-Leste's sovereignty. Concerned members said the ISF has been involved in torturing Timorese people, including shooting two young people to dead at the Comoro IDP camp in March 2007.

"In the plenary session we are all concerned about the presence of the ISF and we would like to review the agreement before there are more victims. We will conduct a meeting to find out if there is any possibility to revise the accord as demanded," said Vicente Guterres, the vice president of the national parliament.

On the other hand, MP from Fretilin, Francisco Branco said that Fretilin is not against ISF, but it is important to know how the ISF cooperates with the F-FDTL and PNTL. The national parliament also referred to its appeal in October 2006, requesting the ISF to be under the United Nations. (TP, STL and TVTL)

Fretilin: not frightened by an international audit

The Head of Fretilin in the national parliament, Aniceto Guterres said that his party is not concerned about an international audit of its government between the years of 2002 and 2007. If the results show failings of the former members of the previous government we will accept them, but if there are no evidence then Fretilin asks to stop this campaign of accusations and dirty propaganda against Fretilin," said Mr. Guterres on Monday (5/11) in the national parliament. On the other hand, MP from Social Democratic Party (PSD), Riak Leman said that the audit will also extend to the current Alliance government for the sake of transparency. (TP, DN and STL)

UN envoy and Prime Minister meet: strengthening situation of the country

The Special Representative of Secretary General of United Nations in Timor-Leste, Atul Khare held a meeting with Prime Minister Kayrala Xanana Gusmao in the government palace to inform the work of United Nations (UN) in Timor-Leste. "The meeting was well conducted and discussed how to strengthen the situation in Timor-Leste and what the United Nations can do to assist that," said Atul Khare. The meeting is a weekly meeting between United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and the government of Timor-Leste. (TP,DN and TVTL)

Lucia Lobato accuses MPs of NP of manipulating the COI recommendations

The Justice Minister Lucia Lobato has accused former members of the national parliament of manipulating the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) in relation to the names of the actors, which are not given out by the national parliament. "Some names in the recommendation of COI were not mentioned in the final recommendation of the parliament," said Ms. Lobato on Monday (5/11) in the national parliament. (TP and STL)

Judge Ivo asking ISF to apprehend Alfredo

Judge Ivo from the Dili District Court has asked the International Security Forces (ISF) to arrest Alfredo Reinado. "The capture of escapees with illegal weapons is within the jurisdiction of the ISF in Timor-Leste," said Judge Ivo as cited by Lusa from a letter to John Hutcheson, the commander of ISF in Timor-Leste. Judge Ivo isasking ISF to apprehend Reinado and his group as they manifest frontally against the sovereignty of Timor-Leste. "The previous operation of ISF to arrest Reinado and his supporters has been halted based on the proposition of the Timorese leaders," said John Hutcheson. (STL)

IDPs forcing NP to review the presence of ISF

The IDPs Airport Camp are forcing the national parliament to evaluate and review the presence of ISF in Timor-Leste as they become victims of ISF. "This is the second time we become victims; shot dead and injured. ISF are professional soldiers; they should not kill innocent," said Carlito, the camp coordinator of IDP Comoro. The IDPs have asked the national parliament to review the presence of ISF and threat to and are requesting permission for a peaceful demonstration in Dili against government policy toward ISF. (STL)

Fretilin's militants welcome Ramos-Horta with demonstration

Fretilin supporters have protested against President Jose Ramos- Horta visiting the eastern part of the country, in Lautem. The Fretilin supporters met the President with a banner, that requests the President to resign over the decision to announce the Alliance Government, which they claim is unconstitutional. The banner also asks the President to give back the Nobel Peace Prize, because it is not valid in Timor-Leste. (DN)

TL has eligibility for the MCC assistance

The Ambassador of United States of America in Timor-Leste informed that Timor-Leste is eligible, along with other 19 countries, to get assistance from Millenium Challenge Program (MCC). However he informed that Timor-Leste still needs to improve in some areas. (STL)

November 5, 2007

President Ramos Horta asking for audit of Fretilin Government

President Jose Ramos-Horta has promised to audit the former Fretilin government to find out whether or not corruption existed between 2002 and 2007. President Ramos-Horta suspects that the burning of the Customs Office was a planned action by Fretilin to burry all the documents of the party's corruption. "I do not believe people who were looking for computers burnt customs house," said the President on Thursday (1/11) in Comoro. On the other hand, a member of the CNRT party, Aderito Hugo da Costa, has said that there should be an audit of the Fretilin Government. (STL and DN)

Ramos Horta defends the ISF

President Jose Ramos-Horta has strongly defended the action of the International Security Forces (ISF) after an IDP who was shot at the Airport IDP camp last week. President Ramos-Horta said that ISF and UNPol never act brutally against any people; however if there is action, there will be reaction, he said. "ISF and UNPol never act without direction. Some members of the IDP camp at the airport and Jardim have acted irresponsibly and used provocation," said the President.

The IDPs at the airport want the ISF in Timor-Leste to be withdrawn from the country. However, President Ramos-Horta said that the ISF presence is still needed as long as the institutional reform of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and the Falintil Defence Force of Timor-Leste)(F-FDTL) is ongoing. (TP)

The State believes Singapore should investigate previous Government

President Jose Ramos-Horta said that the State has decided to have an international audit from Singapore to investigate the work of the previous Government, starting with the former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri all the way to Prime Minister Estanislau da Silva. President Ramos-Horta said that the investigation should also look into the burning of Customs House as well as corruption and nepotism during Fretilin's governance. The President is also asking Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao to be careful with some members of Fretilin who are still in the Alliance government, as they could make the Government collapse. (TP)

Poverty reduction: a program to fulfill the President's campaign promise

The member of the National Parliament from the Democratic Party (PD), Gertrudes Moniz, affirmed that the program of poverty reduction initiated by President Jose Ramos-Horta is intended to fulfill his Presidential campaign promise during the presidential elections. Mrs. Moniz said that the program is good; however, it will overlap with other competent ministries. The National Parliament has suggested the President of the Republic should work within his duties rather than mixing everything randomly. (TP)

Timor-Leste and RI should convene criminal investigation

The Director of Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP), Timotio de Deus, said that the Government of Timor-Leste and Indonesia has to convene a criminal investigation to find the truth about the border shooting of a civilian of Timor-Leste by the Indonesian military. "The state of the two nations has to have a deep criminal investigation to identify the cause of shooting," said Mr. de Deus.

President to visit eastern part of the country

The President Jose Ramos-Horta will visit Baucau, Viqueque and Lautem districts over the next four days to meet with the population, including Fretilin supporters, to explain his decision of forming an alliance government. The head of presidential cabinet, Jose M. S. Turquel said that the president is going to convince the people that he is not the president for the western part of the country, but rather, the president of whole of Timor-Leste. (DN)

TL community's contribution to ISF is important

The commander of International Security Forces (ISF), John Hutcheson has said that part of the mission of the ISF is tow work with Timorese communities and the F-FDTL to guarantee stability. "We have a plan for a technical team from the ISF and the F-FDTL to work together. By having them cooperate, they will develop an atmosphere of security in the country," said Mr. Hutcheson. (DN)

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