Jose Ramos Horta with his neices Aliyah and Kayla. Photo: John Woudstra
July 23, 2009
EAST Timor will not pursue the soldiers who killed five Australian television journalists in 1975 because it is Indonesia's responsibility, President Jose Ramos Horta says.
In Melbourne for the world premiere of the film Balibo tomorrow, Mr Ramos Horta said most of the military leaders who directed the attack on the village of Balibo at dawn were dead.
"I would leave it to the Indonesians to deal with those who led the soldiers … I trust in Indonesian democracy," Mr Ramos Horta said. The East Timorese President was speaking yesterday at Star of the Sea College, in Gardenvale, which has an association with a training centre in East Timor where young women study business and textiles.
Balibo did justice to the memories of the five newsmen and Australian reporter Roger East but, Mr Ramos Horta said, underplayed their brutal deaths. "Their killings … were far more gruesome than was portrayed in the film," he told the students.
Roger East, then 51, ignored warnings and stayed in Dili when Indonesian soldiers invaded the former Portuguese territory, but witnesses saw soldiers march him to Dili's wharf where he was executed.
Star of the Sea has raised thousands of dollars for the training centre during events such as casual dress days and a staff salary tithe, student Genevieve Bailey told the school assembly.
One student asked Mr Ramos Horta if the attempt on his life last year, when he was shot several times outside his home, had provided him with any "special insights". He replied that it had made him more appreciative of the beauty of life and he had not suffered a single nightmare.
"The first dream I had was about Jennifer Lopez," he told the 1100 students, who dissolved into giggles. "If I had dreamed about John Howard it would have been a nightmare."
In 2007 the NSW deputy state coroner found the five newsmen were murdered by the Indonesian military, but Indonesia and Australia have never pursued the killers. The Balibo five, as they became known, were Greg Shackleton, 27, Tony Stewart, 21, Gary Cunningham, 27, Brian Peters, 29, and Malcolm Rennie, 28.