World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Spy Monitor Can Probe Timor Records Loss

By Hamish McDonald, Foreign Editor

The official monitor of Australia's intelligence agencies had the power to investigate the apparent disappearance of intelligence information relating to the 1975 killing of five Australian-based newsmen at Balibo in East Timor, a senior official said yesterday.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Mr Bill Blick, could investigate whether records of intercepted Indonesian military radio messages, claimed to show an intent to eliminate the journalists, had been lost or extracted from Defence Department archives.

Existence of such an intercept by the Defence Signals Directorate was reported to the government-appointed investigator, Mr Tom Sherman, by two lawyers formerly on the staff of the Hope Royal Commission, who said they had been shown in 1977.

But in his Second Report last year, Mr Sherman said DSD had told him no record or reference to the intercept could be found.

Mr Roger Holdich, the inspector-general of intelligence between 1989 and 1995, said it was a matter Mr Blick could take up if he wished. "It's up to him to decide to do that," he said.

Mr Holdich was speaking at the opening yesterday of Foreign Affairs records relating to the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, 1974-76, at the National Archives of Australia.

The former official had sat on the editorial advisory board which supervised the opening of the records and the publication of a volume of selected documents last week.

He said the intelligence agencies had strongly opposed including even limited references to intelligence-based information in the just-released papers.

Foreign Affairs had fought an "exhaustive and exhausting" battle with intelligence to get material from Indonesia's State Intelligence Co-ordinating Body included in the release.

Mr Holdich said that because former president Soeharto had designated BAKIN as his government's direct channel for dialogue with Australia on East Timor, excluding material from this source would have made the early release of Foreign Affairs records "virtually worthless".

But although Foreign Affairs prevailed in this case, the records opened to researchers yesterday in the National Archives of Australia in Canberra are still considered inadequate in revealing the complete Timor story.

Defence expert Professor Desmond Ball of the Australian National University said that without the Department of Defence side of the 1974-76 archives being opened, it would be hard to evaluate the Foreign Affairs documents.

He disputed fears that intelligence "sources and means" would necessarily be compromised. "It really is time to release much more than this, because until everything is released people are still going to have questions and conspiracy theories will abound," he said.

On the Balibo affair, Professor Ball said it was important to piece together the "scattered" material held in official archives, pointing out it was still a question whether one of the five newsmen had died with the other four, or had been killed later.

How Foreign Affairs handled the key evidence given by the Timorese turncoat Jose Martins in early 1976 about Balibo, naming Indonesians involved in the attack, can now be studied closely from the opened archives.

An initial search shows how Indonesian intelligence quickly became aware that Martins was touting information to Australia's missions in Geneva and Lisbon, and how Canberra later decided to reveal his testimony to Jakarta despite objections from the Australian Ambassador in Lisbon, Frank Cooper, that this might put Martins in danger.



© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN Rights Office On Syria: The “Monstrous Annihilation” Of Eastern Ghouta

Since the Syrian Government and their allies escalated their offensive against opposition-held Eastern Ghouta on 4 February, there have been more than 1,200 civilian casualties, including at least 346 killed and 878 injured, mostly in airstrikes hitting residential areas... Ninety-two of these civilian deaths allegedly occurred in just one 13-hour period on Monday. More>>


Cyclone Gita: 70% Of Tonga Population Affected

The full scale of destruction is beginning to emerge from Tonga in the aftermath of the severe tropical cyclone Gita. Around 50,000 people, or almost 70% of the country’s population, have been affected, a third of whom are children. More>>


Gita: Samoas Clean Up After Being Swamped By Cyclone

Apia in the wake of Gita Photo: Rudy Bartley The clean up is continuing in the two Samoas after Tropical Cyclone Gita hit on Saturday morning. More>>


Grand Coalition : Germany's two main political parties set to govern under Angela Merkel.

The liberal-conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) negotiated through the night in a marathon final push to nail down an agreement. More>>

80 Passengers: Kiribati Ferry Disaster

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working with the Government of Kiribati to support children, families and communities affected by the recent Butiraoi ferry disaster. More>>


Campbell On: the US demonising of Iran

Satan may not exist, but the Evil One has always been a handy tool for priests and politicians alike. Currently, Iran is the latest bogey conjured up by Washington to (a) justify its foreign policy interventions and (b) distract attention from its foreign policy failures. More


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC