Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra by Desmond Ball

By Desmond Ball

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Shackleton later wrote: Several kilometres back we had signed a letter absolving Fretilin of responsibility for our safety and well-being. This was additional to the same kind of letter we signed for the Portuguese Government to get into ·Dili. Fretilin has 'now declared all the border area insecure. the rear and encircled. Shackleton noted signs of nervousness among Fretilin's troops. They watched an Indonesian helicopter flying high overhead and filmed Fretilin soldiers posing with a small Portuguese artillery piece.

That night, 1 ~ October, HSV 7 and other Seven stati()ns carried Shackletqn's report from the road between Atabae aJ1d,Balibo. The THE NEWSMEN 45 reporter, the news item said, was 'on. his way to the border area'. On Wednesday, 15 October, the five appear to have stayed in and around Balibo. Shackleton's entry in his notebook includes only a few terse, unconnected words. At about 2 pm a team from the Portuguese government television service, comprising Adelino Gomes, Jorge Teofilo, M,anuel Patricio and Herlander Mendes, arrived in Balibo.

In part, this was designed to keep Australians out of a genuinely uncertain and dangerous situation. Almost certainly it was also aimed at limiting the number of witnesses and Australian bystanders should Suharto take the numerous hints fromWhitlam that intervention would be forgivable. HE UDT coUP 31 Jakarta-based reporters who flew down to Kupang and tried to find overland transport into Portuguese Timor were likewise bottled up in the town and kept under tight surveillance by interior ministry security agents who warned local bus and car operators against providing transport.

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