Thursday, March 11, 2010

Letter by Shirley Shackleton to SBY on Balibo

Shirley Shackleton delivered a letter (see below) to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his March 10 visit to Australia. According to the AAP "The Indonesian president has expressed sympathy to the families of Australian newsmen killed in Balibo in 1975."
Shackleton went to a lunch in Yudhoyono's honor with the letter. The AAP reports "She was stunned when two emissaries from the president approached her. 'They came and said that we've come from President Yudhoyono to give you his best wishes,' she told AAP. "The emissary said he wants you to know he's very sympathetic to you, and he's very interested to read what you have to say in your letter.'

We all await any follow-up.

Below the letter is a commercial by Shirley which aired during the visit calling for prosecution of the killers of the Balibo 5 as a war crime. The Australian police are investigating the case now after a coroner's report (PDF) concluded that the 5 were deliberately murdered not caught in crossfire as both the Australian and Indonesian governments had long maintained.

10th March 2010

Mrs Shirley Shackleton

Welcome to Australia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and congratulations on being appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia. I am the wife of one the journalists alleged to have been slain by members of Team Susi of the Indonesian military on 16th October 1975.

My name is Shirley Shackleton.

I am aware of the potential for our two great nations to become true friends, but as everyone knows we have serious problems to settle, one of which is the atrocity at Balibó which remains a weeping sore. It is no use just saying we are friends; we have to be friends and friends do not lie to each other, especially about something as serious as the cold hearted murder of unarmed civilians.

On that terrible morning when I heard that my husband Greg Shackleton was missing with four other journalists, I feared he was dead.  My second fear was if my premonition was correct, this would have to be managed very carefully or boys like my eight-year-old son could be fighting Indonesian boys in the future. And then, I was forced to witness lies which failed to serve the Indonesian and Australian peoples; on the contrary, they forced us to mistrust one another.

Unfortunately, this was not confined to Australia; in your recent visit to the US, questions were posed to you regarding the shooting of the Australian journalists. I note, however, that at Harvard University you responded to a questioner by promising, "We will cooperate with Australia because we respect human rights and democracy."

I believe it is time to put this atrocity to rest and I am asking you to use this occasion to heal the weeping sore that taints any possibility of respect and true friendship between our two countries by not only sending those accused of the murders to Australia for trial, but to also grant me five minutes to plead my case.

I understood long ago that I can drop dead tomorrow and Balibó will not go away. Please, as the president of Indonesia, hear my plea. I request a reply from you.

Shirley Shackleton

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