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

ETAN in the news on Kopassus training

The Christian Science Monitor: US Plan To Train Indonesia's Special Forces Sets Off Alarm (March 5, 2010)
“Now if we simply circumvent this law, it will be like saying, ‘You haven’t held past abusers accountable, so we’re going to go ahead and reward you,’ ” he says.

Radio Australia, Connect Asia: US Plans To Resume Training Of Indonesia's Kopassus  Forces (March 9, 2010) Listen: Windows Media
LAM: And John Miller the East Timor and Indonesia Action network, your organisation ETAN, speaks of criminal activity within Kopassus. What is this alleged criminal activity?

MILLER: Well as Australians would be well familiar with the killing of the journalists at Balibo in 1975, that was done by soldiers within Kopassus, to the exit of Indonesia from East Timor in 1999, Kopassus officers were heavily involved and orchestrated destruction and training of militia, to last summer Human Rights Watch released a report about Kopassus units in West Papua illegally arresting and harassing residents in the highlands of West Papua. So it's a very long history and most of those rights abuses are unresolved and in the few that have actually gone to court, such as the kidnapping of students in 1997 and 98, even where soldiers were actually convicted in court, many of them are still serving today in Kopassus.
Inter Press Service: U.S. Seeks to Resume Training of Controversial Military Unit
(March 4)
"The best way to prevent future violations is to hold accountable those responsible for the multitude of human rights crimes committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor, West Papua, and elsewhere. Many of these crimes occurred while the U.S. was most deeply engaged with the Indonesian military providing the bulk of its weapons and training," he added.

Asia Times: US, Indonesia in a tentative embrace (March 12)
"Kopassus training is the last frontier for re-engagement and a US seal of approval for the Indonesian military," John Miller, national coordinator for the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, said by e-mail.

Jakarta Post: Indonesia welcomes US plan to boost military cooperation (March 2)
"Clinton's remarks imply that Indonesian military human rights violations are in the past," the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said. "But they aren't."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

White House Rally - Pressure Pres. Obama to Speak Up for Prisoners of Conscience in Indonesia

Join us at the White House to rally for Prisoners of Conscience Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage

Saturday, March 13 noon- 2 p.m.
Lafayette Square!

The rally will feature music, lively chants, and speakers from Amnesty International as well as the East Timor Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). 

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were jailed in December 2004 for taking part in a nonviolent protest for Papuan independence from Indonesia. During the ceremony a Morning Star flag, the symbol of Papuan independence, was raised.  Indonesian police arrested Filep Karma and reportedly beat him during his transportation to the police station.  When a group of 20 people arrived at the police station in protest, they were arrested as well.  All of them were subsequently released, except for Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage.  Mr. Karma and Mr. Pakage were tried on charges of treason for their roles in the protest and sentenced to 15 years and 10 years respectively.   

Supporters of independence for Papua Province have been among those jailed as prisoners of conscience in Indonesia. While Amnesty International takes no position on the political status of any province of Indonesia, we believe that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate independence.  Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of these prisoners of conscience.  

Barack Obama and his family plan on visiting the President's childhood home of Indonesia late next month to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Indonesia. This is the perfect time to encourage President Obama to pressure Indonesia on its human rights violations and freedom of speech issues, especially regarding the cases of Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage. 

Support Filep and Yusak and demand the release of these unjustly imprisoned men by rallying with us!

For more information, visit  

Info about the rally: 

Take Action!


Oppose U.S. training for Indonesia's Kopassus sign the petition opposing training are available here

Photo of Filep Karma from Amnesty International