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Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra by Desmond Ball

By Desmond Ball

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Extra info for Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra

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An unidentifiedman was sighted in the bush and their car ran over a grenade left lying on the road. They passed Fretilin soldiers retreating on foot from Balibo to Maliana and arrived at Maliana after 45 minutes on the road. At Maliana, Shackleton continued his news report begun earlier that day at Balibo. It includes two remarks that become significant in the light of subsequent events: Shackleton said the Fretilin commander in Balibo told him a decision had been made by the Central Committee of Fretilin 'not to forcefully hold Balibo, Nunura to the south, or even this town Maliana and that the next attack was expected on Atabae which is much further to our rear'.

Mario Lemos Pires, who had arrived in November 1974 with a group of young officers from the Armed Forces Movement. by the Indonesians as encouraging Fretilinand organising a revolutionary committee among Timorese non-commissioned officers. Two of them, the chief of political affairs, Maj. Francisco Mota, and the chief of social affairs, Maj. Costa Jonatas, were indeed described later by Fretilin-inclined observers as in touch with 'radical thinking" in Lisbon, and one detailed study does point to their sympathies with Fretilin.

That afternoon at Maliana the three newsmen met an elderly Portuguese. priest who had stayed behind to look after the Catholic school in the town, which was the centre of East Timor's best farming district. They took some film, then swam in the scho~l's swimming pool. At nightfall they were eating their meal in the village when suddenly a silence fell and they noticed a change of atmosphere. Shackleton noted: Maliana during the day is full of troops and there were quite a few when we arrived. But at the end of our meGl:l in deep darkness we became aware we were the only people there.

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