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By Desmond Ball

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Additional resources for Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra

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In. 50 am. The trip had some tense moments. 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'.

Their film shows four of the five Australianbased newsmen sitting with their shirts off in the square at Balibo drinking beer. The Portuguese film shows the sign ~ustralia' painted on the house facing the square. But it also shows another sign on the same house: 'Falintil esta sempre com 0 povo Maubere' (Falintil is always with the Maubere people). Falintil was the name of Fretilin's armed wing; Maubere was the Fretilin term for the East Timorese 'common , man. That 'the word ~ustralia' may have been correctly interpreted by an attacking force of Indonesians and Timorese, assuming it was visible from accurate shooting range, was a doubtful proposition in the first place.

Before piecing together what happened next, it is worth looking at two points that may have become critical later. First, communications: the only way of getting a message out of Balibo was for someone to carry it by road. The Fretilin troops in Balibo had no radio. There was no telephone line. Timor, from where telephone calls were relayed by radio link to Dili. Maliana also had Fretilin's nearest radio. post.. A telephone service also linked Atabae, on the north coast, with Dili, but this town was several hours drive from Balibo.

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