Shirley Shackleton was married to the late Channel Seven reporter Greg Shackleton, one of five Australian television journalists who were killed in Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, known as the “Balibo Five”. Shirley is a well known campaigner for East Timor leading up to the 1999 independence ballot and beyond. Her memoir The Circle of Silence will be published in May next year. This article refers to Shooting Balibo by Tony Maniaty.

I’m trying to think what to do about a recently published book — there is not much choice because of the laws of defamation. It’s ironic, anyone can print what they like and get away with it. Why? There is no protection in law for the dead, that’s why. A live person cannot even use the D word against someone who is assassinating a dead person’s character because of the likelihood of being charged with defamation. Since the D word does not exist in law regarding a deceased person, it cannot be used to defend them.

In his book, Mr. M Ds my husband, Greg Shackleton, in every possible way.

Greg Shackleton can be described by a whole raft of D words. Determined, dashing, desirable, delectable, decent, dedicated and Daddy. However the only word that matters, is dead.

Because of this book he has to die over and over and over again.

Then there is the M word. Machiavellian. Mr. M’s opinion of Greg Shackleton rests on supposition. They met and talked for five to ten minutes in 1975 when the author was running away from Balibo in Portuguese Timor. He advised Greg Shackleton not to proceed. Unfortunately he and four colleagues failed to realise that the propaganda about Gough Whitlam’s wonderful relationship with General Suharto, the dictator of Indonesia was just that. P for propaganda.

In other words the Balibo Five, unlike Mr. M did not possess second sight.

The Ds in the book are far ranging. They include blaming all the murdered journalists for their own deaths and even include criticism for a surgical intervention on Shackleton’s nose. I haven’t yet read this master of the clairvoyant art’s learned musings as to the inner thought and motivations of Roger East who also committed a deadly sin by failing to heed the Oracle, Mr M. A whole raft of O words apply to Mr. M: outmatched, opinionated, offensive, oleum, otious, outjockey, onerous, overkill and opportunistic.

I make no claims to be clairvoyant, I just put two and two together by studying the evidence.

Next Mr. M will be blaming the Anzacs for their own deaths too. And police shot while attending a crime scene.

What a blessing to ASIO and the police force, to forensic science and all to medical institutions this paragon would be. If only he could stick to the facts and not write fiction.