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Letter: Death in Timor

Sir: If the Indonesian government overturns its president's undertaking that East Timor's people will be allowed to choose their own future ("Timor is offered `freedom' at last", 28 January), will the British Foreign Office notice? I fear not.

My son - TV reporter Michael Rennie - and his Bristol-born cameraman, Brian Peters, were murdered in East Timor on 16 October 1975 by Indonesian troops. Jose Ramos-Horta (East Timor's Nobel Peace Prize co-Laureate, 1996) informed the Foreign Office of this when, in February 1976, he travelled to London to urge Her Majesty's Government to investigate the newsmen's murders.

The Foreign Office failed to act on that information, or even to pass it to the families. Not until 8 October last year did any Foreign Office Minister ask the Indonesian government to "look into" my son's death. President Habibie undertook to do so.

Even though that undertaking was overruled by President Habibie's cabinet before last October was out, the Foreign Office says Mr Habibie's undertaking still stands. That is a disgrace. Will matters change when, this week, the Australian government releases its new report on the murder of my son and the four newsmen murdered with him? I hope so.

What is at stake isn't just my peace of mind. What is at stake is the future of a small country where, in the words of the General Council of American Rabbis, "no people on earth has seen a greater portion of its population perish under tyranny since the nightmare of the European Holocaust".


Ramsey, Isle of Man