109 Record of Conversation Between Tjan and Taylor

Jakarta, 10 March 1975


Portuguese Timor: Ali Murtopo

Portuguese Timor

[matter omitted]

  1. Harry [Tjan] asked how the Presentation of Credentials had gone and referred to the extensive press coverage of it. Did the Ambassador have a chance to talk with the President and did they discuss Portuguese Timor? I said that he did and that the President had given an assurance that Indonesia would not invade Portuguese Timor. Harry said he was pleased to hear this. There would be no invasion of Portuguese Timor but we should not be surprised at Indonesian activity in Portuguese Timor. He said that at the last ministerial level meeting about Portuguese Timor, only Ali Murtopo had taken a moderate line. Malik had been very tough in his approach. He had said that Portuguese Timor should be integrated-by force if necessary-and that he could look after the international reaction. It would be hostile for about a year, but he could manage that. I asked Harry what sort of action was being discussed. Harry said that there might be a Government supporting integration with Indonesia formed in Portuguese Timor in the border area. When efforts were made by Dili, or the political parties to squash this Government Indonesia could come to its support. He stressed that as far as he knew decisions along these lines had not been taken. It represented, however, the sort of argument being bandied about at senior levels. He agreed that the final decision on any large scale intervention in Timor would be taken by the President. Only the President (advised by Ali Murtopo) was moderating Indonesia's policy at present. He was concerned to maintain Indonesia's international reputation. Also although Portuguese Timor was part of the Indonesian world, Indonesia had no historical claim to it and no territorial ambitions there. But in the last resort the President's thinking would be determined by his concern to maintain the security and stability of the region.
  2. The crucial question would be what happened in Portugal. If Portugal turned communist, so went the argument put forward in the committee on Timor, Portugal could allow a communist power such as Russia to gain influence, and perhaps even set up a base, in Portuguese Timor. The area would become strategically important when heavy shipping was passing through the Lombok and Sunda Straits. Indonesia would not countenance such a situation and foreign opinion would not matter one bit.
  3. BAKIN's report on the security of Indonesia in 1975 (a copy of which he showed, but did not give, to me) said there would be intense rivalry between communists and Muslims in Indonesia in the second half of 1975, and on into 1976. (Harry said that the leaflets referred to in the press recently by the Chief of KOPKAMTIB were a part of this rivalry.) Both the Russians and the Chinese would be seeking to strengthen their support in Indonesia at each other's expense in preparation for Indonesia's reopening of diplomatic relations with China expected in 1976. The Muslims would seek to further strengthen their position and build up support for their demands for an increased role for religion in the government system.
  4. Ever present in the back of the minds of many senior Indonesians was the belief that communism had taken over in Indo-China and would soon threaten Thailand and Malaysia. Indonesia did not mind left-wing governments, for instance it agreed Khieu Samphan and Long Boret1 should form a coalition government in Phnom Penh. But they would be very concerned if the Khmer Rouge formed a government by itself and was able to pursue its communist objectives untrammelled. This was why Indonesia had asked the United States to proceed slowly in its moves to set up a coalition government in Phnom Penh. Indonesian leaders believed in detente in theory. But in practice they saw that communists remained intent on subverting and overthrowing governments, such as the Indonesian one. Indonesia's history added force to this belief. If the communists were to gain a foothold in South East Asia the world balance would be upset, not just the balance in the region.
  5. I asked Harry whether the recent activity on Portuguese Timor in Australia had caused any anger amongst leading Indonesians. He said that the President had not been particularly concerned. As we would have noted, he laid special emphasis in his speech at the Presentation of Credentials ceremony on his understanding of Australian policy since he had met Mr Whitlam. The President placed great store on what Mr Whitlam had told him about Australian policy. He believed that he could trust Mr Whitlam to fulfil his word. *Mr Whitlam had told the President that he, not Dr Cairns or anyone else, was the leader of the party. If Labor were defeated in elections Mr Peacock would carry out a similar policy towards Indonesia. Harry commented that the President had concluded from Mr Whitlam's remarks that Mr Whitlam would prefer Mr Peacock as his successor rather than Dr Cairns. Referring to Dr Cairns' forthcoming visit I said that we hoped the President would be able to see him.
  6. I noted that Mr Peacock seemed to have adopted a different emphasis in his policy on Portuguese Timor. Harry agreed. I mentioned that Mr Peacock might visit Portuguese Timor in several weeks.*2
  7. Harry repeated that Indonesia had no territorial ambitions; for instance, it wanted Australia to keep Christmas Island. Indonesia did not want Singapore to have it. Indonesia preferred a stable situation rather than to create instability through territorial claims.
  8. Whether Indonesia would be prepared to enter some form of non-aggression treaty with an independent Portuguese Timor would depend on the Portuguese. If they were prepared to play a similar role in bringing Portuguese Timor and Indonesia together, as Australia had done with Papua New Guinea, Indonesia might agree to some form of agreement. Indonesia had no concern about the border problems in Papua New Guinea, and did not talk about them, because Indonesia believed that Australia was guaranteeing the situation. Perhaps if Portugal were to play a similar role, some treaty with Portuguese Timor might be feasible.

[matter omitted]3

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, viii]