113 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 18 March 1975

O.JA8319 SECRET PRIORITY

Portuguese Timor: Amnesty International: PNG

Following are main points from one hour discussion with General Yoga Sugama yesterday. As well as Head of BAKIN Yoga, in effect, controls the Special Coordinating Committee on Portuguese Timor (General Panggabean is the nominal Chairman).

[matter omitted]

  1. Turning to Timor Yoga said that there seemed to him to have been some build up of anti-Indonesian feeling both in Australia and in Portuguese Timor itself. Yoga said that it was important that the Australian and Indonesian Governments understood each other on this matter, especially on the eve of Dr Cairns' visit here and the President's visit to Australia. He said that reports of invasion plans in the Australian press had been false. He added 'Indonesia does not want more territory'. Portuguese Timor was already heavily subsidised by the Portuguese Government and it would only become another economic burden if it were part of Indonesia. Yoga added that both the Indonesian and Portuguese Governments now 'agreed that the majority of the people there should decide their own future'.
  2. Yoga said that we should not 'mistake contingency plans and routine exercises' for an Indonesian policy of military intervention. Press reports and public reactions to them in Australia had been unjustified and alarmist. For example, the alleged military road which was being constructed by the Army had been in the original Repelita I plan. No invasion was planned.
  3. I said that I was glad to hear this. The Australian Government thought that the Indonesian Government should encourage APODETI to participate in discussions with the Portuguese authorities in Timor and in the political process which was being planned for the territory. The hostility which was developing in the island between Kupang and Dili was not in either side's interests.
  4. General Yoga said that he agreed. He said that Indonesia would now be urging APODETI to enter into discussions with the Portuguese authorities in Dili. APODETI would also be encouraged to take part in discussions with the Portuguese in Lisbon and in the discussions with political parties planned in Macao for next May. (He added Indonesia would have people in Hong Kong ready to visit Macao and participate in these discussions if necessary.) Yoga said he was also taking steps to moderate the strident radio propaganda from Kupang to Portuguese Timor.
  5. Yoga said that the Indonesian side would be trying to 'minimise the antipathies between the Portuguese and Indonesian Governments, especially on the ground in Timor'.
  6. I asked Yoga whether Indonesia would accept an independent Timor. Yoga said Indonesia would not deny Portuguese Timor the option of becoming part of Indonesia if it so wished despite the economic burden this would entail. But Indonesia would be 'happy if it became independent'. It would however be 'unhappy if it became a trouble spot'. Yoga then said that he was aware that our Embassy in The Hague had issued visas to South Malaccas dissidents.1 His own information suggested that the dissidents based in The Hague did intend to attempt to build up a group in Portuguese Timor which would be used as a base for guerilla operations against Indonesia. Having failed to achieve this in Papua New Guinea or West Irian they were now making a new attempt in Timor. If this were to happen Indonesia would 'be unable to take it quietly'. Indonesia would also be concerned if, after obtaining independence, Portuguese Timor were to allow either guerrilla groups hostile to Indonesia or communist countries to seek to subvert Indonesia from Timor. Yoga added that 'if those two things do not happen, we will be happy to cooperate with an independent Timor'.
  7. I suggested that some Indonesians tended to exaggerate Soviet and Chinese interest in Timor. I said that my reading of the situation was that although Sino/Soviet competitive tensions were continuing my impression was that neither the Soviet Union nor China had shown any real interest in Timor. The Soviet Union would not want to impair the continuing consolidation of its relations with Indonesia. I would also guess that the Chinese would be more interested in re-establishing relations with Indonesia than interfering in Timor. Both, I thought, would take the pragmatic view that their relations with Indonesia were more important to them than meddling in Timor. General Yoga said that he hoped this would prove to be correct.
  8. He said that intelligence reports reaching him suggested that the Taiwan Consul felt threatened by some members of the Chinese community in Timor who were in contact with China through the Chinese Embassy in Australia. I said I had no information on this matter. Yoga also said that the 'Southern African Liberation Centre' in Australia had connections with FRETILIN and he had heard rumours of 400 weapons being smuggled into Timor by this body. I said that the Australian Government would certainly not permit or condone the export of arms in this sort of situation and I asked whether he thought these 'rumours' had any substance. Yoga said that he did not know but he was following this up. He also added that the campaign for Independent East Timor based in Castlereagh Street Sydney was also connected with FRETILIN and urging an immediate declaration of independence.

[matter omitted]

WOOLCOTT

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