18 Report by Fisher

Jakarta, [July 1974]1


Visit to Indonesian Timor and Flores

The main purpose of my visit to Indonesian Timor and Flores from 19-27 July was to try to ascertain attitudes to Portuguese Timor in light of the recent developments in Portugal and in Portugal's overseas provinces. The following is an assessment of the current state of relations between the Indonesian and Portuguese parts of Timor and the attitudes of the Indonesian part to its neighbour.

[matter omitted]

  1. The Indonesians seem relaxed about security in the border areas. There are no regular patrols and border posts are located only at the rare exit and entry points used by travellers. Border surveillance is the responsibility of the police who are assisted in more inaccessible areas by civil defence personnel (HANSIP). The Commander of the NTT Defence Resort (KOREM) informed me that of the NTT based battalion (consisting of about 700 infantry) only a small percentage were located within reach of the border area at Atambua. (I heard independently that the number of troops in Atambua was about 100.) The KOREM Commander pointed out that the Portuguese guarded the border area more tightly than the Indonesians. Incidents were rare and were limited largely to settling disputes such as who owned cattle which wandered over the border. There was a good working understanding between the Indonesian and Portuguese security authorities in the border area. The recent establishment of a new Indonesian immigration office in Atambua was not so much due to Indonesian concern about dangers of infiltration from Portuguese Timor but intended more to cope with the increase in the number of tourists entering Indonesia by road from Dili. It was apparent from the discussions I had that the Indonesians saw the advantages of loose border surveillance as outweighing the disadvantages.

Developments Since the Coup in Portugal

  1. There is a heightened interest in developments in Portuguese Timor among educated people in Kupang. However, except perhaps in border areas such as the Kabupaten of Belu (the main city in which is Atarnbua), people living in the interior, although aware of the existence of Portuguese Timor, have no real knowledge of or interest in developments there.
  2. Following the coup in Portugal, a delegation from Portuguese Timor, headed by a major, visited Kupang to explain developments to Governor El Tari. The delegation mentioned the possibility of an early referendum in Portuguese Timor and requested El Tari to respect this and retain a business as usual approach while Portuguese Timor sorted out its future. El Tari reportedly gave this assurance to the delegation.
  3. For his part, Governor El Tari has been directed by the President to 'seek a solution' to the Portuguese Timor question. This Presidential instruction to El Tari, himself a Timorese, is understandable in view of El Tari's long association with the Portuguese authorities in Dili. From my discussions it became clear that the solution being sought was eventual fusion of Portuguese Timor with Indonesia. In a recent closed session of the local Provincial Parliament (DPRD), the Governor outlined the instruction that he had received from the President. The DPRD responded by passing unanimously a resolution supporting the unification of Portuguese Timor with Indonesia on the basis of similar race, culture and language. Kupang was, however, clearly not to make any initiatives aimed at bringing about this objective. Tactics to be followed were still being worked out in Jakarta. It was pointed out to me in Kupang that any major contact between the provincial Government of Indonesian Timor and the Portuguese authorities in Dili had prior approval from Jakarta. This was even more so in relation to any steps taken to influence the situation in Portuguese Timor in the direction of unification with Indonesia.
  4. The only discernible step being taken at this stage to influence the situation in Portuguese Timor is being taken through the Indonesian Government Radio Station in Kupang. Broadcasts are being made in Bahasa Tetum, one of the regional languages spoken on the Indonesian side of the Timor border which also happens to be a type of lingua franca in the Portuguese part of Timor. Although these broadcasts, begun on the initiative of the Governor (presumably with approval from Jakarta), were being made before the coup in Lisbon they have been stepped up since then and now occupy half an hour a day (with three-quarters of an hour on Saturday). The program deals mainly with news, but also contains material on the culture of NTT, economic developments there and indirectly extolls the virtues of being an independent nation (a general characteristic of RRI's broadcasting). The arranger of the program told me that he was being careful about the content of the program, but admitted that although the program was ostensibly aimed at those in Indonesian Timor who spoke Bahasa Tetum, one of the purposes of his broadcasts was to make his 'brothers' in Portuguese [Timor] aware of the fact that they were still under colonial rule and to give them some idea of how good it would be to become part of independent Indonesia. He said that RRI Kupang planned to make radios more readily available to people living in the border area by providing them for sale at a slightly cheaper rate than the normal price. Hopefully some would find their way across the border. He had recently received letters from a number of Bahasa Tetum speakers in the Portuguese part of Timor. So far Bahasa Tetum is the only regional language that Kupang RRI is using in its broadcasts though it is planned to begin broadcasting soon in another regional border language, Bahasa Dawan, which is also spoken in parts of Portuguese Timor proper as well as in Oikuse [sic], a small area of Portuguese territory enclosed, except for its coastline, within Indonesian territory. There has apparently been no complaint about these broadcasts from the Portuguese authorities in Dili.
  5. Ramos Horta, the Secretary General of the Timorese Social Democratic Party, visited Kupang following his recent visit to Jakarta. Because of his party's advocacy of independence for Portuguese Timor, it is not surprising that his welcome in Kupang was less than warm. He commented during his visit that Indonesian Timor was still visibly poor, a comment which was somewhat resented. He also asked about the motives the Indonesians had in allowing RRI Kupang to broadcast in Bahasa Tetum. He explained that although his party advocated independence for Portuguese Timor he did not rule out the possibility that Indonesian Timor might eventually fuse with an independent Portuguese Timor to form an independent Timor State. This was not well received by the educated Indonesian Timorese who, though conscious of being different from other Indonesians, especially the Javanese, regard themselves as Indonesians in the fullest sense. Horta entered the local provincial Parliament to observe a session, but a motion of one of the members of the DPRD that he be excluded from the sitting was carried. Kupang's OPSUS agents see Horta as an opportunist who has his own self-aggrandisement more at heart than the true welfare of the Portuguese Timorese people. They stressed to me that Horta was half Portuguese and therefore was ill-equipped to lead the native Timorese. On prospects for economic development in Portuguese Timor Horta spoke in only vague generalities and failed to convince the Indonesian Timorese that an independent Portuguese Timor would be economically viable.

OPSUS and Portuguese Timor

  1. A key element in the Kupang situation is the role of OPSUS (Special Operation), which has a strong nucleus there. One of the more influential OPSUS agents, who is still only in his mid-twenties, is a Catholic from Ende in Flores and a member of the PDI faction in the DPRD. He served in Irian Jaya as an OPSUS agent at the time of the Act of Free Choice, which he admitted had been a carefully organised operation. Achieving the right result in Irian Jaya had not been difficult, and he readily admitted that it would likewise not be difficult to influence the result of a plebiscite in Portuguese Timor. At the same time, he acknowledged the completely different set of circumstances that obtained in the case of Portuguese Timor. The Indonesians could not claim that Portuguese Timor properly belonged to Indonesia because of former Dutch rule, as the Dutch had never ruled what is now Portuguese Timor. He stressed that Indonesia would need to be very careful in its handling of any action taken to influence Portuguese Timor in view of possible unfavourable international reaction to any evidence of Indonesian foul play. However, in view of the similarities in race, culture and language between those on both sides of the border, it would be an easy matter to launch a sophisticated infiltration campaign. Those used in the operation would be largely Tetum-speaking residents of the Kabupaten of Belu. Although their dialect of Tetum varied somewhat from that spoken in Portuguese Timor, there would be no problem in their being understood or passing for Portuguese Timorese. Producing the required Portuguese passports would not represent a problem.

[matter omitted]2

[NAA: AI0463, 801/13/11/1, ii]