229 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 13 September 1975


Portuguese Timor

[matter omitted] 1

  1. Mochtar maintained that Indonesia and Australia were in fact the victims of a Portuguese plan to gain time to enable Fretilin to consolidate its position in East Timor. In this respect Australia had 'assisted' Portugal-he hoped 'inadvertently'-in its 'duplicity'. Mochtar said that in his 'personal opinion' Australia had allowed itself 'to be drawn far too far into the situation'. He added that the sooner that we 'dissociated ourselves from the whole thing the better'. Ramos Horta was now mounting a campaign to gain public sympathy and support for Fretilin in Australia. He hoped there would be no Government cooperation with this.
  2. Mochtar added that in the present complex and difficult situation Indonesia and Australia 'should not now become divided'. They should keep cool and 'keep their eyes fixed on the bigger picture' by which he clearly meant the importance to both countries of the Australian/ Indonesian relationship.
  3. He said that while we had maintained that our policy was one of non-involvement except in humanitarian activities [our] efforts had in fact assisted Portugal's delaying tactics and Fretilin. This would be made worse by non-government activities in Australia. Mochtar added that he was afraid that 'the forces in Australia who wanted to set Indonesia and Australia against each other would exploit the situation'. Australia had gone some distance to facilitate Santos and to show understanding of Portugal's efforts. Portugal's efforts to bring about talks were now shown not to be genuine and it was time 'we looked at the Indonesian side of the coin'.

    [matter omitted]2

  4. Mochtar said he was glad to hear this but, speaking personally and frankly, I should know there [were] some doubts about the role we had been playing in the Indonesian Government, especially in the Hankam (Defence) area, where Australia tended now to be seen as the only country in the region acting in a way which could be unhelpful to Indonesia's and the region's long term interests. I told Mochtar that while, frankly it was probably in the long term interests of all the countries in the region to see Portuguese Timor become a part of Indonesia with the minimum amount of suffering and especially if this could occur without military intervention and with some support from the people, there was a domestic situation in Australia which apparently did not exist to the same extent in the other countries in the region, and of which the Australian Government had to take some account.


  5. The situation which we now seem to be in is that Santos' mission here will fail, he will return to Lisbon without contacting UDT or Apodeti leaders and there will probably be no meeting in Macau or elsewhere. Each side will blame the other for this situation.
  6. I consider the President will still not authorise direct Indonesian intervention in these conditions and that he will attempt to keep Indonesia's covert pressures as covert as possible. He probably believes that Fretilin's position is untenable and will deteriorate again over the next week or two.
  7. What Mochtar was really saying to me is that if we cannot support Indonesia's position at this stage, then we should disengage ourselves as far as possible and not allow ourselves to participate even indirectly in what the Indonesians regard as a Portuguese charade.
  8. I can only say that in this situation I see no reason to draw back from our earlier recommendation that we remain, politically, as uninvolved as possible.
  9. Perhaps you may be able to pass this to Acting Minister before he goes to Port Moresby where he will probably meet Malik. Since sending JA18143 I have heard the Indonesians intend briefing Malik on current Timor development before he leaves for Port Moresby. While he may thus be better informed he will not necessarily be fully aware of the ins and outs of Indonesian policy.


[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xiv]