256 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 10 October 1975

O.JA2335 SECRET PRIORITY

Portuguese Timor

I have reviewed the situation with Head of BAKIN,Yoga Sugama for over an hour and separately last night with Ali Murtopo. (Benny Moerdani is in Indonesian Timor for a week and I shall see him on his return late next week.)

  1. I had in mind during these discussions your support for talks, the need for Indonesia to use its influence to secure the release of the Portuguese prisoners (O.CH2760251) and the question of United Nations involvement (O.UN40022). I also had in mind points made in the Secretary's cable to me CH275467 of7 October.3
  2. A full record of my discussion with Yoga is in safehand bag ex Jakarta 13 October. Main points from discussion are as follows:
    1. I told Yoga that it seemed to an increasing number of Australians that Fretilin was clearly in control of East Timor. What was BAKIN's assessment? Yoga claimed that Fretilin controlled only the major populated centres like Dili and Bacau and had little authority in the countryside. Even if Fretilin were as strong as it claimed to be - which he maintained was not the case - then Fretilin would have obtained its position by armed force.Yoga also asserted that Fretilin's present position was temporary and would not last. Yoga maintained that, despite Fretilin reports to the contrary, UDT and Apodeti were now in control of Batugade and the surrounding area.
    2. I raised with Yoga the point that Fretilin seemed to be gaining some international support, especially at the United Nations. Yoga tended to dismiss the importance of this but said that Sani had been instructed to try to convince the Committee of Twenty-Four that what had happened so far in Portuguese Timor was contrary to the principles of decolonisation. Yoga added, after some persuasion, that a visit to Portuguese Timor by a delegation from the Committee of Twenty Four would be welcome provided it looked at the situation of the Portuguese Timor refugees in Indonesian Timor as well. (He would have difficulty in getting the agreement of others involved in Timor policy on this.)
    3. I raised again with Yoga Indonesia's attitude to latest Portuguese proposals for talks between the disputing parties arguing that Indonesia should use its influence to get UDT and Apodeti to agree to such talks and to explore the present prospects for a political settlement. Yoga was initially sceptical saying that it was not Indonesia's business to talk with Fretilin. This was for UDT and Apodeti.
    4. Yoga reiterated that Indonesia had not changed its stand that an act of self-determination should take place and that Indonesia would not achieve integration by force.
    5. When I questioned Yoga about the morale and resolution of UDT and Apodeti, Yoga said that they would fight on. They had no alternative.
  3. Ali whom I saw socially generally adopted a similar line to Yoga except he was more positive about UDT's and Apodeti's capacity to regain control of East Timor before the end of the year. He was also slightly critical of what he said was readiness in some circles in Australia to accept uncritically Fretilin's claims, even wild allegations, oflarge scale Indonesian invasions including the using of jet aircraft, against Batugade. He said Batugade has in fact been taken by about 150 Apodeti/UDT troops. No aircraft had been involved. Fretilin was inventing these stories in an attempt to stir up international feeling against Indonesia and to attract support. Ali said he did not believe these tactics would work.
  4. I hope to see Malik early next week following his return from New York. Please advise if there are points you or the Minister might want put to him here, additional to those in paragraphs four to seven of your O.CH276025. (As you know we have already canvassed these issues with a number of senior Indonesians, including Panggabean, Moerdani, Yoga, Ali, Tjan and Adenan-but not yet with Malik.)

WOOLCOTT

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