344 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 25 November 1975

O.JA3280 SECRET PRIORITY

For the Secretary

I saw President Soeharto this morning to deliver the Prime Minister's message.1 (He had been out of Jakarta over the weekend and unavailable on Monday.) In order to assist in preservation of secrecy (paragraph five of your O.CH2915912) I arranged to meet the President at his private residence.The President said he regretted he had been unable to receive me on Monday. He had seen me as soon as he could.

  1. I made each of the six points in your telegram under reference. The President said he 'greatly appreciated' the Prime Minister's message. Indonesia too attached great importance to its relations with Australia.
  2. The President referred to his close personal ties with Mr Whitlam. He said that Indonesia could not intervene in any way in Australia's domestic politics but, depending on the outcome of the election he would want to maintain his ties with Mr Whitlam or develop similar personal ties with Mr Fraser.
  3. The President said he was very pleased Mr Fraser recognised the need for Indonesia to have an appropriate solution of the Timor question. He said there was 'no change' in Indonesian policy. Portuguese Timor should be decolonised 'properly'. Indonesian interests however needed to be taken into account, especially the problem of the 40,000 refugees and their wish to return to East Timor. The President asked if I could amplify the Prime Minister's message on this point. I said that I had not been in a position to discuss the message with the Prime Minister but I would assume that by appropriate solution the Prime Minister would have in mind a solution which accommodated Indonesia's policy interests.
  4. The President asked whether I thought the agitation about Timor would continue in Australia. I said it depended on the way in which the situation developed. From that point of view, the sooner the situation was settled and peace returned to East Timor the better. The President said that this was one of the paradoxes in the situation. Indonesia could 'settle the situation very quickly' but it was 'not for Indonesia to do this'. The decolonisation process would have to proceed properly. (The President made no reference to direct Indonesian involvement although I assume he must be aware that I know of it.)
  5. The President added that while what happened in East Timor was important for Australia, we were basically a stable country. Moreover we were separated from Timor by the Arafura Sea. What happened in Timor was of importance to Australia but it was unlikely to affect seriously Australia's future stability. What happened there was however of vital importance to Indonesia and could affect Indonesia's future stability. The future of Timor was of greater concern to Indonesia tha[n] it was to Australia. He sometimes wondered whether this was appreciated by those who sought to criticise Indonesia in Australia.
  6. The President noted Mr Fraser's regret about such irritants to Australian relations with Indonesia as the ban on Indonesian ships by Australian unions. He did not want to see trade and communications disrupted when they should be being further developed. He said he had been disappointed by the manifestations of hostility towards Indonesia in some union, student and other circles. I said that as Mr Whitlam had told the President in Townsville there were latent fears and suspicions of Indonesia in some sections of the Australian community. The Timor situation and allegations oflndonesian involvement had tended to stir them up. President Soeharto said he knew this.
  7. President Soeharto added that he believed the Australian public generally had an 'unbalanced' picture of FRETILIN and the situation in Timor. (I think Indonesian Ambassador Her Tasning had put this view to him on his recent visit to Jakarta.) Could not more be done to secure a better balance? Many members of the Australian public were being 'misled' by FRETILIN propaganda and by the Australian media. If Mr Fraser were to be elected on the 13 December he hoped he would emphasise the importance to both countries of their relations with each other and help to see that Indonesia's position was better understood. Timor was unimportant in itself and should not be allowed to undermine Australian/Indonesian relations.
  8. The President said he was 'very pleased' to hear that Ministers would not receive Ramos Horta or other representatives of FRETILIN should they visit Australia. He had found it difficult to understand why representatives of only one party in the Timor dispute and a party which had established its position by force and intimidation was so well received in Australia. The President added that he hoped this decision would mean less exposure for FRETILIN propaganda in Australia. I explained that although Ministers would not see Horta he would still have access to the Australian media. One of our problems was the fact of our geography. Darwin traditionally was Dili's main link, other than Lisbon, with the outside world. As Dili was in FRETILIN's hands it had inevitably become FRETILIN's main link with the outside world.
  9. The President said that, if the Government was returned at the election, the Foreign Minister would be very welcome to visit Jakarta again. The President recalled Mr Peacock's visit to Jakarta in April. He said that he had welcomed the helpful public statement Mr Peacock had made while he was in Indonesia.3 The President added that the Prime Minister would also be very welcome to visit Indonesia when he was able to do so. He asked if Mr Fraser had visited Indonesia. I said he had done so as Minister for Defence. I added that he had intended to visit Indonesia again last June but that this visit had to be deferred because of the domestic political situation in Australia.
  10. The President said he hoped Australia would 'settle down' after the election and 'become stable again'. I intervened to say that Australia was fundamentally stable, economically, politically and socially. It was going through a period of some political turbulence and economic difficulty but this should not be exaggerated by other countries in the region. The President said that he hoped this was correct. A stable and friendly Australia was of great importance to Indonesia and to all the countries of South East Asia and the South Pacific, both as a source of technical assistance and to bolster regional confidence.
  11. Finally the President asked me to pass his personal good wishes to the Prime Minister.
  12. To sum up, I consider the Prime Minister's message was well received by the President and could yield a useful dividend if the present Government is returned at the General Election. It may also have created some expectations and the President may look for some effort on the Government's part, if it is confirmed in office, to moderate the growth of hostility towards Indonesia in the Australia[n] community.

WOOLCOTT

[NAA: A11443, [11]]