404 Cablegram to Singapore

Canberra, 23 January 1976

O.CH312625 SECRET PRIORITY

Discussions in Jakarta: East Timor

For Birch/Singapore; For Woolcott/Jakarta: From the Minister

You will have seen the reference in O.CH3116041 (to Singapore only) of my discussions in Jakarta and to our reporting to Lee Kuan Yew on them.

  1. I should be glad if you would convey to Lee Kuan Yew the information about the visit set out below. If you cannot see Lee promptly, then you might go to Rajaratnam,2 although we should prefer the information to be passed to Lee himself for a variety of reasons. In any event, you may think it desirable to speak to Rajaratnam as well.

Begins

I had substantial conversations with President Soeharto, Mr Malik and General Panggabean. In general, the Indonesians were inclined to argue that they were not running into trouble in East Timor and that everything was going well. They estimate that order will be restored in another three to six months and that there can be an act of self-determination in a year. They say that only 1700 men of Fretilin's original force of 3700 remain, there having been many surrenders. They admit that Communist countries could with difficulty still supply Fretilin but they believe that this is unlikely. From the discussions in Jakarta, it seems clear that the Indonesians will resist any decisions by the Security Council that, pending an act of self­-determination, there should be a United Nations presence in East Timor—nd I mentioned that Australia would be willing to participate. The Indonesians undertook that an act of self­-determination would take place but they thought it would be better for the Provisional Government of East Timor (PGET) to conduct it.

The main relevant points from my discussions with President Soeharto and Mr Malik about Timor are set out below. The conversation with General Panggabean did not break new ground.

  1. To President Soeharto, I said that the Australian Government hoped for an early cessation of hostilities in East Timor, an end to the bloodshed and an opportunity for an act of self-determination to be conducted. President Soeharto said that he shared these hopes. I said that, while we understood that the Indonesian Government's belief was that an act of self-determination could take place in six months, this estimate might prove optimistic. If trouble in East Timor continued, a number of serious consequences (which I described) could ensue. If, contrary to Indonesia's assessment, trouble continued, I wondered whether there would be scope for friendly countries like Australia and Malaysia to help in 'policing order' before an act of self-determination took place. The President did not answer directly. He said that Indonesia believed that the problem of East Timor should be solved as soon as possible. He also said that Indonesia believed an act of self-determination should be held and that the act should be witnessed by other countries so that the world could see that the people of East Timor had chosen their own future. [I] was left with the clear impression that the only solution acceptable to the Indonesian Government would be one involving full integration with Indonesia.
  2. With Malik, I asked how long it would be before peace was restored. Malik replied that, on the basis of the experience of the last few months, all East Timor sh uld be pacified within six months, enabling an act of self-determination to be held within one year. Malik indicated that this was the view of the PGET. It seemed that one year would be adequate to effect the return of the 'volunteers' and establish normal government in East Timor with infra-structural suppo[rt] from Indonesia. I asked whether there was any difference between that assessment and the one Indonesia had, say, two months previously. Mr Malik said that, two months ago, it would not have been believed that what had happened in Timor since then would happen. In reply to my suggestion that the current assessment seemed too optimistic Mr Malik said that he himself had had doubts and that was why he had gone to East Timor; now he had seen for himself. The PGET had the support of the people and the eight provinces under PGET control out of a total of 13 represented the most densely populated areas. As to aid to Fretilin from China, the Soviet Union or Viet-Nam, Mr Malik believed it was now too late as the lines of supply had been closed. Theoretically, it was still possible but it was very unlikely. reply to my suggestion that the current assessment seemed too optimistic Mr Malik said that he himself had had doubts and that was why he had gone to East Timor; now he had seen for himself. The PGET had the support of the people and the eight provinces under PGET control out of a total of 13 represented the most densely populated areas. As to aid to Fretilin from China, the Soviet Union or Viet-Nam, Mr Malik believed it was now too late as the lines of supply had been closed. Theoretically, it was still possible but it was very unlikely.3

Ends

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/1111, xx]