413 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 2 February 1976



East Timor: Winspeare Mission

Winspeare's senior aide, Jensen, told Dan late yesterday that the United Nations Mission had up until then not received from the Indonesian Government any official comment concerning the Portuguese Corvette exercise.1 The only comment was by Adam Malik at the Indonesian Press Club on 30 January when he was reported to have said that Indonesia had no objection to the proposal ifWinspeare was prepared to take the risks involved. Malik said that the areas the United Nations Mission wished to visit were either held by pro-Indonesian forces or were being contested (JA4554).

  1. Jensen said the Mission had hoped the Indonesians might have been able to express support in principle for the proposal. The United Nations Mission had told the Indonesian Foreign Ministry that it was Fretilin's responsibility, not the PGET's or Indonesia's, to arrange the meeting in East Timor between the U.N. Mission and Fretilin. Fretilin publicly claimed control over a significant part of East Timor. If this claim were true it should have little difficulty in finding some place for a meeting.
  2. The Winspeare mission had assured the Indonesian Foreign Ministry that if Fretilin was unable to make suitable arrangements for a meeting the responsibility for this would be borne only by Fretilin. The Mission did not expect the PGET forces to make military concessions to Fretilin, for example, by giving up ground already won by the PGET to facilitate a meeting with the U.N. Mission. But once a place had been selected by Fretilin and assuming that it really was within Fretilin-held territory the U.N. Mission of course would expect the pro­ Indonesian forces not to do anything to upset the meeting.
  3. Jensen said that from their point of view all this seemed to be perfectly reasonable. They were at a loss to understand why Indonesia seemed so cool about it.
  4. We told Jensen we had discussed the subject again on 1 February with Indonesian officials. We had repeated the Australian Government's hope that the Indonesian Government would do everything within its power to help the United Nations Mission in this exercise. We told Jensen that we had been left with an impression that the Indonesians were suspicious about the plan. They seemed to look upon it only as a manoeuvre to blame them if and when it failed. Jensen said this was also the impression of the Winspeare mission.
  5. We discussed with Jensen the various traps in the Corvette exercise. One was that Fretilin might nominate a landing place for the Corvette and/or a place for the meeting which were not in fact under Fretilin control. After the U.N. Mission's arrival Fretilin could then claim that pro-Indonesian forces had intervened to sabotage the meeting. Before leaving Darwin the Mission would have to assure itself that Fretilin's advice was accurate.
  6. Another possible trap for the Mission would be to set out for a secret rendezvous with Fretilin.If under those circumstances pro-Indonesian forces should stumble upon the gathering and bombard it, the PGET could claim that their forces had believed the group to comprise only Fretilin. East Timor was after all a war zone. It therefore seemed best to announce publicly where the Corvette would land and where the meeting would be held. Public exposure of this kind would in itself act as a safety guarantee for the United Nations Mission. In any case the pro-Indonesian forces could probably monitor the progress of the Corvette and accurately identify the meeting place.
  7. It also seemed desirable that once Fretilin has nominated the landing and meeting places and, assuming they were in Fretilin controlled territory, the United Nations Mission should request the PGET (and Indonesian Government) to guarantee that pro-Indonesian forces would not take any action that would interfere with the meeting or put at risk the security of the United Nations Mission.
  8. Jensen said the Winspeare Mission did not intend to take unnecessary risks. They were conscious of the pitfalls. As Winspeare had already reported to the Secretary General, the Mission was having to carry out its tasks in 'shark infested East Timor waters'.


  1. Our own feeling at this stage is that when Fretilin nominates landing/meeting places in East Timor (assuming that it will in fact do so), the PGET will announce that the Portuguese Corvette may go there only at its own risk. The PGET will say it does not recognise Portugal or Portuguese Sovereignty over East Timor. The Portuguese corvette will be considered an intruder. Further, the PGET will deny that the places nominated by Fretilin for the landing/ meeting were Fretilin-held. The PGET will say that Fretilin will try to use the meeting with the U.N. Mission to provoke a clash with PGET forces and thus seek to discredit the PGET publicly. Finally the Indonesian Government will say that the United Nations Mission had assured it that it was Fretilin's responsibility alone to make arrangements for a meeting. Should Fretilin be unable to achieve this the Indonesians will say that the United Nations Mission had told the Indonesian Government that the Mission would conclude that Fretilin's claim of substantial control of areas of East Timor was clearly false.

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xx]