462 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 9 June 1976


Timor: Dili Meeting and Process of Incorporation

Ref O.JA7085,1 O.JA71142

For Heads of Mission

Thank you for your JA7085. The arguments for and against attendance at the Dili meeting were always finely balanced. The decision not to attend was taken only after the most careful consideration and, in our view, was vindicated by subsequent developments. There can be no question that a decision to attend would have drawn a very strong criticism in Australia. The Government would have been under considerable pressure to comment in detail on the meeting, and judging by what others who attended have said (your JA70773) it is difficult to see how our representative could have reported other than adversely on what he had observed and experienced. Indeed it seems from your JA7077 that the arrangements for the Dili meeting satisfied none of those who attended.

  1. We had of course recognised that our decision would disappoint and irritate the Indonesians. We also accept that our decision probably influenced the Japanese and United States decisions as well, although this was not our intention. Indeed, as you know, we went to some lengths to avoid such a situation, delaying advice of our decision until the last moment.
  2. It is difficult to accept the proposition that it is Australia's policy alone which is damaging Indonesia's standing in the rest of the world. With all but ten of the twenty-four countries invited to the Dili meeting having already declined, it required no negative decision from Australia to cast doubts on the credibility of the Dili meeting. Indeed the support given to Indonesia even from its ASEAN partners has been less than robust. It seems to us that Indonesia miscalculated in deciding to invite foreign observers to the Dili meeting, and you will simply have to reject any suggestions from the Indonesians now that Australia is the source of their frustrations.
  3. But the reported Indonesian reaction to our decision is probably as much emotional as logical. You refer to some slippage in the total relationship and this certainly seems to have been the case. Indeed we probably have to accept that some further slippage may occ[ur]. It is still our objective, however, to try to isolate Timor from other aspects of the relationship and we believe there are many influential and serious minded Indonesians who support this approach. In terms of the personalities referred to in your telegram, we hope that it will be the views of Ali Murtopo which prevail rather than those being put by Panggabean.
  4. You have made a number of specific points which should not pass without comment. First, while a trade-off between Indonesia's agreement to the Taylor mission and our attendance at the Dili meeting may seem valid in Indonesian terms, Moerdani ignores the fact that in the matter of the journalists Australia is the aggrieved party. By most standards of international behaviour Indonesia and the PGET were doing us no great favour in agreeing, seven months after the event, to an Australian team visiting the Balibo area.
  5. We had noted that the Indonesians have not moved to replace their ambassador in Canberra. It would be a pity if this post were left vacant for too long. We understand, however, that a person has already been selected for the job and we have been told by the Indonesian Charge that the delay is due to personal and temporary health reasons.4
  6. Suggestions from Tjan and others that Indonesia may now take less notice of Australian views in regard to Timor would be more persuasive if, for example, the Indonesians ever intended to allow a genuine act of self-determination. Clearly they do not so intend. We have of course taken on board the Indonesians' arguments that western-style elections may not be possible at this point-but it is all still rather thin.
  7. We could, as you say, now find the Indonesians more difficult in regard to our investigations into the deaths of the newsmen. They may also be less willing to cooperate in regard to the ICRC and the resumption of humanitarian aid. But again they have not been noticeably flexible to date on these matters and we would argue that it is in the interests of Indonesia as much as Australia to see that the journalists question is brought to a speedy and satisfactory resolution, to allow the ICRC back into Timor, and to avoid a situation where Australian private aid groups might be provoked into taking matter into their own hands.
  8. Looking to the future, we agree that a case can be made for acceptance of an invitation to accompany the Indonesian fact-finding mission due to visit East Timor at the end of June. Our final decision about attendance would depend on being reasonably satisfied in advance that the process of consultation would involve some genuine element of choice for those whose opinions were being canvassed, and on Winspeare being prepared to attend and observe the process. We are assuming, of course, that the DPR mission will spend a sufficient time in East Timor to allow an informed assessment to be made.
  9. It would seem to us that if Indonesia believes it can put a convincing case to the visiting DPR mission it would be in their interest to involve Winspeare in its observation. You should encourage them to do this.
  10. The Minister, who has seen this telegram, has agreed that you may convey the foregoing to the Indonesians. You may also inform them that, we intend that our views on possible acceptance of an invitation to accompany the DPR mission should be conveyed to the United States, Japan and New Zealand and to the other ASEAN countries. Finally, the Minister has agreed that our mission in Geneva should speak again to Winspeare in an effort to encourage him to proceed with his delayed second visit to the territory.5

For Geneva

  1. You will have received our earlier telegram (CH3609986) on this matter.You will also have seen the Minister's answers inthe House (CH3622077) in which he expressed the Government's hope that Winspeare would soon resume his mission in East Timor. We should now like you to make further contact with Winspeare and ascertain his latest thinking on visiting Timor. In doing so you should invite his attention to the Minister's answers in the House.You should say that it is the hope of the Australian Government that he will be able to visit Timor before the end of the month, and that in any event, as is clearly implied in the Minister's answers, our own position on sending a representative to accompany the Indonesian fact-finding team is likely to hinge on whether the United Nations has also agreed to participate in the exercise.8

For Other Addressees

  1. This telegram is for your own information at this stage. Advice to other governments might be delayed until after our Embassy in Jakarta has spoken to the Indonesians.

[NAA: Al0005, TS202/1/l, ANNEX 3]