55 Record of Australian-Indonesian Officials' Talks

Jakarta, 29 October 1974

SECRET

EXTRACT

  1. Mr Renouf said that he should point out that there had been some unfavourable publicity in Australia about Portuguese Timor. The Prime Minister himself had been criticised for allegedly conniving in the surrender of Portuguese Timor to Indonesia. The shadow foreign minister, Mr Peacock, had been among the Prime Minister's critics. There was some interest in the territory from ex-servicemen's groups. The people of Portuguese Timor had helped Australian servicemen in operations against the Japanese during the war.
  2. Mr Renoufwent on to say that the intentions of outside powers needed also to be taken into account and that he expected China's intentions would be of particular concern to Indonesia. He noted that there were 10,000 Chinese in Portuguese Timor and that although they were presently oriented towards Taiwan, their allegiance might be changeable. Our Ambassador in Peking would be asked to make soundings shortly about China's interests in Portuguese Timor. Mr Renouf added that from our experience with China so far, however, we doubted that China would wish to make mischief in Portuguese Timor. China was trying to improve its image in South-East Asia and untoward policies in Portuguese Timor would cut across this strategy. So far there was no sign of any interest in Portuguese Timor by China. He asked whether the Indonesians had any information on Chinese intentions in Portuguese Timor.
  3. Mr Djajadiningrat replied that Indonesia had no direct information, but that there was some evidence of movement from Macao to Portuguese Timor. The Indonesian Consul in Dili had discerned some Chinese communist influence, particularly in the pro-independence party, Fretilin. Although the Chinese were Taiwan-oriented today, this could change very easily. While Peking might conduct a normal relationship at the Government level, this did not preclude it from fostering subversion through 'party to party' and 'people to people' contacts. Moreover, the spate of communist pamphlets and flags in Malaysia showed that an indigenous Chinese-oriented communist minority could act independently without collusion on the part of the Chinese Government itself. It was evident that in Malaysia's case the presence of a PRC Embassy had contributed to the recent activism of the CPM and the Indonesians were concerned whether the Chinese in Portuguese Timor might now draw similar encouragement.
  4. Mr Renouf said that we believed that China's interests were largely confined to bordering states. Portuguese Timor was far afield and it would be a very significant change in Chinese policy if they began to meddle there.
  5. On the situation in Portugal, Mr Renoufsaid that the U.S. and Great Britain thought that the communist party was quite strong and influential. However the Americans and British might be expected to hold such views. We would have to wait and see. Mr Djajadiningrat remarked that Soares had stressed the advantage of Portugal maintaining close relations with NATO; Mr Feakes said that Dr Santos had said in Australia that the strength of the Portuguese Communist Party had been greatly exaggerated in the international press. Mr Djajadiningrat noted that Indonesia itself had been accused of being communist during the Revolution and wondered whether the same might apply at this time of change in Portugal. Nevertheless, he noted that the communists were the best organised and disciplined group in Portugal. Mr Feakes observed that the communist party in Portugal was oriented towards Moscow. Did the Indonesians have any evidence of Soviet interest in Portuguese Timor? Mr Djajadiningrat and Mr Alatas said that there was no such evidence and that the Russians had not spoken to them about Portuguese Timor. Mr Renouf observed that perhaps all the major powers were deliberately laying off Portuguese Timor for fear of provoking a response by the others.
  6. Mr Feakes said that even if the Government in Portugal did swing to the left, it would be difficult for it to give independence to Portuguese Timor quickly as opinion in the United Nations would insist on further development in order to proceed to an act of self-determination. Mr Djajadiningrat agreed, but noted that the Africans could prove difficult in the United Nations, as they appeared to prefer independence to the idea of forming new ties with another country. M r Alatas said that Fretilin had links with the Africans and that the party had appeared to be developing its contacts internationally and to be acting in a sophisticated way; it has for example sent a telegram to the United Nations Secretariat.

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