84 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 13 February 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ref0.CH172733,1 O.LB711

I had a discussion today on Portuguese Timor with Harry Tjan of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. There were two matters of particular significance arising from this discussion.

  1. Tjan began by reviewing developments over the past few months. I purposely led him into the subject of aid. He said that originally Indonesia had thought it would be a sensible policy for it to offer to make aid available to Portuguese Timor. They thought there would be a number of advantages for Indonesia in doing this. Adam Malik had told a number of people, including visitors from Portuguese Timor, that Indonesia would be prepared to offer some aid. But the circumstances had now changed. A decision had been taken recently by the high-level committee on Portuguese Timor that Indonesia would not provide economic assistance for Portuguese Timor, at least until the political situation was crystal clear both in Portuguese Timor and Portugal.
  2. I asked Tjan whether any decision had been taken in relation to Indonesia's attitude to other countries that may decide to provide assistance for Portuguese Timor. Tjan said that no such decision had been taken, but I could rest assured that the Indonesian Government would regard it as an 'unfriendly act' for any country at this stage to offer economic assistance to Portuguese Timor. Such assistance could benefit only one party in Portuguese Timor-the Fretilin/UDT. It would strengthen the independence party enormously because they could then confidently argue that an independent Portuguese Timor would be economically viable with the guarantee of a flow of aid from outside. Such assistance would literally pull the rug from under the Apodeti party. In a real sense the offer of aid by another country to Portuguese Timor at this stage would be regarded by Indonesia as interference in the uncertain internal political situation there.
  3. I did not tell Tjan of the way we ourselves are moving in this matter (paragraphs 4 and 5 of your CH172733) nor did I tell him that we had already conveyed our intentions to the Portuguese Government. But since Santos has now said that he would go ahead and approach the Indonesians I assume that he will at the same time tell them of what we ourselves are prepared to do with regard to economic assistance for Portuguese Timor.
  4. It seems to me that the timing is the key. It may be better for us to say that we would consider the provision of aid for Portuguese Timor after the political situation there was settled and the future of the territory finally decided. An offer by Australia of aid at this stage could be exploited by Fretilin/UDT to their advantage. If Tjan is correct, the Indonesian Government would regard it as an unfriendly act. In those circumstances, we should certainly become deeply involved.
  5. The other matter mentioned by Tjan was th[at] the policy committee on Portuguese Timor was chaired by the Minister for Defence, General Panggabean. In the majority of cases, however, Panggabean himself did not attend and General Yoga Sugama, Head of BAKIN, sat in the chair. The Minister for Information, Mashuri, in addition to the others already known to you, also attends. Ali Murtopo was a leading participant. Tjan receives regular reports of these messages from Ali Murtopo and from his close friend, Mashuri. He asked me to guess who I thought was the most extreme of the hard-liners in the group. (Iwould have said Benny Moerdani of HANKAM, but I made no reply.) Tjan said 'you will not believe this. It is Adam Malik'. He said that Malik was [the] cleverest politician in Indonesia. Malik, to preserve his own position as Foreign Minister, had gone from one extreme position to the other on Portuguese Timor. Malik sensed how the wind was blowing and at the last two meetings had taken a harder line on Portuguese Timor than anyone had done up to now. He had informed the last meeting that if Indonesia had to take Portuguese Timor by force he could guarantee that he personally could cope with the international repercussions that would flow from it. Malik said he was quite confident that within 12 months or, at the outside, two years, the whole matter would have blown over and everyone would have forgotten it.
  6. Tjan added, somewhat ruefully, that while the outside world saw Adam Malik as the moderate, many regarded Ali Murtopo as a sinister influence. In fact, Ali was calling for caution and restraint. But if a decision to use force were to be made, Ali would be called upon to 'do the dirty work'.

(Comment: one can deduce from this that OPSUS is very much alive.)


[NAA: Al838, 49/21111, iv]