89 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 21 February 1975


Portuguese Timor

Peter Hastings in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 February writes that 'there are mounting and unwelcome indications ... that the Indonesian Government is seriously considering taking out Portuguese Timor in a military operation in the not-too-distant future. There have been KKO (Marine Corps) exercises in Java: increased border activity in Timor and a general upgrading of military preparedness. Rumours point to an amphibious operation against Dili and the all-important 707 jet strip at Baucau'.

  1. The article suggests that it is 'Jakarta's fears of an extreme left Portuguese Government granting Timor premature independence, and the incalculable effects of that, which is responsible for today's Marine Corps exercises'. Hastings also repeats an earlier assertion that the Prime Minister encouraged Indonesian designs on Portuguese Timor during his talks in September last year with President Soeharto.
  2. Hastings reviews the likely international and regional reactions to an invasion and its effects on Australia's relations with Indonesia. He states that an invasion cannot escape critical international attention, particularly in the United Nations.lt would become an issue in Australian domestic politics. Most seriously, Indonesian military action would 'undo the growing sense of trust and stability in the region (e.g. ASEAN, and the border agreements with Papua New Guinea) to which, as the biggest and most important power in the area, Indonesia has contributed so much'.
  3. Hastings suggests that other means of controlling an independent Timor are open to Indonesia, including 'a formalised special relationship'.
  4. Hastings concludes that 'one can only hope that these arguments are being thoroughly thrashed out in Jakarta, and that in the end President Soeharto will not come down on the side of the interventionists who have always argued that a military action would only make Indonesia unpopular in the world for five years at most'.

[NAA: Al838, 49/2/1/1, v]