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Historical documents

403 Letter from Woolcott to Renouf

Jakarta, 21 January 1976


At the time of your somewhat rushed departure we were unable to confirm that you or the Minister had copies of the record of conversation with General Panggabean. In case neither of you have it I am enclosing a copy in today's safe hand bag.

I am also enclosing a copy of our briefing notes which were prepared over the weekend in case the Department had not had time to compile a brief. You might want to pass this on to Graham Feakes, especially as the Minister took his copy with him.

Although the meeting with Panggabean was brief, I think the Indonesians could well seek to make use of General Panggabean's parting question, when he asked whether Mr Peacock agreed that 'the matter should be solved quickly'. Mr Peacock replied 'yes', adding that an act of self-determination should also be held quickly. The Indonesians, particularly in HANKAM, may choose to interpret this answer as indirect encouragement to them to settle the issue in the way they are currently tackling it and which they believe is the only way it can be settled quickly. I felt I should flag this with you.

The visit has had an excellent press this morning despite the somewhat abrupt nature of the press conference. We have had a bit of backlash from Indonesian journalists about the Minister's manner and it might be worthwhile dropping in his ear the idea that when he returns we shall need to do a bit of fence mending with the Indonesian press. Unfortunately some interpreted his fairly brisk attitude which was, on reflection, out of tune with traditional 'Javanese' courtesy–and the way they are treated by Malik and also by other Ministers who have recently visited Indonesia–as, I am told, unfriendly and superior.

I am still sore about the Age headline of 19 January.1 As far as I know, I have not had a public rap on the knuckles from the Prime Minister and I would hope at some time this idea can be dispelled. The telegram itself stated clearly in para 34 that it was for the Government to decide policy towards Indonesia and it then set out some options and considerations.

Much will depend on whether or not the Indonesian assessment of the situation turns out to be reasonably accurate or excessively optimistic. Time will provide a judgement on the Embassy's advice but none of us here–nor indeed any of my colleagues in other Missions–see any outcome now other than the incorporation, sooner or later and, hopefully, with some act of self-determination, of East Timor with Indonesia.

[NAA: Al838, 3038/10/1, xlii]

  • 1 The Age headline read: 'PM rejects Timor advice-Woolcott gets a public rap on the knuckles from Fraser'. The headline stemmed from the leak of Document 393, published in the Canberra Times on 16 January. The article, by Michael Richardson, stated that Woolcott had urged the Government to accept the inevitability of Indonesia's incorporation of East Timor and that Fraser had responded: 'It is the Government that determines policy. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Peacock, has stated policy clearly in relation to Timor. I believe he has done it clearly and well.'
Last Updated: 29 November 2013
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