126 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 15 April 1975


Indonesian/Portuguese Timor Border

Summary begins

Rodgers visited Kupang, Atambua and Kefamenanu in Indonesian Timor 8-11 April. Two calls were made on the Governor of Indonesian Timor, El Tari, and discussions were held with local civilian, military and police officials. No indications whatsoever of unusual military activities were sighted. The situation concerning the refugees is more complex, particularly in regard to a camp near Atambua housing approximately 200 young men. There is no significant movement of refugees over the border at the present time, although two-way movement over the border is on-going and appears to be relatively easy. The total number of refugees currently stands at about 280.

Summary ends

Indonesian officials with whom Rodgers spoke emphasised that Portuguese Timor must become part of Indonesia. All Timorese felt as one and integration into Indonesia would be the natural expression of their will. El Tari was particularly emphatic on this point and insisted that Portuguese Timor must be 'returned' to Indonesia. El Tari was convinced that FRETILIN was already strongly leftist and would become more so. Portuguese Timorese were being bribed with 200 Escudos into joining FRETILIN. FRETILIN was also providing small tractors in an attempt to win support from the villagers. El Tari was convinced that the money for such expenditure was coming from China.

[matter omitted]

  1. The third group of refugees was a camp of about 200 young men located at Nenuk, eight kilometres from Atambua. Although the spokesmen for this group said that they were all APODETI supporters who had been intimidated by FRETILIN and that they wanted to return to Portuguese Timor but were too frightened to do so, in other respects there are features about this group which are in marked contrast to the other two groups. All members of this group are aged roughly between 18 and 30 years and live at the camp at Nenuk where they are said to receive training in agriculture and carpentry. This training was being energetically pursued during Rodgers' visit to the camp although there is remarkably little agricultural progress when it is considered that the bulk of this group has lived in the camp for 2-3 months. All members of this camp were wearing a working uniform. Perhaps the most surprising feature is that although most of the members of this group were said to be married, their wives and families are, on the whole, still living in Portuguese Timor. This is odd in view of the fact that the other groups of refugees, where at all possible, crossed the border as family units. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this camp is involved in other activities besides agriculture and carpentry in spite of adamant statements by the Indonesian officials with whom Rodgers spoke that Indonesia was not involved in any way, or wished to become involved, in the military training of Portuguese Timorese.
  2. The visits to Atambua and Kefamenanu were the centre of much attention and officers of the Indonesian Department of Information based in Indonesian Timor played a prominent role in organising and recording the visits. It is clear that the Indonesians were intent on gaining as much mileage out of the visit as possible.1
  3. Full report follows by bag.

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