155 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 15 July 1975


Indonesian Policy on Portuguese Timor

Ref O.JA0533 1

As you have noted, there was little new in what Tjan had to say. It is worrying nevertheless. How far Tjan is speaking for the Indonesian Government or for all sections of it is, as ever, unclear. Our previous experience with him suggests that he sometimes takes up only one of several alternative lines of policy under discussion in Jakarta and that he occasionally paints rather too vivid a picture of Indonesian intentions. While we have to take seriously what he says, we should be interested to know how his presentation compares with that of other Indonesians concerned with policy towards Portuguese Timor, and Woolcott, with whom we have discussed your telegram and this reply, will be pursuing this point on his return.

  1. The Embassy should reiterate to Tjan and other relevant Indonesians that, if Indonesia acts as Tjan forecasts, she will precipitate serious problems in relations with Australia. The Australian Government could not condone the use of force in any form. The reaction here to an immoderate Indonesian policy would not be temporary or perfunctory as Tjan seems to suggest; it could be sharp and of an intensity that would risk setting relations back for a considerable time. It could substantially undo the work of both countries over the past four or five years aimed at developing a close and cooperative relationship between them.
  2. The Portuguese have said that they would react to disruptive action by Indonesia by immediately referring the whole matter to the United Nations. Tjan seems to be assuming, rather too readily in our view, that Indonesia could handle problems arising in the United Nations. The United Nations aspects, however, would create an even greater problem for Australia with implications for Australian-Indonesian relations.
  3. Apart from all this, the Indonesians, in our view, continue to take an unnecessarily gloomy view of an independent Timor. We should have hoped that the Indonesians would have been exploring very seriously the possibility of developing a close cooperative relationship with an independent Timor. As you know, some thought has been given here to the possibility that such a relationship might be formalized in such a way that some of the dangers which Indonesia fears in an independent Timor would be much reduced and perhaps eliminated. The firm impressions gained by Curtin and Taylor during their recent visit to Timor, was that UDT is now emerging as the strongest party and that the prospects of Timor's becoming independent under a 'radical' Fretilin leadership is thus diminishing. We also feel that the Portuguese are encouraging this [t]rend, with a view to assuaging Indonesian fears. The Portuguese, moreover, have given way to Apodeti and the Indonesians on several points in the Macao program, and Apodeti is well placed to be very much a part of the decolonization machinery.
  4. In this situation, the risks that the Indonesians continue to perceive from an independent Timor would seem best contained by a policy of cooperation and good-neighbourliness. The kind of policy that Tjan outlines, on the other hand, is likely to be counter-productive, driving the Timorese into a position of rigid opposition to Indonesia, such as was evident earlier this year.
  5. In speaking to Tjan and other Indonesians, you may find it useful to draw on the agreed 'talking points' which were sent to Jakarta under cover of our memorandum 219 of 3 March.2

    We need to make it plain to the Indonesians that the Australian Government is quite serious about this matter. It would be most undesirable for them to consider their policy choices without hav[ing] a clear understanding of Australian attitudes.

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