200 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 29 August 1975


Portuguese Timor

Following are main points from discussion with Acting Foreign Minister Mochtar at 1300 hours AEST 29 August.

  1. Mochtar said that he was seeing me in advance of seeing Santos. He was very pleased with the way in which the Australian Government and the Embassy here had conducted itself during the past complicated week. He had seen the President earlier in the morning. The President shared this view fully.
  2. In response to a question Mochtar said that the President had endorsed five principles as his riding instructions for the discussions with Santos. These were:
    1. The only legitimate authority in Portuguese Timor up to the present is Portugal and, on Portugal's behalf, Governor Pires. (Mochtar said on reflection it was better that the Governor was at present on Atauro Island as this meant that he could not be held for ransom in Dili as could have happened.);
    2. 'If and when' Indonesia moves in to Timor at the request of Portugal, it would be solely for the purpose of restoring peace and order so that a decolonisation process could be re-established. Subject to Portugal's agreement, Indonesia would be prepared to reinstate Pires on the main island and support him;
    3. Indonesian forces must be under Indonesian command. The Portuguese had lost the will to fight and in any case there was a danger that Portuguese soldiers might act in accordance with their own political sympathies. If necessary, however, Indonesia would not object to some joint 'political' direction by Portugal and Indonesia of Indonesian forces. But the 'tactical' command must be under Indonesia;
    4. once order was re-established there should be 'strict and scrupulous adherence to Portuguese and Indonesian understandings on decolonisation' along the lines of the Macao Agreement;
    5. the cost of the operation should not be borne by Indonesia. Mochtar qualified this and said that, if it became a sticking point, they would amend it so the cost should not be borne by Indonesia 'alone'.
  3. In commenting on the above basis for his discussions with Santos, Mochtar said that he and the President were aware of Portugal's problem in that it did not want to create the impression that it was 'selling out' Portuguese Timor to Indonesia. His real task was to convince Santos that Indonesia genuinely wanted to intervene only to restore peace and order and re-establish the conditions under which the people on the island could have a say in their own future.
  4. Mochtar said that the President genuinely did not want to intervene with Indonesian forces in Portuguese Timor. He said that it was a very backward territory which would impose a drain on Indonesia's developmental funds. There was also the question of 'international flak' which Indonesia would prefer to avoid. Indonesia had always been in the vanguard of anti-colonialism and support for independence. Indonesia did not want to be depicted as 'brown colonialists'. His problem with Santos would be to get the Portuguese to believe this.
  5. Mochtar drew the analogy of Mountbatten's order to the British forces to restore law and order in Java at the end of the Second World War pending the return of the Dutch. Indonesia simply did not relish being cast in a similar role.


  6. While Mochtar is egocentric he is also a highly intelligent man who seems to have had some success-where Malik did not-in getting the President to agree to him having some limited role in Timor matters at present.
  7. Mochtar also spoke highly of the President. He said the President had shown 'his real authority' and added that 'a weak leader could not have done this'.
  8. Before I left I mentioned I had heard of a suggestion that a mission of the Committee of Twenty-Four might be asked to visit Portuguese Timor to report on the situation once Indonesia had, after a Portuguese request, taken steps to restore law and order. Mochtar said he had instructed Sani to be prepared to discuss this in New York, but only after Indonesia had restored law and order in Portuguese Timor. The President opposed the idea of any United Nations involvement at this point. But later on and after peace and order had been restored by Indonesia there might be scope for some such mission. The main thrust of Indonesian policy at present was to maintain Portuguese continuing responsibility rather than facilitate their handing it over to the United Nations.
  9. There is no chance of Indonesia itself proposing at this sensitive stage a committee such as Harry has suggested in 0.UN3663.1 My own feeling on this question is that we should not ourselves seek to play too active a role in taking initiatives at the United Nations.2


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