281 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 20 October 1975, 4.20 p.m.


Australian Journalists in Timor

Ref. O.CH280286,1 O.JA25232

For the time being at least we think it would be best not to attribute to Indonesian authorities the comments about Fretilin uniforms. After all, Malik said only that he 'hoped' the Australian journalists had not been dressed in Fretilin uniforms.

  1. Such public reference by us would not serve any useful purpose. It may even encourage the Indonesians to make a final decision never to reveal what happened to the five Australians. That is, they may feel we are trapping them into acknowledging publicly that they know important details of what actually occurred. (Tjan mentioned in confidence today that at least one of the 'European' bodies had been destroyed beyond recognition in the fighting.)
  2. As already reported we raised with the Foreign Ministry today the possibility of an Embassy officer going to the border to make enquiries about the journalists. There was no objection raised and we can take this as tacit approval for such a visit. We have in fact already asked Johnson (who as you know is now in the Political Section after having spent some months in the Consular Section) to prepare for a visit.
  3. In addition to the other points put to the Indonesians (JA2523) we argued that uncertainty about the fate of the journalists would only help to make matters worse in our relations with Indonesia. We also made a very strong plea for early advice for the sake of the next of kin.

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/5, i]