298 Record of Conversation Between Johnson and Lede

Kupang, 25 October 1975

CONFIDENTIAL

Portuguese Timor: Missing Journalists

Mr Johnson spoke with Mr Lede, the Governor's assistant, on 25 October 1975. He opened the conversation with the words, 'Didn't you go home yesterday?' Mr Lede then said that on Radio Australia's Indonesian news broadcast the previous night, he had heard a report about the house in which the bodies had been found. A picture of the house with the writing 'Australia' on the wall, he said, had been published in Angkatan Bersenjata. Lede asked if this did not mean that Mr Johnson could return.

  1. Mr Johnson pointed out that no reply had yet been received from UDT/Apodeti. A reply should not be long in coming as the letter from Balibo dated 22 October had arrived here on 23 October.1 Mr Lede asked whether the report did not mean that these were the missing journalists. Mr Johnson replied that the position was still the same: we were not yet sure.
  2. In any case, the matter would be by no means settled if it should be established that the bodies of the missing journalists are in Balibo. There would then be a consular aspect to the case, as there had been for example following the Pan Am crash in Bali last year. Admittedly Balibo was not in Indonesian territory, but there was certainly no way of reaching it from Portuguese Timor.
  3. Whereas he affirmed that Mr Johnson might stay in Kupang if he wished, Mr Lede asked him as he had the day before, to take up the question of returning to Jakarta when he telephoned that morning. Mr Johnson undertook to do so, but pointed out that he had been sent there by the Australian Government for a particular purpose and that he must attempt to complete this task. Lede said that he understood this, but repeated an earlier assurance that, if Mr Johnson did return, the Governor's office would most certainly forward any information or material to the Embassy. Mr Johnson thanked him but made the point that such transmission would as he himself knew take some time as it would probably be by post (he had earlier expressed unwillingness to take the responsibility for telex at our expense because of possible corruption of the text), whereas Mr Johnson could transmit any information quickly by telephone.2

[matter omitted]3

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