299 Submission to Willesee

Canberra, 27 October 1975


Sensitive Information from the Indonesians

In discussion with the Secretary and me you raised the question whether it was in Australia's interests that the Embassy in Jakarta should continue to receive from the Indonesians (in particular Mr Harry Tjan and General Moerdani) the very sensitive information we are receiving from them about Indonesian plans for military involvement in Portuguese Timor. You feared that by giving this information to us the Indonesians put the Government in a position of conniving with them in their military intervention in the territory. Your fear is certainly well founded, although the Indonesians may in part also have it in mind that, by providing us with full information about their intentions, they are reducing the risk that our reactions to their policies in Portuguese Timor might be based on misunderstandings.

  1. We do not think that we should at this stage discourage the flow of the information we are receiving through the Embassy in Jakarta from Tjan and Moerdani. Our reasons are as follows:
    1. The flow of information to us has been going on for months and to stop it now would not substantially reduce the impact of any charges against the Government that it was conniving with the Indonesians. Furthermore we are on record as warning the Indonesians against a military solution to the problem of Portuguese Timor. (A list of occasions when we have spoken to the Indonesians against military intervention in Portuguese Timor has been prepared along with a list of relevant public statements.) We think that, if the Government were charged with conniving with the Indonesians, these warnings could be used to good effect to rebut the charge.
    2. The information we are receiving from Tjan and Moerdani is invaluable. It very often gives us an insight into Indonesian thinking before decisions are made and enables us to judge the strength with which the Indonesians hold their views.1
    3. Contacts with Tjan and Moerdani are not one-way. They give us the opportunity to influence Indonesian thinking before Indonesian positions have hardened. They also enable us to keep Tjan and Moerdani informed of developments in Australian thinking in an informal and intimate way which it is not altogether possible to do with the Foreign Ministry-and the Foreign Ministry, in any event, is much less influential in the formulation oflndonesian policy on Portuguese Timor than are Tjan and Moerdani.
    4. For us to take our distance from Tjan and Moerdani now, a move which would be necessary if we wished to cut off or reduce the flow of information from them, might be misinterpreted by the Indonesians as indicating that we wished to change the relationship the Australian Government has hitherto pursued with Indonesia. There are a number of rubs and strains in that relationship arising out of Portuguese Timor. We think that if possible we should avoid adding to them.
    5. Our relations with Tjan andMoerdani (and other important Indonesian sources with whom our relations would be affected if we drew away from Tjan and Moerdani) go beyond Portuguese Timor matters. There may be other areas of the Australian­ Indonesian relationship which could become problems now or later. We should want to maintain close relations with Tjan and Moerdani for important reasons not connected with Timor.
  2. I recommend, therefore, that you agree that we should not take steps at this stage to reduce the flow of information to us from Moenlani and Tjan; but we shall keep the matter under review.2

G.B.FEAKES - Acting Deputy Secretary

[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/112, ii]