310 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 29 October 1975

O.JA2754 SECRET IMMEDIATE

Portuguese Timor

I have not yet been able to convey the advice that the Minister intends to make a statement on Timor to Malik or to Djajadiningrat. Given the present four hour time difference and Malik's departure for Rome tomorrow we have been unable to get an appointment today 29 October although I shall still attempt to see him early tomorrow morning.

  1. Meanwhile, we have communicated the substance of the proposed statement1 to Head of Asia and Pacific Directorate, Adenan, and I shall attempt to communicate it also to Djajadiningrat when he may be available later tonight.
  2. I did not pass on the first paragraph as it now stands for the reasons which follow. I said, however, that we would give them the final text of the Minister's statement in advance if this were possible.
  3. The statement as it stands however does seem to me to pose a problem. If the Minister says publicly that he regrets the degree of Indonesian military intervention in the affairs of Portuguese Timor, will he not stir up a hornet's nest in Australia itself as well as producing a cold reaction here? Would not the first paragraph of the statement in its present form invite headlines of the type 'Willesee accuses Indonesia of intervention' and would this not in tum lead to increased pressures on the government to act against Indonesia by stopping the Defence Assistance Program and, possibly, by cutting aid. Such a statement at Ministerial level would also stimulate hostility to Indonesia within the Australian community, which it has been our policy to minimise.
  4. I asked whether anti-Australian feeling was growing in senior echelons in the Indonesian Government. Tjan said no. Great faith was placed in Mr Whitlam.
  5. Although we know it is not true the formal public position of the Indonesian Government is still that there is no Indonesian military intervention in East Timor. If the Minister said or implied in public the Indonesian Government was lying we would invite a hurt and angry reaction. We would also be the only country in the region, probably including New Zealand, to make such a statement and we would then also be regarded by Indonesia as having acted in a way which could stir up international opinion against Indonesia (see also our O.JA24972 paragraph five which is still very relevant).
  6. In these circumstances I suggest that the Minister use the formula which I used with Malik and reported in our O.JA2498,3 namely 'if there was substance in the widespread media reports of Indonesian military intervention in Portuguese Timor, then the Australian Government would be extremely disappointed etc .. .'4 This would also require a consequential amendment in paragraph fourteen in respect of your reference to Indonesia's response to UDT and APODETI appeals for military assistance.5

[matter omitted]6

  1. I cannot predict how President Soeharto will react to the Minister's statement but I believe we should endeavour, in our longer term interests, to keep the statement consistent with the Townsville meeting, despite the present pressures and the highly unsatisfactory approach of the Indonesians towards the five journalists.
  2. We also have our position in the region generally to consider and I notice the record of conversation of the Prime Minister's discussion with Tun Razak on 15 October says that the Prime Minister said Australia 'would not allow itself to be pushed into anti-Indonesian attitudes' and that 'the preservation of the Indonesian relationship was much more important than relations with Portuguese Timor'.

WOOLCOTT

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xv]