313 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 31 October 1975, 3.20 p.m.

O.JA2807 CONFIDENTIAL PRIORITY

Portuguese Timor—Minister's Statement

I was able to see Malik shortly before his departure as well as Adenan and Alatas, both of whom were accompanying him to Rome and Djajadiningrat who is remaining in Jakarta. I gave each of them a copy of the Minister's statement of 30 October.

  1. Malik had been pre-occupied with other matters prior to his departure and while he knew of the Minister's statement earlier in the day he had read neither the statement nor the draft we had passed to the Foreign Ministry. I went through the main points orally and gave him a copy to take on the plane with him. I also said that we sincerely hoped that Indonesia would adopt a positive approach to the Rome talks and that the talks would shift the focus of activity from the military field to efforts to achieve a political settlement. Malik said he hoped so too but peace would have to be reestablished first before a decolonization program could be resumed.
  2. Malik asked whether this implied any change of policy on Australia's part. On the basis of your O.CH2799661 I said that it did not. The Government was however under considerable pressure in Australia which was compounded by the inability here so far to meet our requirements on the Australian journalists in Balibo.
  3. I said also that I had been instructed to inform him that Senator Willesee had in mind in making the statement the wish to do as little damage as possible to the relationship with Indonesia to which we would continue to attach great importance. Malik said that he would read the statement on the plane.
  4. He said he was glad to hear my last comment and, for its part, Indonesia would also continue to work to limit damage to our relations. 'I hope we can' he added but the widespread criticism of Indonesia, support for Fretilin and the activities of the students and unions must be expected to have some effect on attitudes here. I said I was aware of this. Our relations were a two way street and the reports of Indonesian military involvement in East Timor and the deaths of the journalists must affect attitudes in Australia. We needed to do our best to minimise damage at both ends.
  5. Generally official and media reactions so far to the Minister's statement have been fairly low key, the emphasis in the media being on the concern about the reports in the Australian media of Indonesian intervention and on our offer of Australia as a venue for talks between the parties, should they take place.
  6. The only somewhat discordant note has been from the Director-General of Political Affairs, Djajadiningrat, who was at Townsville with President Soeharto. Djajadiningrat said that it seemed we were backing away somewhat from the understandings reached between the President and the Prime Minister in Townsville.
  7. I said I thought there had been no change in our basic policy and the Minister's statement should be seen against a background of the Townsville talks and the Prime Minister's statement of 26 August.2 But quite a lot of water had gone under the bridge since then and there was also the matter of the five journalists. We were dealing with an evolving situation. While the Government favoured integration as the best long term solution to the decolonisation of Portuguese Timor it had also insisted that this should be brought about on an internationally acceptable basis and in accordance with the wishes of the East Timorese people.
  8. I also said that Fretilin's position in East Timor had been stronger than Indonesia had anticipated. Djajadiningrat said that this was true and it was difficult to predict how the situation would develop.Indonesia wanted the return of the refugees to their own territory.While Indonesia would explore positively the avenue of the Rome talks it was sceptical, given the domestic situation in Portugal and Fretilin's attitude, whether the talks would achieve very much.
  9. Malik said he intended to return to Jakarta about 5 or 6 November after a brief stopover in Singapore and he would see me again then.
  10. As he was remaining, I also told Djajadiningrat that it was essential that we made progress on the Australian journalists. I hope to see him on Monday.

WOOLCOTT

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