319 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 3 November 1975


Timor: Journalists

Apart from the predicted unsatisfactory response from Lopes da Cruz (our JA28281) we have had no more information on the missing journalists.

  1. While we should continue the pressure I am inclined to think it would be only window dressing to send Rodgers to Kupang or Atambua in addition to Johnson, especially as we know-and Yoga confirmed this as recently as Saturday-that all decisions are being taken in Jakarta and that any remains or effects to be handed over will be handed over in Jakarta. If it had been practicable at any time during the last two weeks I would have suggested that Johnson or Rodgers went to Balibo but Indonesian sensitivities and the actual dangers have not allowed this.
  2. While we cannot close this episode until we have some proper and decent response from the Indonesians we should nevertheless assume that we shall probably never know the full story and that we are very unlikely to obtain what we can regard as a full and satisfactory response from Indonesia.
  3. This is due to the following factors or a combination of some or all of them:
    1. they have something to hide;
    2. they are angry about the development of anti-Indonesian and pro-Fretilin feeling in Australia;
    3. they are hypersensitive about suggestions in Australia that Indonesia is itself responsible for the deaths;
    4. they are sensitive about assumptions that Indonesia has direct control of Apodeti and UDT; and
    5. they have decided to rest on the legalistic point that the incident happened in Portuguese Timor and the journalists were with Fretilin forces; therefore it is a matter for Lisbon or Dili rather than Jakarta.2
  4. In these circumstances I do not now propose, unless the Minister so instructs, to pursue further the issue of Malik's offer of a plane (what could it bring back which is probably not already in Jakarta?) or to send Rodgers to Timor. We are also now getting firm hints both here and in Kupang that Johnson should return to Jakarta.


[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/5, i]