349 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 29 November 1975


Portuguese Timor

Dan discussed with Tjan and Lim Bian Kie (Ali Murtopo's Private Secretary) this morning, 29 November, FRETILIN's Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Portuguese Timor.1

  1. They said that as soon as advice of the UDI was received yesterday an urgent message had been sent by Indonesia to the Portuguese Government asking Portugal what its attitude was to the UDI and what steps it proposed taking. The Indonesian Ambassador in Lisbon in a cable received in Jakarta this morning had advised that the Portuguese Government had replied that Portugal would not repeat not recognise the FRETILIN Declaration but that Portugal would be obliged to 'accommodate' FRETILIN. Portugal said it had been forced to accept this latter approach because Indonesia had assisted UDT/APODETI in a 'strong way', for example through the supply of tanks. (Lim Bian Kie said that the phrase in the Indonesian Ambassador's cable could also be translated 'brutal way'.)
  2. At an urgent meeting this morning of the Co-ordinating Committee on Timor, which was held after receipt of Portugal's reply, the following policy and action was decided upon. (The meeting was attended by President Soeharto and all the key personalities involved in this question.)
  3. First, Malik would issue a statement today condemning the FRETILIN move. The statement would argue that the UDI was contrary to the process of decolonisation in Portuguese Timor which Portugal had said it wished to complete; that FRETILIN represented merely one section of the people of Portuguese Timor and that FRETILIN alone had prevented a political solution to Portuguese Timor (Malik's statement as delivered may not present these points precisely in this way, and it may include others. These were only some of the points mentioned at the meeting.)
  4. Secondly, either today or tomorrow (probably today) UDT/APODETI will issue a declaration that Portuguese Timor is part of Indonesia (a Declaration of Integration). UDT/APODETI will declare themselves citizens of Indonesia. They will request the Indonesian Government to accept their Declaration and call on the Indonesian Government to provide them with protection as citizens of Indonesia. (The leaders of the anti-FRETILIN parties are presently assembled in Bali for a top secret meeting with Indonesian representatives.)
  5. Thirdly, Malik will proceed to Atambua as planned either on 30 November or 1 December. He will brief leaders of the anti-FRETILIN parties on current political developments. His efforts to find a political solution through round table talks between all the parties will be publicly contrasted with FRETILIN's action.
  6. Fourthly, on 2 or 3 December (following Malik's return) Indonesia will formally reply to UDT/APODETI's Declaration. Indonesia will agree to the requests contained in the Declaration namely that Portuguese Timor be incorporated into Indonesia and that UDT/APODETI supporters be accepted as citizens of Indonesia. The Indonesian Government would say it had a right and a duty to protect its citizens.
  7. Fifthly, at the same time, that is, next week, Indonesian assistance to UDT/APODETI forces on the ground in Portuguese Timor would be stepped-up considerably. Indonesia would not intervene in a conventional military way. There would be no Indonesian invasion of Portuguese Timor. In addition to a considerable increase in Indonesian assistance to UDT/ APODETI forces in Portuguese Timor, tactics on the ground would be changed. Instead of the slow, gradualist approach by forces on the ground a process of 'leapfrogging' of towns would be put into operation. The tempo of the campaign would be quickened. The anti-FRETILIN forces would move to protect the lives of over 200 UDT/APODETI supporters (Indonesian citizens) held captive in Dili. Dili would be occupied by UDT/APODETI forces.
  8. Sixth, once in control of Dili, the Raja of Atsabe or UDT Chairman Lopez da Cruz would be invited to become Acting Governor or Administrator of Timor.
  9. Seventh, Indonesia would appeal to all countries friendly to Indonesia to support Indonesia at this difficult time.
  10. Eighth, Indonesia's Ambassador in the United Nations, Sani, was instructed last night to 'move' with regard to the draft Consensus Statement.2
  11. Both Tjan and Lim Bian Kie said that FRETILIN had only itself to blame for the current situation. FRETILIN had achieved its temporary position of authority through the use of arms which it had acquired from the Portuguese administration. FRETILIN had destroyed any possibility of a political solution to the Portuguese Timor problem. FRETILIN had boycotted the Macao talks. Now it had sabotaged the round table talks decided upon at the Rome meeting and which Malik had been working on right up to this moment.
  12. They said there was no doubt that the other ASEAN countries would fully support Indonesia's handling of the Portuguese Timor issue. India had recently renewed its promise of full support. Indonesia would be looking in the difficult days ahead for its friends 'to stand up and be counted'. Australia's attitude would be very important. (They were pleased to know that the Minister had already told the media that Australia did not recognise the UDI.) They did not believe that FRETILIN's UDI would be recognised by many countries.
  13. Tjan made a special plea to us to try to get all Australians out of Portuguese Timor as soon as possible. He said their lives were in great danger. In the type of warfare being conducted in Portuguese Timor they could be shot on sight.
  14. Ambassadors of key countries including Australia will be formally briefed by Malik on 3 December. Tjan and Lim Bian Kie said they had not been authorised to give us the foregoing account. Please protect them absolutely.

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