387 Letter from Arriens to Fisher

Bonn, 18 December 1975


All of this will probably be very familiar to you, but I thought that it might be as well to record the main points of interest from what Bian Kie told me when he was in Bonn earlier this month.

Although he was here just before the invasion of Dili, and had been out of Indonesia for several weeks, Bian Kie was obviously fully aware of developments in Timor. He gave the impression that the takeover was proceeding according to a carefully orchestrated plan; indeed he seemed a little surprised on the 5th that the Indonesian troops were still outside Dili. He said that 2500 Indonesian troops (i.e. a brigade) had been sent in.

I rather gathered that OPSUS' role had not been as great as we originally expected-i.e. nothing on the West Irian scale. Nor did he seem to foresee any hearts and minds campaign to popularise the Indonesian takeover. It had been a military exercise in which Benny Moerdani played the key role.

Bian Kie emphasised that the fighting that broke out between the parties in Timor had been providential. Until that stage Indonesian policy had been at an impasse. There had been no excuse to march in, and they had not been able to see their way clear. As recently as the National Day celebrations on 17 August, the President had refused to give the green light to a deputation of top generals who sought a ruling on Timor policy. Indeed, according to Bian Kie, the President made some disparaging remarks about Moerdani's desire for a military solution. A few weeks before the civil war however, Bian Kie said that Sudjono had had a 'vision' that Timor would drop like a ripe fruit before the end of the year; and so it had turned out.

At no stage did the President ever issue a clear instruction to go in. He simply indicated in a Javanese way that the job should be done, but that he didn't wish to know about it. The closest to an endorsement the military got was the President's remark that 600,000 people should not be allowed to jeopardize Indonesia's security.

In this context Bian Kie was plainly contemptuous and cynical about Timor. The wishes of its inhabitants simply did not come into account. When I asked him whether Indonesia was not concerned about the prospect of a festering guerrilla movement on its hands for many years, Bian Kie replied that the hills in Timor were only low, and would offer scant refuge. The ringleaders would be rounded up and deported to a camp for tapol1 on Java.

For the rest, Bian Kie's most interesting observations concerned the succession. He said that Surono had proved a disappointment since last year, and was no longer seriously in contention to take over should anything befall the President. There was no line of succession, nor was any being contemplated. If Soeharto died suddenly, a successor would be appointed by the Dewan Revolusi. In other words, it would be regarded as a crisis situation similar to the Revolution and 1965, in which a new leader would have to emerge by consensus as having the wahyu.2 There would be no co-sharing of power.

Although his views are naturally partisan, Bian Kie appeared to think that Ali Murtopo could well emerge as the leader in such a situation. I do not recall him ever saying that before; previously he has always admitted that Ali was too caught up with particular factions to secure the breadth of support required. This change of thinking seemed to me to coincide with a generally greater air of confidence on Bian Kie's part. The CSIS is obviously coming even more out into the open, and Sudjono's and Ali's positions are not in doubt.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: Al838, 3006/4/3, xvi]