391 Record of Conversation Between Tjan and Taylor

Jakarta, 23 December 1975


Portuguese Timor

We discussed the latest draft working paper1 before the Security Council. Tjan speculated that if the draft were accepted by the Council, Indonesia would agree to withdraw its troops and so on, but in fact would not do so. It would be easy to ensure that no foreign visitors saw what they were not meant to see. Indonesia would only allow visitors anyway, when the situation allowed. It would be easy to prevent visitors by getting the provisional government [t]o say that they could not guarantee visitors' safety, or the airport was out of action, or the like. I said that the Australian Government hoped the United Nations would be able to send a representative to East Timor quickly.

  1. I asked how Indonesia intended to cover the legal aspects of any integration which might result from the proposed act of self-determination. Portugal so far was insisting that they retained their sovereignty over the territory. If the act of self-determination were too obviously bogus, I thought the Portuguese may not be prepared to renounce their sovereignty as a result of that act. The Portuguese were bitter about Indonesian actions. Tjan said that little consideration had been given to this point. In practise it would not make much difference. There would be de facto integration and criticism might be turned against Portugal for refusing to recognise the decolonisation. I said that for other countries, particularly those like Australia with a healthy regard for legal procedures, the lack of proper legal cover for integration would make it much more difficult to recognise that integration. In the longer term too, any legal argument that integration had not been carried out properly could provide legal basis for a separatist movement. Tjan took this point. He thought it possible that some form of United Nations involvement in the act of self-determination could assist Portugal in renouncing its sovereignty.
  2. Tjan mentioned that Horta had contacted the APODETI delegation in New York during the weekend. He did not know for certain what Horta had in mind, but it seemed that he wanted to leave FRETILIN. Tjan had no illusions about Horta's support, or lack of it, within FRETILIN, but said that any anti-FRETILIN statement by Horta would be of enormous publicity value for Indonesia.


  1. According to Tjan Timor was of relatively minor importance to the President. (Comment. Tjan has often argued to us that Timor was a relatively minor concern for the President.) Pertamina was the serious problem which occupied a great deal of the President's time. So far the President had generally supported Ibnu Sutowo. He had not been prepared to sack him. The President's tactics were to severely limit Ibnu's power and freedom of action and to get Pertamina operating along accountable lines.

[matter omitted]

The President

  1. In answer to a question Tjan said that no one was moving to take advantage of the Pertamina crisis or Timor to challenge the President's position.
  2. The President's sickness however, might lead to problems.2 According to the medical bulletin, the President had recovered from his operation well. Tjan had no evidence to the contrary. But there were rumours that he was not so well, and even if not true, these rumours themselves could create problems, especially if it took the President some time to return to his full duties.
  3. If the President were to be sick for some time and not able to exercise fully the range of Presidential power, there could be manoeuvring among the power groups for increased influence. (Tjan emphasized that what he was saying was personal theorizing. He made a point of saying he was not reflecting Ali's views.[)] According to Tjan, there were only two people capable of mounting a serious attempt to fill any power vacuum (not necessarily the Presidency). They were Ali Murtopo and General Soemitro.
  4. Soemitro still had support from within the army, although because he had no official position now, it would be very difficult for him to mount a quick campaign. General Surono was in an advantageous position but was not a skilled enough political manoeuvrer to capitalise on any power vacuum. Tjan emphasised that neither Ali nor Soemitro would challenge President Soeharto and he was not sure whether Ali would even want to be President if Soeharto were to die.
  5. Tjan said that a successor to Soeharto was not obvious. Any President in the next I 0 to 15 years, would need to be nominally Muslim, Javanese and from the army.
  6. I said I had thought that, if something were to happen to Soeharto, the army would agree on his successor without splitting. Tjan agreed but said that the process of selecting a successor would involve intense political in-fighting. The army was aware however, that its unity was all important for the stability of Indonesia, and indeed for its own future.3

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