406 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 24 January 1976


East Timor

Winspeare called on me this morning 24 January on his return from Bali and East Timor.

General Impressions

  1. Winspeare said that he had not seen a single Indonesian soldier nor indeed a 'volunteer'. Moreover, he had seen no Indonesian supply ships in or near Dili Harbour nor any sign of what he called 'para-military personnel'. He had also seen no obvious evidence of logistic support for a campaign, either in East Timor itself or in Kupang.
  2. Winspeare also said that Dili was relatively undamaged although services had not yet been restored and reports of a heavy bombardment of the capital must have been exaggerated.
  3. Winspeare said however that his movements had been tightly controlled and he had not been able to visit much of East Timor.
  4. He said he had asked to go to all places where there was an air strip on which a twin Otter could land. He was told that either for reasons of security, weather or technical factors (e.g. on one air strip the grass had apparently not been cut for 2 months) he was unable to do so.
  5. Winspeare said generally the Provisional Government and their representatives did not seem to understand his mission. Some seemed to think it was a visit from the Committee of 24. For example his mission had occasionally encountered posters 'thanking countries for their vote' in the UN (the countries usually listed were Mauritania, Dahomey, Saudi Arabia, Yugoslavia and Japan.)
  6. The line generally taken with him was that the United Nations now had no role to play. He was often told that his mission was either 'too late' or that it should 'not have come at all'. All representatives of the five parties he met including 'Fretilin' said they had now reached common ground on seeking integration with Indonesia. He had of course met only those former Fretilin officials who were now cooperating with the Provisional Government.
  7. Winspeare expressed surprise at the 'backwardness' of the limited number of people he saw in rural areas near towns and said it was hard to imagine them understanding the issues involved in an act of self determination. He had been 'amazed' at how 'primitive' the conditions were of some people, for example, whom he saw in Enclave of Oecussi. He said he believed their lives would have been fundamentally unchanged by 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule.
  8. Most of the soldiers and officials he had seen were wearing pale blue uniforms with 'Australian style hats'. The only Indonesian uniform he said he had seen with TNI insignia had been on Atauro, but the wearer was a Portuguese Timorese soldier who said blandly that he was wearing the uniform because he was now an Indonesian citizen and Atauro had integrated with Indonesia.
  9. Winspeare said he was impressed by the Indonesian doctors in Dili and especially in Bacau who had been moved in recently by the Indonesian Red Cross. They seemed to have reasonable equipment including x-ray equipment and good stocks of medicines.
  10. He said that he had met a number of Fretilin officials, including Gonsalves, the Minister for Economic Affairs. These were really former Fretilin leaders who had now apparently decided to come to terms with Indonesia. He said there were 'really two Fretilins now', the radical and the hard core group--with whom he had not been able to have any contact-and the moderates who were cooperating with the Provisional Government.
  11. Winspeare said he had gained the impression that Fretilin now had 'no organized army' but rather a 'capacity for hit and run terrorist type attacks'.
  12. Winspeare made the comment that in New York, 'who advertises better sells better' and that while Fretilin could maintain that one could not travel safely outside the main cities and towns, this did not in fact mean that they controlled the rural areas. They did however have a capacity to harass and they could exploit this.
  13. Winspeare said that Horta told him before he left New York that Fretilin still controlled 80% of the territory of East Timor. This claim was clearly false. In any case he said it did not mean much. Fretilin may well have a presence or some control over some sparsely populated areas, particularly in the North East of East Timor, but pro-Indonesian groups clearly controlled most of the populated areas and the Provisional Government seemed well established in the towns he had visited.
  14. Winspeare said he did not 'honestly think' he 'could say there were two governments' in East Timor. There was the Provisional Government and sparsely populated areas of what he called 'non-control'.

Possible visit from Darwin

  1. Winspeare then said he had received a telegram from the Secretary General's office saying that he had now been invited by Fretilin, via Horta in New York to land at Same and to visit the nearby towns of Suai, Com and Viqueque. Winspeare said Horta had not been able to give him the name of a Fretilin held airfield where he might land before he had left New York although he had asked him to do so. He suspected that the present request which he had only received on Friday might be a 'bluff'. However, he felt obliged to explore the proposal otherwise it could be said that he had not been in any Fretilin held areas. He said it had been suggested to him in the cable to contact a Mr Tony Belo in Darwin (telephone 818795) about arrangements to fly to Same.
  2. Winspeare said he intended to telephone Belo. What should he do if Belo told him that he could arrange a charter flight from Darwin to Same? I said that I would need to consult Canberra. My understanding was that our civil aviation authorities were not at present giving clearances from Darwin for any flights to East Timor for security reasons. But the Australian Government supported his Mission and I appreciated his need to visit Fretilin held areas if possible.
  3. Winspeare said he felt he must be able to say he had made an attempt to do so even if this meant he would have to do so via Darwin. It would be impossible to get into a Fretilin held area from Kupang. I undertook to try to let him have a reaction from Canberra by Sunday night.
  4. Winspeare also said that he understood that a barge was to leave Australia with two doctors, a radio operator, several journalists and some medical and other supplies on board. He had also been told from New York via Horta that the barge would land at Betano. I said that my understanding was that the barge had intended to go to East Timor but had returned to Darwin because of engine trouble. Since then the Australian Government had declined to give clearance for the trip. I did not know whether the party would try to make the trip in the face of the Government's opposition. Winspeare asked me if I could also check this point. Also, was the barge still in Darwin? What he really wanted to know was whether it would be possible for the barge to reach Betano safely. I said I thought this would be hazardous. There would be little chance that the barge would escape the notice of Indonesian patrols. Anti-Fretilin forces would presumably be ready for it if its occupants tried to go ashore.
  5. Winspeare said that he would be talking to Malik again on Monday. He expected then to receive Malik's reply to the Security Council's call to Indonesia to withdraw its forces from East Timor. He said that based on his preliminary discussion with Malik this morning he thought Indonesia would come up with a form of words to the effect that it was prepared to 'withdraw its military assistance in consultation with the Provisional Government' and as soon as order was restored.
  6. Generally, I had the impression that Winspeare found the Provisional Government to be more in control than he had expected and the Indonesian presence less obtrusive than he would have thought possible even for the short time he was in East Timor.
  7. At present Winspeare expects. to leave Jakarta on Monday, hopefully for New York, but alternatively for a Fretilin held area, via Darwin, if this proves possible. I would therefore appreciate your early response to Winspeare's questions in paragraphs 17 and 19 above.1
  8. I have not said this to Winspeare pending your reaction but our own view here is that it would be dangerous for Winspeare to attempt to visit any of the places mentioned in paragraph 16 above.

Roger East

  1. Winspeare said that following our conversation before he left for Dili he had asked about Roger East on several occasions. He had found no knowledge of his whereabouts.2

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/1111, xx]