420 Record of Conversation Between Sunarso and Taylor

Jakarta, 6 February 1976

SECRET AUSTEO

EXTRACT

Timor

  1. Sunarso showed me a map where FRETILIN forces were now. Roughly the area he indicated was between Suai, Emera, Aileu and Ainaro. He said progress by the pro-Indonesian forces had been slower than hoped for (there had been 'many problems'), but he thought the main FRETILIN forces would be defeated totally by the end of February. I repeated Mr Peacock's comments that a festering sore could result in Timor which would have unfortunate ramifications for Indonesia and its neighbours and other important neighbouring countries.1 Sunarso said Indonesia too was concerned that such a situation did not develop, but it did not think that it would. It would act to see that it did not. There was no evidence of outside material assistance to FRETILIN. Sunarso also added that it was President Soeharto's concern for Indonesia's reputation that led him to oppose outright Indonesian military intervention in August 1975. The President's view had been changed by FRETILIN's unilateral declaration of independence. Indonesia had been able to act quickly after that declaration because it had expected the declaration to be made on the 20th September and was, therefore, prepared.
  2. I outlined the Australian Government's policy, emphasising our support for the cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of Indonesian troops when law and order could be otherwise maintained, and Australia's willingness to consider participating in any United Nations or regional activity designed to assist in the peaceful solution of the Timor problem. I said that we knew the Prime Minister and the Minister did not adopt this policy for public consumption only. It was their firm private view as well. Sunarso asked what was the Australian Government's view on integration. Did it still think that integration was the best solution? He referred to the2 talks in Canberra last year during which, he said, the Australian side had accepted the arguments that an independent East Timor would require large foreign assistance and would provide an opportunity for communist and great power intervention in the Indonesian archipelago. The previous Government had said it would welcome integration if it was achieved through an act of self-determination. I said that the Government had not said anything as far as I knew on the question of integration. I believed the reply to the question would be that the Government would support whatever the people of Timor themselves decided.
  3. Sunarso asked whether he thought the anti-Indonesian feeling in Australia would continue when the Timor problem had been settled. I said that the hard-core anti-Indonesian groups would always be anti-Indonesian. They used any excuse to criticise Indonesia and Australia's close relations with Indonesia. Now the anti-Indonesia feeling involved many more groups than these. Many articulate Australian groups, some of which were normally sympathetic to Indonesia, did not like Indonesia's use of force. My personal opinion was that once the Timor situation was over the anti-Indonesian agitation in Australia would die down. I said that our relations remained good, despite the Timor issue. This was because both governments wanted good relations. The Indonesian Government had not reciprocated action by private groups in Australia and the Australian Government had not sought to embarrass the Indonesian Government as it might well have done.
  4. In answer to a question Sunarso said that the people in the areas now controlled by the PGET in East Timor seemed to accept the PGET, just as they had accepted the Portuguese and FRETILIN when they were in control. They appeared to be apathetic towards the type of Government they had.
  5. Sunarso asked whether there was any fear in Australia that the arguments Indonesia had used over Timor could be extended to Papua New Guinea. I said that outside the government there had been expressions of this fear but as far as I knew, within the government circles, the view was not accepted. He said that there was no question of Indonesia taking action against Papua New Guinea.
  6. In answer to a question about the recent dissolution of parties in East Timor,3 Sunarso said that the intention was to bring the party set-up in East Timor into accord with the party set-up in Indonesia. It would cause difficulties when East Timor was integrated if UDT and APODETI remained. (He said the other parties, KOTA and Trabalista, did not matter, as they were not important.)
  7. Referring to previous advice from Sunarso that there would be an act of self-determination in East Timor in March I asked whether this timing had been changed. He said not. But he was not aware, he said, of the details of how the act would be conducted.

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1. xx]