|Subject: AU: E Timor takeover troubled
E Timor takeover troubled Peacock
* Patrick Walters, National security editor * January 01, 2007
THIRTY years ago the Fraser government grappled with the consequences of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor.
The 1976 cabinet papers show the new government having to reconcile itself to the fact that it could do nothing to alter the integration of East Timor into Indonesia.
The government had to determine whether it would take a strong moral stance in condemning the Indonesian invasion - risking a rupture in relations with Jakarta - or adopt a more pragmatic position.
"It's a choice between what might be described as Wilsonian idealism or Kissingerian realism," Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, Richard Woolcott, cabled home in January 1976.
"The former is more proper and principled but the longer-term national interest may well be served by the latter. We do not think we can have it both ways."
In February 1976, cabinet considered a paper from foreign affairs minister Andrew Peacock, which essentially accepted the Woolcott line but tried vainly to salvage some moral rectitude.
"Australia's capacity to alter the course of events in Timor was limited and is now very limited indeed. However, the government should not connive in a forceful Indonesian takeover," Mr Peacock's submission said.
Mr Peacock said the government should voice its opposition to the use of force to resolve a problem, "especially one so close to its borders".
He noted that Australia would shortly be called upon to express a view about East Timor to the UN Security Council.
The Fraser government's position had been to criticise publicly and privately the use of force by Indonesia, call for the withdrawal of Jakarta's troops, ask for a genuine process of self-determination, and "show willingness in private to consider favourably Australia's participation in any international presence which might replace the Indonesian presence in East Timor (the possibility of any such presence being established is very slight)".
"I have applied this policy while admitting to myself that Indonesia is most unlikely to be deterred from her present course and that incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia is very likely to happen," Mr Peacock submitted.
The foreign minister said he had taken due account of the "great importance" of Indonesia to Australia and had sought to limit the damage to the relationship with Jakarta.
Australia quietly acquiesced in the Indonesian takeover of East Timor and soon moved to recognise de facto the incorporation.
Visas refused for Fretilin
* Patrick Walters * January 01, 2007
THE Fraser government refused visas to prominent East Timorese left-wingers forced into exile after the Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese colony in late 1975.
The Fretilin members included Mari Alkatiri, who last year stepped down as East Timor's first prime minister, and Rogiero Lobato, who recently served as interior minister in the Alkatiri government.
Thirty years ago, the Coalition government of Malcolm Fraser was concerned about the possibility of Australia being used by the Fretilin resistance movement as the base for a government in exile.
Defence and Foreign Affairs Departments advice was not to give Fretilin, then engaged in a liberation struggle against Indonesia's armed forces, any political oxygen.
Back to January menu