Subject: Fraser file: Timor invasion preferred

Fraser file: Timor invasion preferred

12/31/2006 01:21:30 PM EST CANBERRA TIMES

A secret report to the Fraser cabinet in February 1976 said Australia had no hope of persuading Indonesia to withdraw its invasion force from East Timor and that the takeover was a fait accompli.

Another report suggested Australia keep a ''low profile'' on the issue while lodging an objection to the use of Indonesian force to achieve integration.By then, President Suharto had 20,000 troops in the territory, along with military aircraft and ships, and was crushing local resistance to the occupation.

The assessment of the Timor situation was written by Gordon Jockel, chief of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which became the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

''In our view the Indonesian Government is firmly set on its course of ensuring the integration of East Timor into Indonesia. We see little scope for flexibility in Indonesian policy,'' the report says.

The fighting was continuing as cabinet considered his report, in which he said further landings by Indonesian troops were expected.

East Timor was a sensitive issue at the time but privately the Government accepted integration with Indonesia was a better option than a radical and unstable independent state.

In public, the Government opposed Indonesia's use of force and supported a genuine act of self- determination.

It has been reported previously that the Australian embassy in Jakarta was given 45 secret briefings on Indonesia's initial plan for a covert operation in East Timor to ensure the people would vote for integration with Indonesia.

When the Indonesians invaded Timor, military resistance was provided by Fretilin which had unilaterally declared the former Portuguese colony independent in the previous November.

Members of the Fretilin government-in-exile were refused entry visas to Australia.

Five Australian newsmen were killed in the fighting at the town of Balibo on October 16, 1975.

The Jockel report and a defence committee report, marked ''Secret, AUSTEO'' [Australian Eyes Only], were released by the National Archives today. Defence Minister Jim Killen took both reports to Cabinet's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

The Defence report noted that Fretilin had aligned itself with radical international elements supporting ''national liberation'' movements and was seeking aid from Peking and Hanoi.

''It would not be in Australia's strategic interests that Indonesia be frustrated in the absorption of East Timor or that this process be complicated or delayed,'' it said.

''Australia's strategic interest would now be best served by the territory's early integration into Indonesia.'' The Jockel report said Fretilin's resistance had been patchy and Indonesia had already captured areas including key towns, containing 100,000 people, out of the total population of 600,000.

''We do not believe that serious resistance could be mounted in these key areas,'' Jockel's report said.

''The Indonesians are skilled in penetrating and manipulating traditional leadership.

''We believe that without significant outside intervention, the Indonesians ultimately can develop control and pacification adequate for the security of their presence.'' The Jockel report noted Western nations and Muslim countries wanted to keep out of the Timor issue.

Deputy NSW Coroner Dorelle Pinch will hold an inquest this year into the death of one of the Australian journalists, Sydney-based Brian Peters.

She has put Australia's spy network on notice to provide information by taking the unprecedented step of appealing to radio operators and other staff who worked at the Defence Signals Directorate at Shoal Bay near Darwin in October 1975.

The centre monitored top-secret intercepts of Indonesian military radio traffic crucial to uncovering the truth of what happened to the five journalists.

She is hoping to uncover the identity of the ''young man'' who in 1977 at Shoal Bay gave two top government lawyers an intelligence report showing the newsmen were executed on the orders of Indonesian generals. That evidence only came to light last year.

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