Roy_sianipar loved secret tobe not secret! Here some smelly wound open to public
also: Silence over a crime against humanity – International Editor Hamish McDonald reveals the critical evidence Australia’s spy chiefs have kept hidden, as trials begin in Jakarta today over violence during East Timor’s independence vote.
Sydney Morning Herald March 14, 2002
Australia’s bloody East Timor secret
Spy intercepts confirm Government knew of Jakarta’s hand in massacres
By Hamish McDonald, International Editor
The Australian Government sat on explosive intelligence material which showed the direct involvement of senior Indonesian army generals in the violence which swept East Timor in 1999.
Defence sources in Canberra have given details of how Australian electronic eavesdroppers intercepted secret messages between the Indonesian officers who ran a campaign of fear to deter the East Timorese from voting for independence.
But virtually none of the collected evidence, which could be vital to finding the masterminds responsible for crimes against humanity, has been shared with United Nations investigators.
This is because of concerns that Indonesia would adopt countermeasures to foil future interception operations by the Defence Signals Directorate.
Transcripts of the DSD intercepts revealed to the Herald show a covert chain of command down from the then President B.J. Habibie’s co-ordinating minister for politics and security, General Feisal Tanjung, to army generals and colonels on the ground in East Timor.
It provides evidence for the first time that Tanjung, a career special forces and paratroop officer, used a network of similar minded officers in a campaign to avert a vote for independence in the United Nations-supervised ballot on August 30, 1999.
When this failed to their enormous surprise, a DSD intercept shows the officers then organised the forced deportation of one third of East Timor’s population and the destruction of infrastructure, with the assistance of two other ministers in Habibie’s cabinet the former generals A.M. Hendropriyono and Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah.
Three Indonesian army and police generals who were in charge of security for East Timor in 1999 are among 18 suspects whose trials begin in Jakarta today over four militia rampages in Liquica, Dili and Suai. But the generals who planned and directed the militia operation appear likely to escape indictment.
The leak of highly classified intelligence material is the first time raw DSD intercepts relating to a contemporary event have been disclosed. It reflects deep disquiet in defence circles that Canberra at first downplayed the high-level Indonesian military involvement with the militias blaming it on “rogue elements” and since then has not used it to help war crimes investigations.
Intercepts in February 1999 show Jakarta had sent detachments of special forces, code-named Tribuana and Venus, to begin black operations in East Timor, and that a commander based in Bali, Major-General Mahidin Simbolon, was referring to a militia group as “his crew”.
As the militia campaign geared up with massacres of independence supporters in April, the DSD picked up conversations in which the East Timor army commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, is supervising the notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres.
Other messages include the allocation of radio frequencies by the Indonesian military command in Jakarta to militia groups, and a general in Jakarta’s military intelligence agency organising T-shirts for demonstrations against the United Nations mission supervising the ballot.
The intercepts show the key officer running the militia in East Timor, Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, was ready to assassinate Guterres if he changed sides after the vote.
One intercept indicates that just after the arrival on September 20 of the international security force led by Australia’s Major-General Peter Cosgrove, the covert campaign chiefs had sent in hit squads of special forces troops, code-named Kiper-9, to target independence leaders and turncoats from the pro-Indonesian cause.
The unfinished story of accountability in East Timor hangs over moves by the United States and Australia to improve contacts with Indonesian military and security agencies to pursue their campaign against terrorism.
The retired general Hendropriyono, who as transmigration minister in 1999 helped set up the camps into which East Timorese deportees were driven, was recently made head of Indonesia’s National Intelligence Body.
On his visit to Jakarta last month, the Prime Minister, John Howard, accepted an Indonesian proposal to step up intelligence exchanges with this agency.
Silence over a crime against humanity
International Editor Hamish McDonald reveals the critical evidence Australia’s spy chiefs have kept hidden, as trials begin in Jakarta today over violence during East Timor’s independence vote.
The evidence is contained in the most tightly held archive in Canberra: the electronic data base of the Defence Signals Direct-orate (DSD), the result of months intercepting secret communications between Indonesian officers involved in a shadowy campaign to thwart East Timorese hopes of independence in 1999.
Some details of this vast intelligence record have been revealed for the first time to the Herald by senior defence community sources in Canberra. They are dismayed at a huge crime against humanity, committed on Australia’s doorstep and under the eyes of the United Nations, remaining unexposed.
The DSD intercepts map out the chain of command, from the local militias and covert Indonesian forces in East Timor up to one of the most feared military men in Jakarta, General Feisal Tanjung, whose involvement has so far escaped mention in human rights investigations.
The defence sources also say that some of this critical intelligence in the first half of 1999, pointing to high-level Indonesian involvement, was not included in intelligence exchanged with United States’ agencies at a time when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was blaming the militia violence on “rogue elements” in the Indonesian army.
The tensions this caused between Canberra’s Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have been seen as contributing to the June 1999 suicide of the DIO liaison officer in Washington, Lieutenant-Colonel Merv Jenkins, after he was questioned by DFAT security officials about “Australian Eyes Only” material shared with American counterparts.
The intercepts, contained in files classified as “Secret Spoke” (meaning derived from intercepted clear-voice telephone calls) or “Top Secret Umbra” (derived from encrypted or scrambled voice communications), have not been shared with UN or other investigators.
But they include details of command and communications hierarchies that would provide vital evidence for international-standard war crimes tribunals, such as those prosecutions being mounted in The Hague against politicians and generals in the former Yugoslavia.
Instead of setting up such a tribunal for East Timor, the UN has stood back for 21/2 years to let Jakarta fulfil its promise to mount its own trials of those responsible for the 1999 massacres, abductions, coerced population movements and destruction.
In Jakarta, the first trial is due to begin today, with former East Timor governor Abilio Soares and former provincial police chief Brigadier-General Timbul Silaen accused of crimes against humanity involving widespread attacks on civilians.
Silaen is one of three generals among the 18 military personnel and civilian militia leaders accused of participation or responsibility in some of the more large-scale acts of murder in 1999. The other two are Major-General Adam Damiri, former head of the Udayana regional command, which included East Timor, and Brigadier-General Tono Suratman, who was East Timor military commander for much of 1999.
To the extent they face substantial punishment the three still seem to be in the pipeline for promotion within the army and police these generals and a number of colonels and junior officers appear to be the sacrifices to appease foreign and local concerns.
The senior generals who were more closely supervising the militia campaign on the ground in East Timor, and who reported directly to top military figures in Jakarta, have been left off the list of accused, although some were named as suspects in Indonesia’s special human rights commission report in February 2000.
So far, it appears the Indonesian legal process, while concentrating on specific incidents of terror, has not attempted to lay overall blame for the militia campaign ahead of the August 30, 1999, vote, or for the systematic drive after the result was announced to deport the population and lay waste to the territory.
The Indonesian armed forces commander and defence minister at the time, General Wiranto, was forced to resign from his later cabinet post as co-ordinating political and security minister after the February 2000 report said he carried moral responsibility for the violence, given that Indonesia had guaranteed security for East Timor’s referendum.
But now Wiranto also appears to be a fall guy, in terms of political, if not legal, responsibility. In all the inquiries so far, little attention has been given to the role of Feisal Tanjung, Wiranto’s predecessor as armed forces commander then as political-security minister, whose pivotal role in instigating, planning and executing the militia campaign is brought into focus by the DSD intercepts.
Normally, the political-security position in the Indonesian cabinet has little executive responsibility or clout within the Indonesia military, compared with that of the commander. But the weighting of the two roles seems to have been reversed in 1999 because of the personalities and records of the officers involved.
Wiranto was a sociable some say weak political general who had risen to senior ranks through his positions in the entourage of former president Soeharto, who had been forced out of office by popular protest in May 1998. Throughout 1999 he kept an eye out for his prospects in Jakarta as political parties courted the powerful military following general elections in June.
TOUGH-minded Feisal Tanjung had spent much of his career in the feared Special Forces, known as Kopassus, or the paratroop units of the Strategic Reserve. He had associations with operations in East Timor from the earliest occupation days in 1975.
Tanjung appears to have operated a chain of command parallel to that wielded by General Wiranto, using officers with Kopassus and East Timor backgrounds, especially the two major-generals Zacky Anwar Makarim and Sjafrie Sjamsuddin assigned as “liaison officers” to the UN mission running the ballot in East Timor.
Most of these officers were, like Tanjung, associated with the “Green” or conspicuously Islamic faction active in the Indonesian forces in the last years of the Soeharto era. Wiranto and key aides like then lieutenant-general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono belonged to the “Red and White” or more secular nationalist faction (the name derived from Indonesia’s national flag).
Because of his political ambitions, Wiranto may have been happy to distance himself from the dirty work involved in keeping East Timor within Indonesia. His colleagues may have been equally content to preserve his political acceptability in order to maintain the military’s privileged position. This meant the crescendo of protests made to Wiranto by Canberra and other foreign capitals about the obvious military collusion with the militias went to the wrong address. Equally, Wiranto’s promises of fair behaviour by the security forces carried little weight.
According to the Defence sources, the Indonesian embassy in Canberra was also out of the loop. DSD intercepted several queries by the then defence attache in Canberra, Brigadier-General Judi Magio Yusuf, to his Jakarta superiors asking for clarification of atrocities being reported from East Timor. He was routinely told these were foreign press fabrications and to ignore them.
Nine specific intercepts detailed by the Defence sources, plus accounts of other patterns of command and consultation at critical points in 1999, reveal some of the key officers and strategies in the covert campaign to retain East Timor.
On February 9 less than a fortnight after then president Habibie’s announcement that the East Timorese would have an early choice between wider autonomy within Indonesia or independence DSD intercepted messages confirming that two Indonesian special forces units, codenamed Tribuana and Venus, had arrived in East Timor to join undercover operations.
The East Timor military command, abbreviated to Korem 164, had already been using armed local auxiliaries and militias since the latter months of 1998 to counter the popular unrest that had been growing since Soeharto’s fall.
On February 14, DSD heard the Dili militia leader Eurico Guterres telephone the Tribuana unit about the condition of an injured member of the militia group, which was called Mahidi. Tribuana told Guterres: “We know that Brig-Gen Simbolon is concerned that one of his crew is injured.”
This refers to then Brigadier-General Mahidin Simbolon, who was chief of staff in the Bali-based Udayana regional command, which included East Timor. A former East Timor commander, Simbolon was close to the Mahidi leader Cancio de Cavalho, whose coined name for the group (Mahidi, from the Indonesian words meaning “Live or Die for Integration”) was a tribute to the Indonesian officer.
On May 5, Indonesia’s commander in East Timor, then Colonel Tono Suratman, was intercepted phoning Guterres to ask where he was massing his militia group for a show of force in Dili, the territory’s capital. Guterres reported 400 militias waiting outside a city hotel.
On June 1, DSD intercepted Colonel Suratman telling Guterres: “Don’t deal with me directly. Contact me via Bambang [referring to Major Bambang Wisnumurti, the intelligence chief in Suratman’s command].”
On August 8, DSD intercepted a message from military headquarters in Jakarta, allocating radio frequencies for use by pro-Indonesian groups. This was one of a series of frequency allocations that were intercepted routine signals but the kind that provide crucial pieces of evidence for war crimes prosecutors. The point of contact for the militia groups was another intelligence officer, a Lieutenant Masbuku, in Suratman’s Korem 164 headquarters in Dili.
On August 9, a message stated that Director “A” in Jakarta’s military intelligence agency BAIS, a Brigadier-General Arifuddin, had organised flags and other material for a demonstration against Unamet, the UN mission. Arifuddin said 5000 T-shirts had been prepared, and 10,000 ordered.
In intercepts in a file dated September 4, and classified “Top Secret Umbra”, Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim is making last minute calls to find out how the count of the votes from five days earlier is going (the result, a 78.5 per cent majority for independence, was later announced by the UN that morning).
Anwar spoke to a police officer named Andreas and asked how the count was going. The police officer said that with 50 per cent of the vote counted, only about 20 per cent seemed to be for the autonomy-within-Indonesia option. Anwar appeared incredulous, asking: “Are you sure? How can it be?” He pointed out that all across East Timor, households had been displaying the red and white Indonesian flag.
Anwar also spoke to Brigadier-General Glenny Kairupan, head of another special team appointed by General Feisal Tanjung, for pointers to the impending result, and to the East Timorese activist leading Jakarta’s political campaign in the ballot, Basilio Araujo who said it was obvious the poll was fixed.
While speaking to Araujo, General Anwar also asked him to keep a close eye on Eurico Guterres. Anwar said Guterres had a relative who was a Catholic nun, and might easily be persuaded to jump to the independence side. “I’ll take care of him if he goes over to the other side,” Anwar said.
ONCE the ballot’s result was announced on September 4, the Indonesian authorities on the ground moved quickly to adapt existing contingency plans for evacuation of pro-integration elements and Indonesian residents.
Across the central and western parts of East Timor, people were driven from their homes and shepherded to land or sea transport to West Timor or other parts of Indonesia. The aim, apparently, was to discredit the UN ballot as rigged, by suggesting that a majority of Timorese were voting with their feet in accordance with their true wishes, or to create conditions for partition of the territory. Over the grim two weeks this scheme was carried out, before the arrival of the Australian-led international force Interfet on September 20, DSD picked up numerous scrambled telephone conversations between General Tanjung in Jakarta and General Anwar in Timor discussing details, the Defence sources say.
In addition, DSD intercepted other discussions about the population transfer involving General Anwar and two ministers in the Habibie government, both with intelligence and special forces backgrounds. One was Lieutenant-General A.M.Hendropriyono, the minister for the former inter-island “transmigration” scheme, the other Lieutenant-General Yunus Yosfiah, the information minister.
On September 21, as Interfet was still landing troops in Dili and establishing an uneasy interregnum with Indonesian forces, DSD intercepted a phone call to the veteran pro-Indonesian political leader Francisco Xavier Lopez da Cruz, informing him that Kopassus had formed special hit-squads code-named “Kiper-9” to hunt down pro-independence elements and pro-Indonesian figures who changed sides.
A final intercept revealed by the sources, reported on October 5, details a message from the East Nusatenggara provincial police commander to the police chief in the provincial capital Kupang (in West Timor). The local police chief is reminded that some visitors from the US State Department are about to visit camps holding relocated East Timorese. He is to make sure the visitors get the impression the refugees are free of harassment.
The generals who figure in the command chain of this campaign aside from Damiri, Suratman and Silaen are all free of legal charge. Feisal Tanjung is active in party politics since losing ministerial office with the end of the Habibie presidency in October 1999, along with former information minister Yunus Yosfiah. Damiri’s former chief of staff in the Udayana command, Mahidin Simbolon, has been promoted to his own command, in Papua, where local independence activists fear he could pursue a militia strategy against them, and where Kopassus soldiers are suspected of murdering the Papuan Council leader Theys Eluay.
Zacky Anwar Makarim remains in the army, attached to the TNI headquarters without specific assignment. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, who is among army officers resisting legal summonses to testify on violence against students in early 1998 (when he was Jakarta garrison chief), has been appointed official TNI spokesman.
The former transmigration minister who helped organise the mass deportations in September 1999, General Hendropriyono, has had a revived career, being made head of the new National Intelligence Body created by President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whom he had cultivated in her opposition years against Soeharto.
Only the decades of impunity enjoyed by the Indonesian security forces make the country’s leadership unabashed by the irony that Hendropriyono and Sjamsuddin are now the public faces of a TNI and intelligence service being asked to join the War against Terror.
Secret Timor documents implicate former Whitlam government in Australia
By Mike Head
25 August 1998
Previously suppressed official documents show that the Whitlam Labor government in Australia was closely briefed on the preparations for the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, including a preliminary attack on Balibo where five Australian television newsmen were murdered by Indonesian or Indonesian-backed forces. The government then covered up its knowledge of the Balibo deaths to hide its complicity in the invasion.
The revelations were published yesterday on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. Its report focussed on the government’s detailed prior knowledge of the assault on the border village of Balibo, but the documents point to wider questions about the Labor government’s active involvement in the invasion, and the cover-up maintained by both Liberal and Labor governments since.
Effectively, the five members of the Channel 7 and Channel 9 news crews became victims of the Labor government’s policy, together with the estimated 200,000 East Timorese people killed over the past two decades. The revelations indicate that Canberra was so intimately briefed on the Suharto dictatorship’s planned takeover of the former Portuguese colony that it knew the three precise locations, including Balibo, where the offensive would begin. The seizure of Balibo was a precursor to the full-scale naval bombardment, aerial bombing and massive troop influx of December 7, 1975.
Indonesian intelligence officials gave Australian embassy officers in Jakarta final details of the Balibo attack in mid-October 1975. The embassy relayed the information in a cable to Canberra on October 13, 1975, three days before the Balibo operation. The Foreign Affairs Department knew that Australian news crews were in East Timor but no warning was passed onto the management of the two TV stations or to the five news crew–Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie of Channel 9 and Gary Cunningham, Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart of Channel 7.
Before yesterday’s revelations it was known that the Whitlam government had encouraged the Indonesian invasion. Whitlam had personally told General Suharto during a meeting in Jakarta in September 1974 that the Australian government supported the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. It was also known that Whitlam had held a further meeting with Suharto to discuss the Timor issue in the northern Australian city of Townsville in April 1975. However, in a book published last year, Whitlam maintained his government’s public line that it had no advance knowledge of the invasion. “We did not know of the incursion across the border at Balibo,” Whitlam wrote in his volume Abiding Interests.
The material presented by the newspaper’s foreign editor Hamish McDonald now demonstrates that from late 1974, following the first Suharto-Whitlam meeting, Indonesian officials regularly supplied the Australian embassy with information relating to Indonesia’s intention to seize the territory by force.
For months before the invasion, two Australian officers, the embassy’s deputy-chief Malcolm Dan and its political section head, counsellor Allan Taylor, met regularly with officials of the Indonesian Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a conduit for Indonesian intelligence, to discuss the plans. The meetings were held daily from August 1975, when fighting broke out in East Timor following the rapid withdrawal of Portuguese troops. Woolcott also held top-level meetings with the Indonesian armed force intelligence chief General Benny Murdani.
On October 13, Dan and Taylor were told that some 3,200 Indonesian soldiers, mostly commandos of the elite special forces (now known as Kopassus) would attack across the Indonesia-East Timor land border in three places. They were informed that the troops would wear Portuguese-style uniforms to maintain the fiction that those involved were members of the pro-Indonesian UDT and Apodeti parties, local forces that had opposed the seizure of power by the pro-independence Fretilin party two months earlier. A force of 800 troops would concentrate on the area of Balibo, near an old Portuguese fort, and nearby Maliana.
But to have revealed this information to the Australian media would have pointed to how closely the Indonesian regime had consulted the Labor government about the buildup to the invasion. This cover-up is still continuing. It now appears, from McDonald’s report, that the official record of Whitlam’s September 1974 meeting with Suharto is missing from the files of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Until now, it was also known that the Australian military intelligence service, Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), had monitored reports from Timor on October 16, 1975 indicating the deaths of the five newsmen. They were killed and their bodies incinerated to prevent eyewitness accounts of the invasion being broadcast. The Whitlam government kept the news of their deaths secret until reports emerged in the Jakarta press on October 20. However the reason for this silence was not merely to protect the secret sources and operations of the DSD, the rationale previously hinted at by Labor leaders, but to shield the government itself.
After the Whitlam government was dismissed by the Governor-General in the “Canberra Coup” of November 11, 1975, the newly installed Liberal government headed by Malcolm Fraser continued to whitewash the Indonesian invasion and the murder of the five newsmen. Acting on departmental advice, Foreign Affairs Minister Andrew Peacock opposed suggestions that the charred remains of the newsmen be returned to Australia for forensic testing to determine their causes of death. In its submission to Peacock, the department said it “must not favour this” because it could lead to an “anti-Indonesian campaign” and cause “public outrage”. Accordingly, the remains were buried in a single coffin at a funeral in Jakarta on December 5, 1975 watched over by departmental officials.
Peacock presided over the first official inquiry into the deaths, which dutifully reported that it was not possible to come to firm and final conclusions about the circumstances and manner of the deaths. The Sherman Inquiry organised by the Keating Labor government in 1995-96 took essentially the same line. The Minister responsible for that inquiry, Gareth Evans, now deputy opposition leader, has quickly denied the existence of a cover-up, insisting that the Sherman inquiry had examined all existing documents.
Both Labor and Liberal governments established extremely supportive relations with the Suharto dictatorship. Indeed, they were the only governments in the world to formally recognise the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. They long regarded the military junta as the most reliable instrument for suppressing the Indonesian masses and protecting the strategic and investment interests of Australian big business. Moreover, in 1989 the Labor government signed a deal with Jakarta to share the vast oil and natural gas deposits in the Timor Gap between Australia and East Timor.
Shirley Shackleton, the widow of one of the newsmen, Greg Shackleton, told the World Socialist Web Site that she blamed successive Australian governments for covering up the truth about the Indonesian invasion and the suffering inflicted on the Timorese people.
In particular, the latest revelations raised major questions about Whitlam’s role. “You have to wonder about Gough Whitlam’s part in this,” she said. “I used to think that he had simply made a mistake in supporting the Indonesian invasion, but he has done everything to cover up for the Indonesians. It now turns out that he knew exactly what was going on all along.”
She continued: “Whitlam had the nerve to give East Timor to the Indonesians. Then he went to the UN to urge them to accept it.” Shackleton made it clear that her concern was not simply the death of her husband but the plight of the Timorese people. “Whitlam and others liked to call it an annexation but it was an invasion. People were bludgeoned to death and children starved. Even the estimated death toll of 200,000 over the past 23 years is likely to be far too low.”
Shackleton has been calling for a full judicial inquiry since 1975. She told the WSWS she was demanding an international inquiry, conducted under the auspices of the UN, because neither the Indonesian nor Australian authorities could be trusted.
March 15, 2004
The sting occurred in September 1997, several intelligence sources say.
The Australian Secret Intelligence Service agent had arranged to receive documents from a key Indonesian contact, believed to be a military intelligence officer.
The document drop occurred in Jakarta but, unbeknown to both spies, they were being observed by Indonesian counter-intelligence officers.
As he picked up the documents left for him, the ASIS agent was collared by the Indonesians and strong protests relayed to the Australian embassy in Jakarta.
Within days the officer had been quietly shuttled out of the country, never to work in intelligence services again.
A Herald investigation over several months has uncovered the agent’s name, which, for legal reasons, cannot be published. He was operating under diplomatic cover and was not declared to the Indonesians as a spy, as is sometimes the case.
Australia was deeply embarrassed but, following discussions at the highest level that are believed to have included the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, both countries agreed to keep the incident secret.
A spokesman for Mr Downer said yesterday that the Government “could not confirm or deny or offer any comment”.
“Of course it went to Downer,” an intelligence source said. “Of course, the Prime Minister was informed.
“These situations have the potential to blow out into extremely tricky situations. They would have had to work out a strategy to handle it.”
In the world of espionage there are few more disturbing developments than a foreign government uncovering a spy’s identity – especially when it occurs at a time of acute instability, as was the case with Indonesia in 1997.
On that there was universal agreement. As to the incident’s consequences, opinion varies. “It was just one of those unlucky breaks that happens from time to time,” a former intelligence figure said.
“It was as embarrassing to the Indonesians as it was to Australia. You see, we had obviously penetrated their intelligence network. They wanted to keep it quiet, as much as we did.”
What emerged was a “gentleman’s agreement” common in the spying game, the source said.
“The Indonesians are trying to pull the same stunts here all the time. Everybody does it. The Indonesians knew they were in trouble if they went public. They knew damn well that would have been tit-for-tat.”
Others take a less benign view. First, it was highly likely that the Indonesians had been tracking the agent for some time, observing his movements and contacts and developing a rare, detailed picture of the Australian and US intelligence in Indonesia.
“ASIS agents have extensive contacts with the CIA, both socially and professionally,” said another source who is familiar with ASIS operations in the region. “And then, of course, they would have been able to observe which Indonesian contacts the agent was running.
“The sting would have been the end of the story, in many ways, rather than the beginning.”
By choosing to inform Australia, Indonesia was intent on causing maximum discomfort, putting Australia’s intelligence agents and the government on the back foot, he said. And, then, what happened to the Indonesian operative who was caught up in the sting?
According to one account, he was executed, causing anger in sections of the Indonesian military.
The Herald has learnt that the fallout of the incident included death threats made to another Australian living in Jakarta at the time who, while innocent, shared the same name as the ASIS agent.
What is certain is that the incident coincided with the beginning of a period of turmoil in Indonesia that wrong-footed Australian policy makers.
The financial crisis that racked Indonesia was in full swing in 1997, setting off a chain of events that led to Indonesia’s president Soeharto being deposed the next year.
By 1998 Australian intelligence reports were revealing increased militia activity in East Timor, aided by the Indonesian defence forces.
The alarming reports of organised violence against pro-independence East Timorese and warnings of violent consequences of the independence ballot to be held in 1999 were discounted or ignored by defence and foreign affairs officials in Canberra.
It was in mid-1998 that a new intelligence sharing agreement between Australia and the US was forged, largely giving Australia carriage of Indonesia in terms of signals intelligence and with ASIS agents on the ground gathering human intelligence.
As Australia’s leaders continued to play down the increasing violence in East Timor and the culpability of the Indonesian government, the US became frustrated, and a schism developed in the relationship.
At this time Merv Jenkins, the Defence Intelligence Organisation liaison officer in Washington, was castigated by superiors for passing unauthorised Australian material to his US counterparts about what was happening in East Timor.
Despondent at his treatment by Canberra, Mr Jenkins committed suicide in 1999.
Timor papers reveal Australia’s dark secret
The hundreds of Foreign Affairs documents reveal a private relationship of great closeness and candour between Indonesia’s Suharto regime and Australia’s Whitlam Government leading up to the invasion in October ’75.
It shows effective Australian support and even encouragement in advance for Indonesia to absorb East Timor.
It also reveals that Australia had three days notice advance of the time and place of the Indonesian attack in which five Australian newsmen were killed at Balibo.
Up to 200,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died during the 25 years of Indonesian occupation that followed.
Political editor Tim Lester reports on the new evidence of Australia’s part in the East Timor tragedy.
TIM LESTER: A mission driven by a sense of good, by outrage at atrocities against innocent people.
Yes, but there was a sense of guilt as well.
When it led last year’s operation to restore peace and allow independence in East Timor, Australia went in as a nation with a chequered record here.
A generation earlier, it had been given prior knowledge of an Indonesian invasion and occupation, only then coming to an end.
Documents released today, suggest far from trying to stop it, Australia encouraged it.
JAMES DUNN, FORMER AUSTRALIAN CONSUL TO EAST TIMOR: As many as 20,000 people died.
Now, of course, many of them, most probably, from disease or starvation.
TIM LESTER: This afternoon, former Australian consul in Dili James Dunn began ploughing through almost 500 key Foreign Affairs documents on what was called Portuguese Timor in the mid-70s.
In 1974, he recommended Parliament support self-determination for East Timor, arguing its people would never willingly join Indonesia.
JAMES DUNN: Not because the Timorese hated the Indonesians, they just had a different historical experience.
TIM LESTER: It wasn’t going to happen?
JAMES DUNN: It wasn’t going to happen.
It wouldn’t have been contemplated by them.
TIM LESTER: But was by Indonesia.
Jakarta wanted to swallow the half island territory with Australia’s blessing.
The Foreign Affairs documents suggest the Indonesians outflanked Australian diplomats and ministers to get that blessing.
HAMISH McDONALD, ‘SYDNEY MORNING HERALD’: It was enthralling.
I really sat up all night at one stage reading it, I just couldn’t put this down.
TIM LESTER: Journalist and author on East Timor Hamish McDonald says the documents show Indonesia compromised Australia by briefing our Jakarta-based diplomats on Indonesian plans beginning almost a year and a half before the attack.
July 1974, a departmental letter headed “Top Secret — Indonesian Clandestine Operation in Portuguese Timor” details recommendations to President Suharto of an operation to ensure that the territory would opt for incorporation into Indonesia.
HAMISH McDONALD: I think they were testing us to see what we would accept and the fact is we didn’t protest at it.
Except for some minor tut-tuts and be carefuls.
TIM LESTER: So the briefings continued.
2.5 weeks before Indonesia’s fateful attack on Balibo, Australia’s Jakarta embassy tells Canberra there’s to be a significant escalation of Indonesian involvement in Portuguese Timor, involving 3,800 Indonesian soldiers.
Three days before what was effectively Indonesia’s invasion, the Australians have even a broad battle plan.
The main thrust of the operation would begin late on 15 October, it would be through Balibo, Maliana and Atsbae.
That’s right, Balibo.
The Timorese town etched in Australian history as a murder site for five Australian newsmen.
Now we know their Government knew three days beforehand that Balibo was in the eye of the storm.
HAMISH McDONALD: From the following night, Tuesday the 14th, Greg Shackleton’s reports from the border were being broadcast on Channel Seven stations here in Canberra and in Melbourne.
I find it disgraceful that no-one put what they must have seen on the TV screens together with what they were reading and didn’t come up with the thought that these guys were right in the path of danger.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: It wouldn’t be very hard to imagine that a group of blood hungry warmongers coming over the border finding five people in a town that’s deserted, they would be in a certain amount of danger, especially since a great deal of secrecy surrounded these crossings.
TIM LESTER: For 25 years, she’s looked for answers on the death of husband and Seven news reporter, Greg Shackleton.
JAMES DUNN: A terrible mistake.
I think the worst, perhaps the worst failure in the history of Australian diplomacy because of its consequences.
The five newsmen in Balibo, they were the first casualties.
But in a sense they were the tip of the iceberg.
Even that incident showed the Indonesian military they were on track and they could get away with it because no formal protest was ever lodged with Indonesia.
RICHARD WOOLCOTT, FORMER AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR TO JAKARTA: The Australian Embassy had no knowledge that there was any Australian journalists or any Australians in the Balibo area at that time.
TIM LESTER: Currently travelling in Hong Kong, Richard Woolcott was Australia’s ambassador in Jakarta at the time.
If the embassy didn’t have prior knowledge that the newsmen were in deep trouble, there have since been claims Australian intelligence did, having monitored the Indonesian military, at least inferring they’d killed the journalists thought to be at Balibo.
HAMISH McDONALD: We have got accounts from a number of senior and well placed former intelligence officials who cited this document and there are clues to its existence in the second Sherman report, which have not been followed up.
ALEXANDER DOWNER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: People can make their own judgments about whether there was a completely different story in the intelligence, but all I can say to you is that that’s hardly likely to the case, is it?
Because if intelligence was telling the Australian departments at that time a certain story, that would be reflected in the documents that were produced and of course it is.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Well, if they say they’re going to release all the documents, they should release all the documents and not withhold some of them because you know, even an incurious person would say, “What are they holding back, what’s in there?”
I can’t imagine what’s in there.
But it must be something pretty shocking.
TIM LESTER: But the revelations from these documents, in particular the fact that Australia was briefed all the way by Indonesia, is now having an impact on the key figures from that time.
For example, Malcolm Fraser.
When was he told that Indonesia had fed Australia its pre-invasion plans?
As Opposition Leader or only when he became PM?
He says he was briefed today by the first journalist to call him.
TIM LESTER: Were you as Opposition Leader briefed on the prior warning that Australia was given?
MALCOLM FRASER, PM, 1975-1983: No, I wasn’t.
TIM LESTER: Were you then briefed when you came as caretaker PM on the fact that Australia had been prewarned?
MALCOLM FRASER: It’s 25 years ago and there’s that caveat on it.
But I very strongly believe I would have remembered such a material fact.
I do not believe I was briefed.
I believe it was a very serious omission.
RICHARD WOOLCOTT: Officials do not make policy, they advise.
Governments make policy and certainly strong prime ministers like Whitlam and Fraser, who were the prime ministers during the period covered by the documents, they’re not the sort of people who take uncritically the views of officials.
Officials advise, governments decide.
TIM LESTER: Not in this case, at least not according to Malcolm Fraser.
The former PM says a message he authorised reassuring President Suharto on the East Timor question, and now published, would never have been sent had he known the cosy diplomatic relationship with Jakarta.
MALCOLM FRASER: There was great pressure, I think deriving from the ambassador, for a message to be sent.
TIM LESTER: Had you been properly briefed as caretaker PM on that prior warning, might it ultimately have changed the Fraser Government’s long-term policy on the question of Indonesia and East Timor’s integration?
MALCOLM FRASER: That’s a real possibility.
RICHARD WOOLCOTT: I think the embassy did a very professional job in what it was supposed to do.
It provided the Government with the information it needed on which to base its policy decisions and the idea that because we did our job so well that we might have been in some way complicit I think is nonsense.
Australia couldn’t possibly have stopped Indonesia from incorporating East Timor once a cabinet decision had been taken to do that in Indonesia.
TIM LESTER: The full irony of East Timor for Australia came with the events of last year.
Virtually everything our diplomats and government ministers had struggled to avoid a generation earlier came to pass anyway.
Australian troops in the territory, bloodshed, relations with Indonesia soured — in that sense, events in East Timor ultimately confirmed the failure of Australia’s handling of Indonesia in the mid-’70s.
KERRY O’BRIEN: We approached former PM Gough Whitlam, his foreign minister, former senator Don Willessee, and former defence minister Bill Morrison for this story.
All declined to be interviewed.
Labor’s current Shadow spokesman, Laurie Brereton, was unavailable for comment.
SECRET INTELLIGENCE AND REALPOLITIK
Reflections on the Declassified East Timor Archive
On 3 July 1974, the Australian Ambassador to Jakarta, Bob Furlonger, sent a TOP SECRET cable back to Canberra, saying: “Harry Tjan told Jan Arriens on 2 July that he intends to submit a paper to the President this week recommending that Indonesia mount a clandestine operation in Portuguese Timor to ensure that the territory would opt for incorporation into Indonesia…Ali Murtopo would appear to have directed Tjan to draft a paper setting out the operation. Tjan’s extreme frankness indicates that the Indonesians are confident that we would favour an independent Portuguese Timor as little as they do.” Jan Arriens was then First Secretary in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Harry Tjan was a principal member of the then quite new and highly influential Jakarta think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. It had been set up a few years earlier under the guidance of Ali Murtopo, Deputy Director of the Indonesian intelligence service, BAKIN.
In conveying this striking piece of intelligence to Canberra, Furlonger remarked that the Indonesians appeared to be taking the opportunity presented by Australian overtures concerning possible diplomatic collaboration in regard to Portuguese Timor to “take us along on a Realpolitik approach to the problem.” Australia was being consulted, he observed, and needed to respond in clear terms. “A failure to do so soon will be taken by them, I fear, as tacit agreement.” Agreement, that is, to the mounting of a clandestine operation in Portuguese Timor to ensure that it would “opt for incorporation into Indonesia.” Canberra needed to take a clear stand on this proposal, he thought, for while “there are sometimes evolving situations where policy is best left grey and obscure, I doubt that that is desirable in this case.”
Given what was subsequently to happen, the response from Canberra is well worth reflecting on. It came from Graham Feakes, First Assistant Secretary South East Asia and PNG. He wrote to Furlonger that the information from Harry Tjan was most valuable, but that “we should not encourage the Indonesians in any way to talk to us along those lines.” Why? Well, because we could not afford to be associated with a covert operation given “the risk of exposure.” Any hint of our complicity “or even acquiescence” in such things with Indonesia would, he thought, “be damaging to the government’s reputation overseas, to its domestic credibility and to the confidence in us of small countries, especially PNG.”
Yet the massive archive declassified last September, which contains these two fascinating cables, shows in exhaustive detail that the Indonesians were in no way discouraged from talking to us “along those lines.” On the contrary, that briefing of 2 July 1974 was the first of no fewer than forty five such secret briefings on manipulating Portuguese Timor that Tjan and his colleague Lim Bian Kie delivered to the senior members of the Australian Embassy up to June 1976. We gave our tacit agreement to the clandestine operation being mounted. We were kept closely informed as to its design and its progress. We were told in detail of the obstacles it encountered. We were told, very early on that, if covert political and economic action did not work by the middle of 1976, then Indonesia would foment disorder in the territory as a pretext for military intervention and would then in effect annex it. All this did, indeed, as Furlonger had pointed out, mean that we were going along with a Realpolitik approach to the problem. Doing so did, indeed, as Feakes had apprehended, carry the risk of exposure. No greater risk of such exposure arose than the presence of five Australian network journalists at Balibo, in mid-October 1975, which is why the Indonesian covert invasion task force killed them.
Now that the archives have been declassified – or at least substantially so, since some 2,600 pages of diplomatic papers remain classified and no Defence or intelligence materials were declassified – we are in a position to ponder the significance of this long sequence of quite extraordinary briefings. A good deal of what they contain was included in the splendid volume Australia and the Indonesian Incorporation of Portuguese Timor 1974-1976, published in September 2000 by Melbourne University Press. Even there, however, their significance is easily lost amid the mass of other material. In fact, they provide a translucent guide to the evolution of Australian policy on Portuguese Timor under the Whitlam Government and a case study in the uses of intelligence that warrants close study in itself. They were an intelligence officer’s dream, priceless inside information. Used more imaginatively and with greater integrity, they might have offered us a way to deflect Indonesia from its dangerous Realpolitik path. They were not so used, however. To understand that and to see how they were used is to understand everything that was flawed and unworkable in the Whitlam policy on Timor and which led to so much bloodshed, grief and doubletalk through twenty-four years after 1975.
Feakes was concerned not only that a covert operation might be exposed but that it might not work, leaving both Indonesia and ourselves, if we were implicated, with the worst possible outcome. He told Furlonger that the danger he foresaw in Indonesian planning for such an operation was that “self-interest may distort rational thinking and the assessment of risks.” This was astute of him. The problem was that the kind of self-interest to which he was referring was operative not only in Jakarta but also in Canberra. Our self-interest lay in the inconvenient little Portuguese colony being peacefully absorbed into Indonesia and ceasing to be a worry to us geopolitically, morally or in any other respect. Our self-interest lay in cultivating cordial relations with Indonesia, as it began to create a ‘New Order’ of a broadly pro-Western and ‘stable’ nature. Quite as much as in Jakarta, the question was worth asking in Canberra whether such self-interests might distort our own ‘rational thinking’ and ‘assessment of risks.’
Should Australia have attempted to dissuade Indonesia from preparing the clandestine operation Harry Tjan had spoken of? Feakes was undecided. He had a good chance, however, to influence the thinking and risk assessment in Canberra, because he coordinated the briefing notes for the Prime Minister, before Mr Whitlam travelled to Indonesia to talk about the Timor problem and other matters with President Suharto, in early September 1974. In his briefing notes, Feakes informed Mr Whitlam about Harry Tjan’s plan. He suggested that the Prime Minister tell President Suharto that self-determination for Portuguese Timor was a firm Australian policy and that such self-determination “should not exclude any of the three future options for Portuguese Timor”, ie sustained links with Portugal, incorporation into Indonesia or independence. A more ‘forward’ policy than this on Indonesia’s part, he advised, would present problems for Australia’s other interests.
Mr Whitlam chose not to accept the guidance offered to him. He told President Suharto that he personally believed Portuguese Timor should be part of Indonesia. This was not yet Australian policy, he said, but his views tended to become Australian policy and they soon would in this case. He added that incorporation should take place as the result of a genuine act of self-determination on the part of the Timorese. He already knew, however, that this is not what the Indonesians had in mind and he said nothing to the Indonesian leader about the advisability or otherwise of a clandestine operation. This was taken by Mr Suharto to mean that Mr Whitlam would align Australia’s policy with his own and quietly work for a ‘West Irian solution’ in Portuguese Timor – ie the covert manipulation and coercion of popular opinion in the colony to ensure acceptance of Indonesian annexation. When Ambassador Furlonger read over the briefing notes some weeks after the Whitlam/Suharto meeting, he wrote on his copy: “This was all very cautious and rather different from the line the PM actually took.”
It was, indeed. From this point forward, Australian policy was caught between the millstones of two desiderata that were only ever likely to be reconciled by the means Harry Tjan had proposed, with all the dangers of exposure and failure Feakes had foreseen. Just to the extent that the Timorese exhibited an unwillingness to be absorbed into Indonesia, Australia would be faced with an invidious choice between the two incompatible halves of Mr Whitlam’s policy. Nor was it long before Harry Tjan’s briefings made this crystal clear. On 30 September, he told Jan Arriens that “he had now developed a ‘grand design’ on the future of Portuguese Timor, which had been submitted to the President.” This ‘grand design’ called for resolution of the matter in the course of 1975-76. The President had approved it in general terms, but Ali Murtopo had still to fill out the operational details.
If, indeed, Mr Whitlam wished to see a genuine act of self-determination he now had unambiguous warning that this was not what Jakarta was seeking to bring about. To deflect the Indonesians from their budding Realpolitik course at this point would have required imaginative and pro-active diplomacy. No such thing was forthcoming from Mr Whitlam or from his Department of Foreign Affairs. Not to initiate such efforts at that point was clearly to acquiesce in the ‘grand design’. The thinking in Canberra was not clear on this, however, even though both Furlonger and Feakes had made this very point after the first Tjan briefing. Self-interest surely did, at this point, interfere with both rational thinking and risk assessment. Yet the briefings that followed, in October 1974, should have dispelled any illusions that held sway in Canberra regarding the dangers entailed in the course of action Jakarta was thinking of embarking on.
On 16 October 1974, Furlonger sent a SECRET AUSTEO cable to Feakes summarising a conversation he had had with Lim Bian Kie. Lim had stated, he said, that if Indonesia could not influence matters decisively within eighteen months it would be “unable to do so at all.” If it was clear by 1976, Lim said, that the Timorese would not vote for incorporation into Indonesia then “the use of force could not be ruled out.” Harry Tjan confirmed this. Lim “spoke of the possibility of fomenting disorder in Portuguese Timor and of the Indonesian forces stepping in to salvage the situation at the request of certain sections of the population.”
Seldom do governments get such clear intelligence on the thoughts and intentions of other governments in sensitive matters. We had been told explicitly that Jakarta felt a sense of urgency, that it was not actually optimistic about its covert action having the desired effect in the brief time available and that it would resort to military intervention, if need be, in order to have its way. In other words, the Whitlam policy was non-viable right at the outset. Indeed, it is rather haunting to consider that this SECRET AUSTEO cable from Furlonger came a year to the day before the covert military invasion of East Timor by the Indonesians began and the five Australian network journalists were killed at Balibo.
This ominous outlook was reinforced on 26 October, when Harry Tjan again met with Jan Arriens. He told him that Ali Murtopo had been replaced by Benny Murdani as real operational chief of the ‘grand design’, that the latter had hardened into agreed policy and that Indonesian “determination to take over Portuguese Timor had now developed an almost irresistible momentum.” If Canberra had been at all serious about self-determination for Portuguese Timor then this was the time to make s stand. Certainly it was the end of the line for the twofold policy espoused by Mr Whitlam. However much he may have wanted to have it both ways, it must be judged, in the light of these secret briefings, that, as of the end of October 1974, he could have no grounds for confidence that this was achievable.
Least of all was it achievable by watching from the sidelines while the ‘grand design’ went into operation. That, however, is what Feakes now recommended. He called it ‘studied detachment’. The Prime Minister, however, had prime responsibility for the dilemma Australian policy now faced. He was fully briefed, but did not see a need to modify his policy. He wanted to see incorporation take place. He persisted in believing that that was compatible with the ‘grand design’ and that, whatever happened, his own hands would be clean. The policy, therefore, remained set on autopilot.
By early December 1974, Australia’s most senior policy makers and intelligence officers were aware that the Timorese were unlikely to prove “malleable”, as Michael Cook put it at a top level meeting, and that incorporation was “not a winnable goal.” Gordon Jockel, Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, then the country’s peak intelligence agency, told the same meeting that intelligence estimates suggested Fretilin could and would stoutly resist an Indonesian military intervention and that an effort to crush it could become “a running sore” for Indonesia. Dick Woolcott thought Jockel and Cook were being too pessimistic. Besides, he told the meeting, the Prime Minister wants to see incorporation take place. If things get messy he has “escape clauses.”
Mr Whitlam did not have escape clauses. He had a policy that was heading inescapably for disaster. Over the twelve months that followed, Harry Tjan kept our Embassy closely informed as that disaster unfolded. In its wake, we chose to try to make the best of a bad job by suppressing evidence of the extent of the disaster. We are still trying to deal with the consequences of both the disaster and the suppression of the truth about it. What the declassification of so much of the archive makes possible is a sober reckoning with how all this came about.
Nothing is more central to such a reckoning than the realisation that we were at no point in the entire process blindsided by Indonesia’s actions. We were kept fully informed. When I say “we”, of course, I most certainly do not mean the Australian public. We were kept very poorly informed and every serious effort by our free press to gain a clearer view of what was really going on was blocked or scorned by the government. That, in the end, is the real significance of the Balibo affair, from start to finish. The Indonesian intelligence and policy people, though, confided in our government, to a remarkable degree. Had this invaluable confidence been treated with greater wisdom, as both Furlonger and Feakes began by thinking it should be, perhaps we would have avoided getting so entangled in the mess that President Suharto’s attempt at Realpolitik brought about. What calls for very close study are the cognitive processes in Canberra, the policy-formulation processes, which prevented us from using this extraordinary intelligence with greater intelligence.