Companion to East Timor - Indonesia's destabilization operations against East Timor

Indonesia's destabilization operations against East Timor

Indonesia's campaign of destabilization (known as Operation Komodo) began in October 1974 following discussions between President Suharto and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The Operation's most noticeable component was the program of hostile radio broadcasts from Kupang in West Timor into East Timor. The broadcasts claimed that Portugal was about to withdraw from East Timor, that Vietnamese and Chinese troops were entering covertly, that integration with Indonesia was the only option, and that Fretilin were communists. Indonesian operatives briefed foreign ambassadors about the threat posed by communists.

Indonesia's destabilisation campaign also relied on the leaders of Apodeti. Tomas Goncalves, the son of the liurai of Atsabe, Guilherme Maria Goncalves, went to Jakarta in October 1974 to meet the chief of the Indonesian armed forces, General Maradean Panggabean. Indonesia then claimed that hundreds of East Timorese were fleeing to West Timor, that communists had infiltrated and funded Fretilin, and that communist newspapers and Marxism were spreading in East Timor. Australian intelligence, which was monitoring the situation in East Timor on a daily basis, remarked that it had 'no evidence that would give any credence to these claims' and that 'Apodeti has so far attracted little support.'

As tensions rose between UDT and Fretilin in early August 1975, UDT's secretary-general Domingos Oliveira and its secretary for foreign relations Joao Carrascalao met General Ali Murtopo in Jakarta. They tried to reassure Murtopo that Fretilin was not communist but only a nationalist movement with a few extremists, and that UDT was able and willing to have these people expelled to Portugal. Murtopo indicated that Fretilin was planning a coup on 15 August. Joao Carrascalao later said that Murtopo had assured them that Indonesia would respect East Timor's right of self-determination if UDT moved against the extreme elements in Fretilin. The UDT members led a preemptive coup against Fretilin on their return from Jakarta. After an internal armed conflict that was essentially over by 30 August 1975, FRETILIN assumed administrative control of the territory.