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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1140

Senator McINTOSH —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Government aware of reports of an interview given to an international newsagency in Jakarta in December 1984 by the commander of Indonesia's armed forces, General Murdani, in which he admitted that it would take some years to overcome East Timorese armed resistance to integration? Has the Government received any information, such as recent additional movements of Indonesian troops and/or equipment into East Timor, which would indicate Indonesian preparation for a dry season offensive in the latter half of 1985?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The answer to the first question is yes, and to the second question no. According to the advice available to the Government concerning the situation in East Timor, the overall level of military activity has remained low. Sporadic clashes between the Indonesian forces and Fretilin do occur. The bulk of Indonesian troops in East Timor, estimated now at between 10,000 and 12,000, are engaged in defensive operations and in construction and development work. Also, it is the case, according to advice available to us, that the Fretilin resistance movement has been rather dispersed into small bands and the areas in which it operates have been reduced. It is estimated that at the present time Fretilin has around 400 to 500 armed combatants and around 2,000 supporters, including families.