Great Soeharto Rescue Mission
was propped up at the bar drinking Wait-a-while, talking to Joadja and
watching the Jakarta riots on TV when "Roger", who claimed
to be from the Sydney Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs, slouched
into the café.
work?" I asked. He pulled up a stool and ordered a double whisky.
I can't really talk about it", he said, "But it's very big
and involves a populous nation to our near north which is going through
what we term 'internal difficulties'".
must be on the Indonesia Task Force. How are the Soeharto arrangements
going?" I ventured. When you're a private dick you learn to bluff
your way through on occasions. I flicked a significant sideways glance
at Joadja and gave Roger the standard DFA recognition code: "Read
Paddy's latest column?"
was thrown for a moment but then a relieved glint flickered in his sunken
eyes. "Profound stuff!" he shot back. "Great to have
you on the team, guys. I might have known you wouldn't be far from the
how's your side of the mission going?" I enquired.
muddle, at the moment", he said, "We sent Bob Carr up there
to coordinate the Soeharto rescue team, with some sort of thin cover
as a routine trade visit, but the local operations boys got caught in
the riot on the freeway and never made it to the airport rendezvous.
In the end Bob had to fly out again ... And we're having a horrible
time trying to find someone to put up Soeharto and the kids", he
that can't be true", said Joadja, "The family have lots of
acquaintances here. For a start there's that ex-editor of The Australian,
Paul Kelly, and Richard Woolcott, who was our ambassador there in '75
when they invaded Timor, and the rest of the mob from the Australia-Indonesia
Institute. Word has it the institute is pretty close to the department.
Unkind people have even been known to call it a front group. Can't you,
I mean, we, just lean on them a bit?"
I've tried", Roger said, "It turns out that they'd all love
to have him, but they're all renovating or about to move house or something.
It's not as easy as you think".
what about John Howard, He isn't using The Lodge much at the moment.
The President would find it a bit downmarket but we're only talking
about a few months till they get asylum and set up in business somewhere",
way, couldn't get it past the protocol people and in any case it would
upset the, um, delicate balance of, ah, relations with the Pauline Hanson
party ... Asians living in the official residence and all that".
Evans? I seem to remember he got on extra well with Ali Alitas".
wish that on anybody ... it would be like living with an earnest version
of Barry Jones. The Soeharto kids would go crazy inside a couple of
Tim Fischer called the old boy one of the greatest figures of the late
20th century", I said.
just says whimsical stuff like that when he's trying to sell sheep.
It wouldn't work. These are sophisticated people used to living the
high life. They'll need space to park about a dozen Mercedes, a ballroom,
reception rooms, ensuites, servants' quarters, space for their shoes
could see he had a problem.
you tried Paul Keating?" I asked. "He probably has a couple
of spare bedrooms at the Queen Street place and there's that huge neo-classical
pile he's built out the back of Wyong. The cars could go next door at
John Laws' place and you could get the army to set up some demountables
for the servants."
that's an inspired thought", he said, "I'll give him a ring
in the morning. What part of the operation are you on, by the way?"
bugger's muddle", I replied, thinking fast ... "When the Indonesian
army deserts the old boy we'll probably need the SAS to extract him,
but they're spread round the world in sub-contract scab operations ...
we're trying to get them back from all over the place."
rain stopped just after "Roger" left. Joadja finished her
shift and we walked down to the park to look for the the big field mushrooms
that always come up under the sheoaks after a good soaking. The grass
glowed green and a warm pink afternoon light tinged the towering storm
clouds piling up on the horizon.