112 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 14 March 1975


Portuguese Timor

I had a useful talk with Pires today.

  1. Contrary to advice from Indonesian Counsellor here (Our 762) Santos saw Ali Murtopo secretly in London last weekend. According to Pires the meeting was 'very helpful'. The main point that seems to have emerged is that Ali apparently agreed in principle to encourage APODETI to cooperate with Pires and Timor administration. Pires was hopeful that Jakarta now accepted that any military move was not only undesirable but unnecessary. He believes that the prospects for working out a solution acceptable to all concerned have improved.
  2. Pires acknowledged that UDT/FRETILIN's advocacy of immediate de jure independence was inconsistent with their proposed timetable for achieving it. What they really wanted was Portuguese recognition of the right to independence-a right which Portugal freely acknowledged as being in line with their decolonisation policy and which was not necessarily inconsistent with an act of self-determination. The scenario envisaged by Pires is for gradual progress towards self government with the political parties (including APODETI) assuming a greater role in the government, eventually culminating in an act of self-determination in which independence or incorporation into Indonesia would be the options.
  3. Pires said he was concerned at the amount of deliberate misinformation and distortions reaching Jakarta principally from the Indonesian Consul in Dili. He referred specifically to allegations that he and his advisers were communists, that he had approved the sale of arms to FRETILIN, and that his administration was persecuting pro-APODETI supporters. He said the situation was quiet and that the Indonesians were themselves to blame for such invasion fears as were circulating.
  4. As expected, Pires renewed his representations for the reopening of an Australian consulate in Dili and I repeated the arguments why we did not favour this course at the present time. Pires said if not a consulate could we not step up the frequency of our visits? I said I thought you would be receptive to the idea and promised to pass it on.
  5. Pires is leaving Lisbon tomorrow, will stop over in Singapore on Sunday night and will arrive Jakarta on Monday. The purpose of the visit will be principally to allay Indonesian misgivings about future Portuguese policy, and to try to enlist Indonesian help in persuading APODETI to cooperate with the administration in the decolonisation process and to agree to participate along with the other parties in projected discussions in Lisbon next month. I said we welcomed the initiation of talks with Indonesia and also the idea of trying to induce both Indonesia and APODETI to adopt a cooperative approach to working out a solution. Pires' visit to Jakarta will apparently be followed by a visit from the Portuguese Ambassador in Canberra about a repeat about a week later.
  6. As I took my leave, Pires' parting observation was 'I am much more concerned about the situation here in Lisbon than I am in Timor'.


[NAA: AI0005. 202/113, vi]