130 Record of Conversation Between Feakes and Da Cruz

Canberra, 24 April l975


Indonesia/Portuguese Timor; Australian Interests in Portuguese Timor; Re-opening of Australian Consulate; Constitutional Development; Chinese and Taiwanese Interest

Mr Feakes welcomed Messrs da Cruz and Mousinho to the Department1 He noted that both had recently visited Jakarta and remarked that the Australian Government was happy to see the leaders of Portuguese Timor showing interest in the views of Indonesia. Mr Feakes asked Mr da Cruz for his impressions of his Jakarta visit.

  1. Mr da Cruz (speaking in Portuguese interpreted by Miss Boyd) replied that in his view three countries were important for Portuguese Timor. They were Indonesia, Australia and, naturally, Portugal. It was for this reason that the first countries he should visit were Indonesia and Australia. His visit to Jakarta had been most successful. He had called on the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Communications and Information. Indonesia's attitude towards UDT had changed dramatically. Mr Mousinho had been ignored during his visit in September last year. Now that Indonesia realised that the people of Portuguese Timor favoured independence, Indonesia had begun to fete UDT. Indonesia had offered assistance, initially in the field of tourism. An Indonesian team would arrive in Dili next month to investigate the possibility [of] tourist flights from Den Pasar to Bacau-Dili. During his calls in Jakarta, Mr da Cruz said he had been assured that Indonesia would respect the right of the people of Portuguese Timor to determine their own future. Mr da Cruz dismissed rumours of an Indonesian invasion of Portuguese Timor.
  2. Mr Feakes said that he ought to point out that Australia did not see itself as a party principal in the affairs of Portuguese Timor. The Australian Government believed that the future of Portuguese Timor was a matter for resolution between Portugal and the people of Portuguese Timor, with Indonesia occupying an important place as well. Australia's role was limited to facilitating contact and cooperation between all the parties involved. Mr Feakes asked whether Messrs da Cruz and Mousinho had also called on General Ali Murtopo in Jakarta.
  3. Mr da Cruz confirmed that he had met Ali Murtopo. He went on to argue that Australia had a special obligation to Portuguese Timor, which called for close Australian involvement. He recalled Australia's military involvement in Timor in World War II and the death of 40,000 Timorese in support of the Australians in Timor. Australia, as a consequence, had a debt to repay to the people of Portuguese Timor. Australia should now involve itself in the affairs of Portuguese Timor 'to balance Indonesia'.
  4. Mr Feakes said that he was pleased to see that Messrs da Cruz and Mousinho had met Ali Murtopo. Within the Indonesian Government he was an important influence in matters relating to Portuguese Timor. Mr Feakes went on to say that, while he recognized the important sacrifice of the Timorese people in World War II, he should point out that the events of that war had less meaning for the present-day Australian community, who would be less inclined to accept the notion of a consequent continuing Australian obligation to Timor.
  5. Mr da Cruz did not show any sign of acknowledging the latter point. He went on to argue that Australia should urgently take steps to re-open the Australian Consulate in Dili. He said that Timorese could not understand why the Consulate had been closed. People in Dili had been told at the time that Australia did not approve of Portuguese colonialism and was breaking off relations with Portugal. Yet, soon after, Australia opened an Embassy in Lisbon, 'the capital of Portuguese imperialism'. He did not accept Mr Feakes' statement that the consulate had in fact been closed for reasons of economy, saying that a rich country like Australia would afford a consulate as part payment of its debt. He said he saw three reasons for Australia's re-opening the Consulate: as a sign of gratitude; as a balance to Indonesia; and for information-gathering.
  6. Mr Feakes replied that the Australian Government was not in principle opposed ever to re-opening the Consulate. But it did not believe that this was an appropriate time to do so. He added that Australia's requirements for information from the territory were already being met by regular visits by officers from the Department and from our Embassy in Jakarta. Mr Curtin would be paying a visit to Portuguese Timor in late May or June. There was some discussion of the best timing for Mr Curtin's visit in view of the forthcoming discussions between Portugal and the three parties of the territory on constitutional development.
  7. Mr Feakes asked Mr da Cruz for UDT's proposals for constitutional development in the territory. Mr da Cruz said that UDT would be putting to Portugal a comprehensive set of proposals. These envisaged an initial 'transitional' government. To avoid political squabbles, control of the 'transitional government' would continue to be vested in Portugal. The government would be headed by a Portuguese Commissioner-General, assisted by three Secretaries, all of whom would also be from Portugal. In addition, there would be three Under-Secretaries. They would be drawn from each [of] the political parties in Timor-UDT, FRETILIN and APODETI.

This 'transitional government' would formulate an electoral law for elections for a Constituent Assembly. UDT would be calling for these elections to be held in September 1976. A 'provisional government' would be formed on the basis of the election results. This government would prepare a constitution 'for independence', which would follow after several years of preparation. There was no need for a 'referendum' on independence. It was already self­ evident that a majority of the people of the territory already desired independence. One did not have to ask slaves if they wished to be free. He said that journalists, representatives of the United Nations and others should come to Timor to see this for themselves.

[matter omitted]2

[NAA: Al838, 49/2/1/1, vi]