164 Submission to Willesee

Canberra, 12 August 1975


Portuguese Timor

The Portuguese Timor situation is still obscure. It appears that the Portuguese Administration in Dili is still functioning but that UDT is in control of most of Timor's communication links with the outside world.

[matter omitted] 1

  1. The Portuguese Ambassador has also speculated that the events in Dili might have been precipitated by developments in Lisbon. He believes that the exclusion of moderate officers in the Armed Forces Movement, from the new Portuguese Government and the Revolutionary Council might have led to fears on the part of UDT that Governor Pires was about to be replaced with a radical officer who would be sympathetic to FRETILIN. The Ambassador adds that UDT fears could have been heightened by a message sent to Lisbon last week by the student wing of FRETILIN demanding the removal of Pires from office.
  2. If the Ambassador is right, then it seems UDT stage[d] its move in order to pre-empt what it believed might be a Lisbon-supported FRETILIN bid for power. It is clear from other reports we have received that UDT was disturbed by events in Portugal. The exclusion of Majors Antunes and Alvez from the new Government, and the earlier resignations of Drs Soares and Almeida Santos, meant that most of those previously associated with Portugal's moderate line on Timor had been removed from power in Lisbon.
  3. The Indonesian reaction to the events in Dili is ambivalent. There seems to be genuine surprise in the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. Harry Tjan also appears to have been taken unawares. But other very delicate sources (which are being brought to your attention separately) suggest that UDT acted with at least some fore-knowledge of the State Intelligence Coordination Body (BAKIN).

    UDT Appeals for South East Asian help

  4. In this connexion, too, we should record that broadcasts from the DDT-controlled radio in Dili have appealed to 'all nations of the South East Asian region' to send help to UDT, including armed forces and weapons. According to the broadcasts, this help is needed to forestall any counter move by the Portuguese Majors Mota and Jonatas, who have been described in the broadcasts as aiming to 'deliver Timor to the Marxist FRETILIN'.
  5. The broadcasts provide the pretext for Indonesian intervention in Portuguese Timor. All this stops well short of proof of Indonesian collusion with UDT. But if the Indonesians were intending to intervene, they could have hardly stage-managed the scene any better.

[matter omitted]2

Conclusions and Recommendations

    1. On the political front we can do no more at present than keep in touch with the evolving situation in Portuguese Timor.
    2. We believe that approval should be sought from the Minister for Labor and Immigration to admit evacuees from Timor in response to a Portuguese request and provided that the Portuguese give the necessary assurances regarding the costs of looking after the evacuees in Australia and eventually repatriating them either back to Timor or to Portugal.3
    3. In regard to Australian citizens in Timor, we should continue to discuss with the Departments of Defence and Transport planning for a possible evacuation operation with the timing of any evacuation to be decided upon in the light of both developments on the ground in Timor and any decision taken by the Portuguese to evacuate their own citizens.
    4. Finally we agree that it would be appropriate for the Government to issue a short press release underlining its concern about the situation in Portuguese Timor. The attached draft release is recommended for your approval.4


First Assistant Secretary

South-East Asia and PNG Division

[NAA: Al838, 3038110/112, i]