196 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 28 August 1975


Portuguese Timor: Press Reports

Ref O.JA1401, 1 O.JA143J2

Your press roundups are useful to us here in explaining to those Indonesian officials who are showing a tendency to impatience that the Australian Government is under considerable domestic pressure on this issue and is trying to be helpful.

  1. However, we find some of the editorial comment unrealistic and with an anti-Indonesian bias. If, for example, Australia has a 'moral obligation to end the bloodshed' (SMH) why does not Indonesia have a similar obligation? The calls in a number of papers for self-determination seem to ignore the realities of the present situation on the ground in Portuguese Timor. Our leader writers seem to overlook the fact that a proper act of self-determination has never been held in any Portuguese colony yet and it would seem highly improbable that one would be held in Macao yet it is demanded for Timor in a state of civil war. While we support the principle, we do not consider that the principle itself can be divorced from the realities of Portuguese decolonisation generally and the present situation in Timor.
  2. As we have pointed out before-and as it might usefully be pointed out to leader writers-there is no intrinsic reason why the indigenous people of Portuguese Timor-rather than the Eurasians who tend to dominate the present embryonic and immature political parties-should not, in the long term, be as well off within the Indonesian Republic as they would seem likely to be in an economically weak, unstable, non-viable, independent state afflicted by continuing factionalism.
  3. We seem to be reacting sensitively to domestic pressures in Australia to an extent to which some Indonesians are starting to see us as obstructing along with Portugal the restoration of peace and order and are beginning to wonder whether, with the exception of the Prime Minister, Australians generally really do attach the importance to friendship with Indonesia they say they do. Our media's approach certainly seems to Indonesians to reflect a public attitude in marked contrast to that of their other regional neighbours, including New Zealand and Japan.
  4. We wonder whether in these circumstances you are doing enough to educate and influence domestic attitudes? This is what the Ambassador had in mind in his cable on the need for a better public presentation of the Timor issue (our O.JA1431).3

[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/1, xxix]