Canberra, 24 September 1974


Portuguese Timor

For the Minister for Foreign Affairs (on arrival) from the Acting Minister

Before leaving Australia you saw Telegram O.JA4892 of 19 September1 reporting information from the Indonesians about their discussions with the Portuguese and their views on the future of the territory. You will have seen the subsequent telegrams from New York (O.UN961 of 20 September2) and Jakarta (O.JA4934 of 20 September).

  1. For your discussions with Malik and Santos you may like to have in mind my own views on the questions which these telegrams raise. I note that the Indonesians believe that they have an agreement with the Portuguese Deputy Foreign Minister (Campinos) that the two countries should work towards forming a joint Portuguese-Indonesian administration of Portuguese Timor. Against this background and the background of my conversations on Portuguese Timor with President Soeharto, I think it important that the Indonesians and Portuguese should understand that, while one major element in our policy towards Portuguese Timor is that we favour its incorporation into Indonesia, the other main element in our attitude is that the Timorese should have the opportunity for a genuine act of self-determination to decide their political future. We also think that the Timorese should be allowed to proceed deliberately towards their decision about their future. The reported agreement on joint administration raises the question in our minds whether the joint administration would preclude an act of self­-determination. It would certainly be seen by many as prejudging its outcome. When would the joint administration begin and how long would it last? How would it be brought about? While the Portuguese and the Indonesians may not yet have answers to these questions, they should appreciate that questions of this kind will arise in our minds as in the minds of others (such as PNG) as their intentions become plainer.
  2. It also seems to me that there is a great risk of misunderstanding between the Indonesians and the Portuguese. The Indonesians tell us that the Portuguese Deputy Foreign Minister expressed agreement with the Indonesian view that Portuguese Timor should become part of Indonesia. By contrast in their public statements, the Portuguese Foreign Minister and Minister for lnterterritorial Co-ordination have recently expressed their commitment to self­-determination in Portuguese Timor and are saying that the pro-Indonesian party in Timor is in the minority. It seems important that these differences should be clarified between the Portuguese and the Indonesians: and we welcome the establishment of relations between the two which is apparently to follow Ali Murtopo's meeting with the Portuguese next month.
  3. We have no intention of raising the question of Portuguese Timor in the United Nations: but, as the Indonesians recognise, it is inevitable that the future of the territory should be considered by the UN at some relatively early stage. Movement towards a joint administration would be likely to precipitate that consideration and, we think, to bring it about in circumstances which would not favour Indonesia. In this context, we are checking Radio Australia reports that 4000 people took part in a demonstration in Dili last week against incorporation of the colony into Indonesia.
  4. I note the suggestion in paragraph 2 of Jakarta Telegram O.JA4892 addressed to you that the best informed person about Portuguese Timor among the Indonesians in New York will be Ali Murtopo's private secretary, Lim Bian Kie. The later telegram from Jakarta makes it clear, however, that Mr Malik has been fully informed of Indonesian policy and is now in sympathy with it. You may, therefore, consider it more appropriate for contacts with Lim Bian Kie to be pursued at the official level, where they have already started in our delegation.

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, iii]