The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Peacock, said today that the Government was continually watching the development of events in Portuguese Timor.
Mr Peacock recalled that the tragedy of Portuguese Timor had really begun with the intense political difficulties which Portugal had experienced over recent months. This had led to the fact that successive Portuguese Governments had been unable to exercise sufficient influence in Portuguese Timor with the result that the Macau program for decolonisation had broken down. This had in turn precipitated a situation of disorder in the territory, leading, among other things, to the flight of some 40,000 refugees across the border into Indonesian Timor. This sudden and large influx of refugees had caused the Indonesian Government great difficulties. Conflict between the various political groups in the territory had begun simultaneously and fighting had gone on intermittently over the past few weeks. This had led to the recent unilateral declaration of independence by the FRETILIN party, a declaration which had been followed by a declaration by other political groups that Portuguese Timor was a part oflndonesia. The whole situation had culminated in the attack upon and capture of Dili.
Indonesia's stated objective, Mr Peacock continued, was the restoration of law and order, a task which Portugal had been unable to carry out, as a necessary pre-condition to a proper expression by the Timorese people of their own wishes regarding their political future. While this objective was laudable, the means chosen by Indonesia to achieve it was a matter of deep regret and concern on the part of the Australian Government. On a number of occasions in the past, the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta had been instructed to point out to the Indonesian Government that the use of force was not an appropriate means to settle the problem of Portuguese Timor. The last occasion on which the Ambassador had made this point to the Indonesian authorities had been on 4 December 1975. The Australian Government did not condone the attack upon Dili which had just taken place. 'We do not regard the use of force as an appropriate means of solving international problems', he said.
The Australian Government, Mr Peacock continued, had just learned that Portugal intended to complain to the Security Council of the United Nations about Indonesia's action over Portuguese Timor. The Government understood that the Security Council was likely to meet during the course of this week to discuss the question. The Australian Government would seek to be represented when the Security Council met for this purpose. Its representative there would press for a call by the Security Council for an immediate cease-flre-'as indeed we do now'. Its representative would also express the strong view that the Timorese people should have the opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination. Australia would support the despatch of United Nations observers to Portuguese Timor to see that an appropriate process of self-determination took place. Australia would expect that if Indonesia appeared before the Security Council, Indonesia would respond to the international concern which had been aroused over the fate of the people in the territory and would explain clearly her motives and intentions.
Mr Peacock said that the Australian Government would be asking its Ambassador in Jakarta to explain to the Indonesian authorities the views which Australia would seek to present to the Security Council. The Ambassador would also be instructed to tell the Indonesian Government once again that the use of force in Portuguese Timor was not an appropriate way to solve the problems of the territory.
In the midst of the tragedy of Portuguese Timor, Mr Peacock continued, Australia stood ready to provide aid as soon as the situation on the ground permitted. 'We are approaching the Indonesian Government in this sense with a request for assurances about the security of the Australian personnel that would be involved', he said.
The Minister concluded by saying that when the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly resumed its discussion of Portuguese Timor tonight, the Australian representative would repeat Australia's call for an immediate cease-fire and wish to see a process of self-determination applied under proper United Nations supervision.
[NAA: Al838, 935/17/3, xii]