373 Statement by Campbell in Fourth Committee of Un General Assembly

New York, 11 December 1975

The draft resolution before the Committee in Document L.1131 co-sponsored by Algeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, and others has the particular merit of incorporating all the points of importance from an earlier draft and a subsequent revision which Australia had co-sponsored. Those points have continuing validity, notwithstanding the changed circumstances of this week and we shall vote in recognition of that validity. In particular, there is emphasis on the right of the people of Portuguese Timor to determine freely their future political status. It is clear that the options before these people are essentially outright independence or complete freedom through joining the people of Indonesia and benefiting from their independence-an independence to which Australia is proud to have contributed.

In the original draft resolution Australia joined virtually all its neighbours and regional friends as co-sponsors, and especially Indonesia.

Indonesia is inevitably touched and troubled by the tragedy in Timor. There is no doubt about its concern that Portuguese Timor should not become another Angola subject to external intervention by great powers or others. We have understanding and sympathy for Indonesia's position that law and order should be restored in the territory, not just for the sake of its inhabitants, or to bring to an end the disruptive and costly effects on Indonesian Timor of the anarchy across the border in the territory for which Portugal remains responsible, but above all as the necessary pre-condition for a proper expression by the Timorese people of their own wishes regarding their political future.

The draft resolution calls on Portugal to exercise its responsibilities as administering power. This is not a ritual appeal. On the contrary, it expresses a real requirement that Portugal make good the deficiencies in its role in the territory which have been the basic factor contributing to the present crisis. The plain fact is that successive Portuguese Governments have been unable to exercise adequate influence in Portuguese Timor in recent months. The last elements of Portuguese administration arrived yesterday in Darwin, apart from the symbolic presence of one corvette at sea off Atauro.

In all these circumstances it is understandable that Indonesia should have been moved to undertake heavy responsibilities which properly belonged elsewhere.

While the objective of restoring order was laudable, the fact remains that the use of force is not an appropriate means to settle the problem of Portuguese Timor whether the force is applied by FRETILIN, APODETI, UDT, or the Government oflndonesia. As we have already made known, and as we shall register by vote, Indonesia's use of force is a matter for deep regret and concern on the part of the Australian Government and we are unable to condone it even in the difficult circumstances thrust upon the Indonesian Government.

The question is now one to be discussed in the Security Council. Australia's Permanent Representative will seek to be heard in the Council in order to contribute to its discussion both from our detailed understanding of the facts and from our strong desire to help bring about a settlement-a settlement which can flow only from the people of Portuguese Timor being given the opportunity, so far denied to them, to exercise their right to self-determination.

The draft resolution addresses questions which obviously are to be considered further by the Security Council and which ought not to be prejudged. In this connection the Australian Government has reservations about the operative paragraphs 4 and 5, the basis for which will be obvious from the remarks we have just made. It is in that light that Australia will vote in favour of the draft.

Australia, with others, has been attempting to negotiate a few simple amendments to L.ll31 which in our view would have avoided prejudging the action of the Security Council in relation to the modalities of withdrawal and which would have avoided direct condemnation of Indonesia. We hoped that such a resolution would facilitate the co-operation of Indonesia, which is of course essential to a real solution. For the information of the Committee, the text of these possible amendments is as follows:

  1. Delete the last preambular paragraph.1
  2. Replace operative paragraph 42 by the following: '4. Deplores any military intervention by foreign armed forces in Portuguese Timor;'
  3. Replace operative paragraph 53 by the following: '5. Calls for the withdrawal without delay of all such armed forces from the Territory, in order to enable the people of the Territory freely to exercise their right to self­determination and independence;'

Such efforts have not yet been successful-the debate in the Fourth Committee is closed-but we shall pursue the effort to produce a generally acceptable text in the Plenary.

[NAA: Al838, 906/30/14/3, iii]