380 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 16 December 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ref O.LB617 1

We do not consider that Australia might have headed off events which led to FRETILIN's UDI and Indonesia's intervention as suggested in paragraph 3 of the telegram under reference. As we have reported before, Indonesian policy has been firmly fixed on achieving the objective of integration. Indonesia and the pro-Indonesia parties would not have agreed to talks under circumstances they considered disadvantageous to them, including the situation on the ground in Timor and the venue for talks.

  1. We should like to record that we consider it misleading to state that we have been so mindful of the overriding importance of our long-term relations with Indonesia that we have allowed this to inhibit us in what we have said to the Indonesians. The importance of our long­ term relationship with Indonesia is very important but this has not inhibited us from speaking frankly to the Indonesians and impressing our views upon them.
  2. On the question of talks, this Mission played an important part in persuading the Indonesians to accept the principle of talks long before the meeting in Rome between Antunes and Malik.
  3. With regard to the decision taken at Rome to hold talks between the parties, the pro­-Indonesia parties' proposal for talks in Bali was not intended as an absolute rejection of the invitation to attend talks. It was partly an attempt to stall talks until the pro-Indonesian forces were in a better position in Timor, and partly a negotiating position on the question of the venue of any talks. The pro-Indonesian parties knew that Bali would not be acceptable to FRETILIN and, we would guess, Portugal knew that Darwin was not acceptable to the pro­-Indonesia parties.
  4. Much of the present unhappy state of relations between Indonesia and Portugal can be attributed to the web of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding woven in the last six months or so. This situation was compounded by the incompetence of the Portuguese and Indonesian representatives here and in Lisbon, and by the fact that the Portuguese Charged'Affaires in Jakarta rarely if ever received instructions or advice from Lisbon.
  5. Regarding paragraph 5 of LB617, we were simply making the point that the Balibo affair may understandably have had some influence on the tone of the recent comment on the Timor situation in the Australian media. While the Australian Government and the Australian public supports the principle of self-determination, Indonesia would contend that once order had been restored and the fighting stopped an act of self-determination could be held. While such an act would be suspect, no act could be conducted at all while the civil war was unresolved. The Indonesians would also argue that FRETILIN had on several occasions refused to have an act of self-determination at all. It is also a regrettable fact that there has never been a proper act of self-determination in any Portuguese colony and it is unlikely that there will be one in Macau. Admittedly Timor is closer to us but, with this background in mind, one wonders whether the Australian media and certain vocal groups were justified in believing that Timor would have been any different.

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