382 Cablegram to Canberra

New York, 16 December 1975


Portuguese Timor: Security Council

Following is text of statement to be made in Security Council today 16 December by Ambassador.

[matter omitted]

The immediate requirement, as we see it, is for a ceasefire, to spare the people of Timor further bloodshed and to create a climate in which a constructive program of decolonisation can be resumed.

Clearly, however, some time and organisation will be needed before the actual process of self-determination can begin. Meanwhile we must avoid creation of a vacuum or a retrogression into chaos in the Territory. There must be some effective civil authority both to restore economic activity, ensure the food supply, and arrange medical attention to the victims of the fighting, and also to make the initial preparations for a subsequent act of self-determination.

Portugal has, of course, a continuing legal responsibility but since the Portuguese Government is not in a position to restore the framework of civil government even after fighting has ceased, or to make the administrative arrangements under which the people could freely exercise their choice, we must make the best of existing possibilities. Some United Nations presence is also clearly required to assist in arrangements for self-determination and we are glad to note that this is desired by all the parties concerned, including Indonesia.

The practical question which faces the Council is what type of UN presence would be appropriate, and how soon conditions on the spot will have returned sufficiently to normal for a UN commission to begin work.

The Australian delegation takes it for granted that the Council will require a ceasefire and that it will be observed. We are also confident that the Indonesian elements will withdraw as soon as fighting between the political parties has ceased.

It is regrettable that the various political parties, whose representatives are now appearing before the Council, failed over the months to respond to efforts-with which Australia as one of the countries in the immediate region of Timor was associated-to bring them together to organise jointly the preparations for self-determination. We hope that they will all, now, cooperate with the United Nations in finding a satisfactory way in which the process of orderly decolonisation can be resumed and completed.

Mr President, I have said that some form of UN presence is clearly required, but it is difficult, in view of the sometimes conflicting information as to the precise situation in Timor, to determine what would be the appropriate form and dimension of UN involvement, and the right timing.

The Australian delegation feels that the best course might be, as a first step, for the Secretary-General to be asked to appoint a special representative who could consult with the parties principally concerned, both in New York and on the spot, and who could recommend further action. Such action might be by the Council, which will we assume remain seized of the question, or if, as we hope, hostilities quickly cease and security is restored, it might be possible for responsibility to be assumed by the Committee of 24 under its mandate from the General Assembly.

The distinguished Representative of Malaysia suggested yesterday that the countries of the region may have a special responsibility in assisting the administering power. The Australian delegation endorses the principal of this approach but would like to see what sort of action the Council might have in mind to give effect to such a principle. Meanwhile the Australian Government, as it has already informed the Administering Government and Indonesia, stands ready to resume its humanitarian aid and the facilitation of appropriate international aid to the distressed people in Timor, while continuing its assistance to the many hundreds of people who have sought in Australia refuge from the fighting.

In conclusion, Mr President, I would once again emphasize, as the General Assembly did in its Resolution, that the purpose and aim of the United Nations, underlying any action which the Council may decide, is to enable the people of the Territory freely to exercise their right to self-determination.

The main question now is to establish conditions under which the Timorese people can make their own free choice.

[NAA: A1838, 906/30/14/3, ii]