412 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 2 February 1976



East Timor: Winspeare Mission

  1. It is for the government to determine Australia's attitude to Indonesia in Timor and we shall explain and execute that policy as decided as forcefully as we can here. But I consider it my duty to repeat the agreed Embassy view—which is shared by virtually all our colleagues here—that, notwithstanding the matters of principle involved, the realities on which any government now needs to base its policy assumptions are that, despite the difficulties they may encounter, Indonesia is fully committed to the incorporation of Portuguese Timor and it will proceed to secure this objective. It also believes that Fretilin is crumbling despite the activities of its activists outside of East Timor and such international interest and sympathy for Fretilin as there was is weakening, except in Australia.
  2. I consider we would be doing our government a disservice if we were to suggest that Indonesia would accept or permit, at this stage any other outcome and if we did not emphasise, at this stage, the possible ramifications for our important relationship with Indonesia, if Indonesia were to decide that Australia is supporting Fretilin's interest (or what remains of Fretilin bearing in mind that a number of former Fretilin leaders and officials within East Timor are now cooperating with the PGET) against Indonesia's interest.
  3. In these circumstances it seems from here that realistically the best we can press for is that there will be a reasonably presentable act of self-determination (although even on this score we need to realise that the act will not be held until the Indonesians consider the outcome is assured). If this prognosis is borne out by events-as we are confident it will be-then perhaps we could derive some comfort from the fact that there are ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious ties between the peoples of East and West Timor which may in fact make integration less difficult and, indeed, less unpopular in East Timor than it may now seem in Australia.2


[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xx]