447 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 14 May 1976


East Timor: Self-Determination and Integration

We have been able to put together the following scenario from several reliable sources here for the invitation of various representatives to visit East Timor. As of today, 14 May, the present intention is to have the Dili meeting (of representatives of the 13 districts) on 31 May.

  1. The list of countries to be invited is understood to comprise the following: Four ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Japan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Yugoslavia, Italy, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA, USSR, France, Britain and UNDP.
  2. Invitations would be addressed to ambassadors in Jakarta and their staff. Indonesia expects that representation will be mostly at head of mission and deputy level.
  3. The present plan is for the representatives to leave Jakarta at three a.m. on Monday 31 May. Some East Timor districts (perhaps 4 to 6) will be visited before the party goes on to Dili. Representatives will be able to meet district leaders and make a tour of inspection. (The actual election of the district representatives for the Dili meeting will have taken place before this visit.) Return to Jakarta will be 7 o'clock that evening.
  4. At Dili, embassy representatives and other guests will be able to observe the meeting of the 50 to 60 district representatives, which will decide whether to seek independence or join Indonesia.
  5. We understand Indonesians still hope that Winspeare Guicciardi and a delegation of the Committee of 24 might also attend1
  6. Invitations would also be extended to media representatives. The tentative list was as follows: ABC, AFP, AP, Japanese agency (2), China (Taiwan agency), West Germany, Reuters (Mcintyre), TASS, UPI, Newsweek, Far Eastern Economic Review, Hamish McDonald,2 Denis Warner.3
  7. The Government will need to decide shortly how we should respond to this invitation.
  8. I suppose the princip[al] argument against acceptance of the invitation would be that it could be claimed that the Government was endorsing an Indonesian fait accompli and a bogus ascertainment of the wishes of the people. For some, there could also be protocol problems about the standing of the PGET to invite, and for the Indonesian Government to facilitate, a visit to East Timor by heads of mission.
  9. On the other hand there would seem to be a number of other arguments which you would need to take into account in reaching a decision.
  10. As far as Australia is concerned it would generate some ill-feeling here and in Dili, especially after the recent pressures we have put on the Indonesians in respect of the visit of the Embassy's three man team to East Timor, if we were now to decline this invitation.
  11. In the long term we are going to need to live with an integrated East Timor and our agreement to send a representative (but not the Ambassador) at this stage could in the future prove useful when we come to grasp this nettle.
  12. We have noticed that there has also been criticism in Australia that the Government does not repeat not know what is going on in East Timor and that a 'curtain of silence' has been drawn around the Territory. In this context it could be argued that it would be unwise to reject any opportunity provided to ascertain at first-hand what is happening in the Territory. Even if it were to be concluded that the visit would be carefully stage-managed-which it will beĀ­ countries could not justifiably be critical of the situation or even the act of self-determination if they had declined an invitation to make the visit.
  13. It would seem inconsistent to have pressed for Taylor, Rutter and Johnson to visit Balibo and then for Taylor to visit other areas of East Timor and then to reject an invitation to examine the situation in some other parts of East Timor. The fact that Taylor has recently returned from East Timor is not, repeat not, in my view, a reason why we should not repeat not accept an invitation which would enable Taylor to return, or somebody else to go. Taylor's visit was primarily concerned with the journalists. This visit would have a different purpose and could also cover centres other than the three visited by Taylor.
  14. The reaction of ASEAN governments will be of interest. The decisions will be taken in capitals of course but from discussions here it would seem that they will accept invitation.
  15. As far as I know from preliminary discussion, the United States Ambassador intends to recommend to Washington that he not repeat not accept the invitation, but nominate his Deputy Chief of Mission to go in his place. The reason for this, he said, was that his presence could stir up the Timor issue in Congress, in which it is at present quiescent, especially on the issue of the use of United States military equipment. The Soviet Ambassador is completing his posting in Indonesia and is leaving Jakarta next week, so he will be able to decline on these grounds (in any case TASS is being invited). The New Zealand Ambassador says he is recommending acceptance of the invitation and that he should make the visit himself if ASEAN heads of mission do so. I do not repeat not yet know how Japan intends to react, but believe that the Ambassador here intends to recommend that his Deputy go.
  16. It is of course for Government decision in Canberra, but my recommendation from this end would be that we should accept the invitation to participate in the visit. If you do not repeat not want head of mission to go I could decline (even this will cause some disappointment, especially following the Minister's visit and if other ASEAN plus heads of mission go) and Dan would make the visit.
  17. I expect to see Moerdani on Monday and will report further after that. Malik is still overseas.4


[NAA: Al0005, TS20211/l, ANNEX 3]