45 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 14 October 1974



Ali Murtopo, accompanied by his Secretary (Halim) came to see me late this afternoon after having had discussions with Soares and Campinhos (separately) and other Portuguese officials.

  1. I invited Ali to comment on his talks with the Portuguese. He said they had gone very well and he seemed to base this on the fact that in reply to his hypothetical question as to Portugal's position in the event that the Timorese should opt for incorporation into Indonesia, he had been told that this would be acceptable to Portugal. (However it was clear from further questioning that the Portuguese had given nothing away in regard to their own wishes or attitudes to Timor's future, although Ali does not seem to realise this.)
  2. The Portuguese had however apparently indicated that they accepted the need for careful preparation of any act of self determination, but even on this point Ali does not appear to have done his homework. He had for example no idea of the illiteracy rate in Timor which is of course a crucial question in any self determination process. He mentioned that he had sent one of his own people (Colonel Sukianto) to Dili to examine the situation on the ground.
  3. I asked Ali if he detected any differences between Portuguese officials in his discussions with them. He said he had not. I told him that, in my experience, Portuguese attitudes tended to vary according to whom one was speaking. Tomorrow he is seeing the Prime Minister, the President and the Minister without Portfolio (Antunes). Incidentally, notwithstanding his revelations to Newsweek he seemed surprised that his visit had been reported in this morning's press.
  4. Ali said that until Mr Whitlam's visit to Djakarta they had been undecided about Timor. However the Prime Minister's support for the idea of incorporation into Indonesia had helped them to crystallise their own thinking and they were now firmly convinced of the wisdom of this course.
  5. I observed that Malik initially seemed to favour independence for Timor. Did he now subscribe to the incorporation concept? Ali avoided a direct answer but implied that Malik was not yet fully on side with presidential thinking.
  6. I asked Ali about establishing relations with Portugal. He said the Portuguese had proposed this and he had readily accepted. He thought they would send a Consul-General to Lisbon at least initially. I offered to help in any way I could. Ali expressed his thanks and hoped that I would continue to keep Furlonger informed of thinking at this end.


  1. Having talked to Ali I am even more of the opinion that there has been no meeting of minds (except perhaps on the self determination question) between Lisbon and Djakarta. Ali is convinced for example that there is already a majority in Timor in favour of joining Indonesia. The Portuguese are at present equally convinced of exactly the opposite.


[NAA: A10005, 202/1/3, iii]