453 Submission to Peacock

Canberra, 27 May 1976


Timor: Self Determination Process

We are still to resolve our position on attendance at the planned meeting of the Peoples Representative Council in Dili on 31 May which is to pronounce on the future of East Timor. You decided to defer consideration of the Department's earlier submission on this matter1 (attached-Annex A) pending receipt of Woolcott's report on his discussions with General Moerdani.2 That report has now been received—JA6799 (Annex B)3 paragraphs 12-18 of which are relevant.

  1. We have now received an invitation from the POET to go to Dili. As will be seen from the further telegram attached (JA68454 - Annex C) a pretty tight and very limited itinerary is proposed. In all the party would be in Dili for a little over 2 1/2 hours. (Although it is not completely clear, it seems that the session of the People's Representative Council is scheduled to last no more than 30 minutes.)
  2. In the Department's earlier submission we had recommended that the balance of advantage lay in trying to forestall an invitation. The Department favoured making it known to the Indonesians in advance that Australia would not welcome an invitation.
  3. Mr Rowland subsequently (14 May) discussed the matter with you on the telephone. He did so against a background of new information from Jakarta which suggested that the invitation list would include all embassies in Jakarta. It appeared that the United States, Japan, New Zealand, all ASEAN and perhaps most of the EEC countries would designate representatives. You agreed that, in these circumstances, and if a good number of other embassies were to send representatives, it would be difficult for Australia not to do so as well; you were inclined to favour the idea that the Minister at the Embassy, Malcolm Dan, might be designated as the Australian representative.

Others' Intentions

  1. We now have a reading on the likely reactions of other potential invitees. It seems that the ASEAN countries will almost certainly all be represented, Malaysia and Philippines probably at Ambassadorial level. The Indonesians also seem confident about India, Sri Lanka, Iran and Saudi Arabia, but we have no knowledge of their intentions. Beyond this—and apart from the likelihood that there will be no UN participation, either Winspeare or the Committee of Twenty Four—there is no enthusiasm among the ranks of the other possible invitees: the Western Europeans, the United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand and none appears to be likely to go except in the company of at least some others.
  2. Of the Western invitees the United States, Japan and, possibly, New Zealand have been the least opposed to accepting (at deputy head of mission level). However, much would depend on someone taking the lead. If we were to announce our intention to attend it is probable that this would be decisive in persuading Japan, and perhaps New Zealand to attend also. Canada and the US might also be influenced by our decision. The United States position is that the Ambassador in Jakarta has discretion to send a representative if the regional countries as well as some other Western missions also do so.


  1. Moerdani has told Woolcott that he would like Dan or Taylor to attend, especially following the pressure applied to get the Taylor team to East Timor.
  2. We do not have a strong view either way on attendance and believe that in the public presentation it would be possible to use a very similar formula whatever the decision. On balance, and unless a number of other Western countries as well as regional countries attend, you may feel it best that Australia decline. As a matter of tactical presentation, however, we should be inclined to delay conveying any negative response for a day or two lest the Indonesians come to see it as instrumental in affecting the decision of others.
  3. Nor need a decision not to attend the 31 May meeting be our final word on observation of the self determination process. As you know, the Indonesians also intend to undertake their own ascertainment exercise. A fact-finding delegation from the Indonesian Government and Parliament (DPR) is to proceed to East Timor at the end of June. Current Indonesian planning envisages that all heads of mission in Jakarta should be invited to accompany this mission. It may be that we shall not wish to attend on this occasion either but, especially if the United Nations has become involved by that time, attendance may be possible and indeed desirable.
  4. If you decide that Australia should not be represented at the 31 May meeting we should at least inform the Indonesians that we continue to be interested in the process of self determination in East Timor and in this connection see the 31 May meeting as one step in the process. The Indonesians will be aware from our declining the invitation that we are most anxious that there be some form of UN participation in the process. While it would be unwise to promote any expectations as to Australian participation in next month's DPR fact-finding mission, we could perhaps undertake to support efforts to get the UN special representative to East Timor during June in order that he might be on hand at the time of the fact-finding mission.


  1. Meanwhile it is recommended on the assumption that other Western countries do not attend, that Australia should not accept the invitation to attend the meeting in Dili on 31 May. A form of words which might be used in public presentation of the decision is attachedĀ­ Annex D.5 Also attached-—Annex E6—is a second form of words which might be used if the decision were to attend the meeting.77

A. R. PARSONS - First Assistant Secretary South-East Asia and PNG Division

[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/1/2, iv]