Portuguese Timor: Visit to Australia by Mr Ramos Horta
Mr Ramos Horta of FRETILIN, the party in Portuguese Timor favouring independence, will be visiting Australia at the beginning of December at the invitation of the Association for International Co-operation and Development.
When Mr Horta was here in July you agreed to the Department's recommendation not to receive him on the grounds that you should not indicate that the Australian Government supported any one of the parties in Portuguese Timor with their different views on the future of the territory.
In deciding whether or not you should receive Horta, the following are the factors for and against as we see them:-
- Horta is after all a leader of some status in Portuguese Timor and for you to receive him would enable you to keep in touch with the situation there and to explain Australian policies towards Portuguese Timor. Ministerial contacts with Horta now might prove useful to Australia in the future-and Horta would no doubt resent a further rebuff.
- Because of the AICD sponsorship of Horta's visit it is not unlikely that other Ministers, whether in a private capacity or not, may receive Horta. We understand that the AICD is trying to arrange an appointment with Dr Cairns.
- When we earlier advised against your meeting Horta, Australian policy towards the future of Portuguese Timor had not been developed or communicated officially to the Indonesians. Now that Mr Whitlam has talked to President Soeharto about the future of Portuguese Timor, there would seem to be less disadvantages in Ministers speaking to Horta.
- For you to receive Horta would be to reverse previous publicly announced policy endorsed by you and the Prime Minister without any new factor arising which would serve to justify or explain the change.
- It would arouse Indonesian suspicions about our policy towards Portuguese Timor, particularly after the Prime Minister's remarks to President Soeharto when he made clear that the previous decision not to receive Horta at the Ministerial level was a deliberate one. The Indonesians may feel that by cultivating Horta we intend to achieve some special Australian status in Portuguese Timor, a suspicion the Prime Minister was at pains to allay at Yogyakarta.
- We are uncertain of Horta's present status and importance even within the FRETILIN party. In particular we are not sure whether his importance is such that he justifies Ministerial notice in Australia. If he is received here by a Minister he may well use the fact to strengthen his political position in Portuguese Timor on his return.
- If you do receive Horta it would be difficult to avoid receiving all leaders of political parties in Portuguese Timor who come here and seek interviews with Ministers. It would be very difficult to make distinctions between them-and you or the Acting Minister would have to see the APODETI members (the pro-Indonesian party) whom we expect shortly.
- For you to receive Horta now might leave an impression of greater Australian involvement in Portuguese Timor and of concern with developments there than we think is appropriate. We believe that, at least for the time being, we should show a certain reticence about Portuguese Timor.
- The reasons against you agreeing to receive Horta seem stronger than those in favour and I recommend accordingly that you do not receive him.2
[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, v]