77 Memorandum to Canberra

Lisbon, 5 February 1975

CONFIDENTIAL

Portuguese Timor

Our memorandum No. 20 of 21 January, 1975 refers.1

  1. Lieutenant Colonel Alfredo Carneiro suggested recently that I also establish contact with the 2nd Division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and on 5 February I had a discussion with Commandant Jorge Gamito, Head of the Overseas Territories Branch. Commandant Gamito displayed the more forward position on Timor that I have met in discussions with other military figures in Lisbon. The discussion tended to confirm our view that the military generally see a more rapid pace for decolonisation in Timor and place less significance on economic viability before independence than civilian figures in Lisbon.
  2. Gamito's assessment was that the majority of the Timorese accepted the UDT/Fretilin position of independence sooner or later. Apodeti was simply an Indonesian front and had very little support. Indonesia, through the activities of the Indonesian Consul in Dili and Radio Kupang, was trying to create conditions favourable to the integration of Timor into Indonesia.
  3. In effect, therefore, there were now only two options being considered in Timor- independence or integration. The third option for continuing links with Portugal had, as in Cape Verde, disappeared and this was natural. Gamito thought that, as in the other colonial territories, an act of self-determination would be held this year. He was unspecific about its form. If independence was chosen, then, as in Africa, Portugal would agree with the independence parties on a preparatory period after which independence would be granted. He had no specific comment on the length of such a preparatory period. He said Portugal would not impose any pressure for a short period but thought that the Timorese were watching closely developments in Africa and would not want to be too far behind. At the same time however, he said Portugal could offer little aid to Timor. I raised the question of economic viability and how important he thought that was before independence. Sao Tome, for example, seemed less economically viable than Timor. He agreed that this was possibly so; certainly Timor seemed to have greater long term economic viability. He then described Portugal's difficult economic situation which prevented her from offering a great deal of assistance to any of her former colonies. The colonies had been a cancerous growth on Portugal. He thought that if they wanted independence, they should have it but at that point Portugal's responsibility should cease and the new nations become the responsibility of the world community as a whole.
  4. A copy of this memorandum has been sent to Jakarta.

I. H. COUSINS

First Secretary

[NAA: A1838, 49/211/1, v]