10 Letter from Feakes to McCredie

Canberra, 6 June 1974


Thank you for your letter of 29 May 1974 about Portuguese Timor.1 I agree with much of what you say about our interests in Portuguese Timor and the implications of the future of that territory for our relations with Indonesia. My own feeling, which I think would be widely shared in the Department, is that there will have to be an internationally acceptable act of self-determination in Portuguese Timor before any change in its international status takes place. In our view the best result of that act of self-determination would be for the Timorese to choose union, or some form of association, with Indonesia. The diplomatic problem for us is how to bring that result about. We have to face up to the possibility that the Timorese may choose independence, a course which might give rise to the sorts of dangers you mention, although they may be avoided. One complication about Portuguese Timor which you should bear in mind is that radical opinion here may not be at all happy to see the transfer of Portuguese Timor to Indonesia. But another point is that Timorese resistance to absorption by Indonesia may come as a shock to the Indonesians; and we may have a role in suggesting to the Indonesians that they take into account the possibility of such resistance and start to think seriously about how Indonesia might live with an independent Portuguese Timor. We should not assume that it would be beyond the Indonesians' capacity to do so and fairly quickly to gain a dominant influence there.

You will have noticed that Tim McLennan and Jim Dunn are going to Timor to have a look at the situation there and to see whether we might re-establish the consulate in Dili. After they have come back it will probably be a good idea, if Bob Furlonger agrees, for somebody from the embassy to go down to Indonesian Timor. We shall, of course, let you have a copy of their report and we shall keep you in close touch with developments in our thinking about Portuguese Timor.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, ii]