106 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 7 March 1975

O.JA8135 SECRET PRIORITY

Portuguese Timor

Your O.CH1835031

It is important before seeking to persuade the Indonesians to get Apodeti to adopt a more compromising position that we understand correctly the UDT/FRETILIN proposal.

  1. Leaders of both the coalition parties told Taylor in Dili that the first point in their proposal was now the immediate recognition of de jure independence of Timor-Leste. The Administration gave Taylor a copy of the proposal dated 5 February 1975, which is consistent with what the party leaders had said. (See paragraph (d) our JA8095.) Point one of the proposal reads: 'Reconnecimento imediato da independencia de jure para 0 Timor-Leste'.
  2. The coalition parties claim that the great majority of Timorese want independence. They seek a solution to the political future of Timor along similar lines to that adopted in Portugal's African colonies. No country had objected to that. They argued also that it was United Nations policy that people who are not already free could not choose to become subjects of another nation. The parties seemed more flexible in their attitude to an act of self-determination (which is not included in their proposal) than in their demand for immediate recognition of de jure independence.
  3. The Governor and senior members of his Administration stressed to Taylor that the UDT/FRETILIN proposal was tentative. They saw it as a negotiating position. They considered that an internationally recognised act of self-determination was required and that it include the choice of integration with Indonesia. But several, not including the Governor, personally expressed agreement with the argument that the people must be independent before they could choose their future. They would not agree with the coalition parties, however, that this recognition of independence should include the idea that independence was the objective of the act of self-determination.
  4. There are then two separate, but related, issues. The act of self-determination and the call for an immediate recognition of de jure independence. Taylor's assessment is that the Portuguese would insist on an act of self-determination including the choice of integration with Indonesia, and that the UDT and FRETILIN would agree, provided an acceptable means of supervision is found. Recognition that independence for Timor was the Portuguese Government's objective would, of course, be inconsistent with such an act.
  5. We should stress that at present there is no clear idea in Dili about the course which would be adopted. The situation should be clearer following the Governor's discussions in Lisbon, the talks between Portugal and Indonesia, and the talks between the Portuguese and party representatives.
  6. I agree that there would be value in seeking to persuade the Indonesians to encourage Apodeti to participate in discussions with the Portuguese. We might adopt the approach that we believe the Portuguese would want an internationally recognised act of self-determination including the choice of integration with Indonesia. Apodeti's refusal to discuss preparations for this act could make it more difficult for the Portuguese to reject the coalition's proposal. The option to withdraw from the talks would exist. Apodeti might argue that their participation in any transitional government could imply recognition that an independent Timor was desirable. But surely Indonesia would agree that a period of preparation for an act of self-determination in Timor was necessary. Would it not be in Apodeti's interests to participate in this preparation? Indonesia and Apodeti could seek to ensure that a transitional government could not be equated with an independent government.
  7. I consider that we should also inform the Indonesians that according to what we have now learned in Dili the information in the Prime Minister's letter of 28 February to President Soeharto2 that UDT and FRETILIN had not demanded immediate de jure independence was incorrect. We might say that our understanding is that at present such a demand was part of the coalition's constitutional proposals. But this proposal had yet to be discussed by the Portuguese and may prove flexible. As far as we know the Portuguese had not formulated their attitude to the proposal.
  8. Grateful your early comments on paragraphs 7 and 8 above.

WOOLCOTT

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, vii]