133 Submission to Willesee

Canberra, 21 May 1975


Portuguese Timor: Call by APODETI Representatives

You have agreed to see Messrs Domingos Pinto Soares and Casimiro de Araujo of APODETI at 4.30 pm on 21 May. Mr Soares is a member of the praesidium of the party, while Mr de Araujo is Chief Editor of the APODETI newspaper in Dili. Their visit, which is also taking in Melbourne and Sydney, follows talks in Jakarta.

  1. You saw Ramos Horta of FRETILIN in December 1974 and Mr Morrison, as Acting Minister, saw Lopes da Cruz of UDT in April 1975. FRETILIN and UDT are the two pro­ independence parties in Portuguese Timor. APODETI is for integration with Indonesia.
  2. The visit comes at a time when the Portuguese are holding discussions in Dili with the three parties in preparation for a further meeting with them, possibly in Macao. The parties, and the Portuguese, are thus deep in a process of examining their programs for the political future of the territory.
  3. During a call on the Department on 20 May, Messrs Soares and de Araujo (who have been away from Dili since the current round of discussions began) said that APODETI would agree to a plebiscite as an act of self-determination, but would oppose elections to set up a Constituent Assembly. Elections would be subject to too much 'local intimidation'; opinion could be more freely, clearly and simply expressed through an internationally-supervised plebiscite-and the result would favour integration with Indonesia. APODETI believed that the Portuguese were encouraging UDT and FRETILIN in their demands for independence (an independent Portuguese-speaking state) and were thus regarding UDT/FRETILIN in the same light as the liberation movements in the former African colonies. APODETI would have nothing to do with the UDTIFRETILIN proposal that a 'transitional government', to help prepare for the Constituent Assembly election, be established. APODETI wanted a plebiscite to take place quickly, so as to prevent the Portuguese from toying any further with the UDT/FRETILIN program. (Messrs Soares and de Araujo thus did not agree that the process of decolonisation should be a slow and deliberate one.)
  4. According to Messrs Soares and de Araujo, APODETI represented the real or the 'native' Portuguese Timor, closely bound by tradition and culture to the rest of Timor and to the other Indonesian islands, while UDT and FRETILIN spoke for the privileged pro-Portuguese (culturally if not politically) class.
  5. A paper on the present state of things, including talking points, is attached.

G.B.FEAKES - First Assistant Secretary South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea Division



[matter omitted]

Talking Points

General Policy

The APODETI visitors will be aware of press reports (in September 1974) following the Prime Minister's meeting with President Soeharto to the effect that the Prime Minister supported the integration of Portuguese Timor into Indonesia. They may seek a reaffirmation of what they believe, on the basis of these reports, to be the Australian Government's position.

In his talks last year with President Soeharto the Prime Minister said that he believed that the best outcome for the region would be the integration of Portuguese Timor into Indonesia. He added that this should happen in accordance with the properly-expressed wishes of the people of the territory. The Prime Minister further noted that because of the economic and political backwardness of the territory the people should have time to get their bearings before deciding their future. (There were no political or independence movements in Timor before the April 1974 coup in Lisbon.) The Prime Minister also warned against the forced integration of the territory into Indonesia and the probable effects of such an action on public opinion in Australia. The Prime Minister took a similar line in his talks with the President in Townsville in April this year.

In a sense, therefore, we support the aim of APODETI: integration with Indonesia. We have, however, to distinguish this from support for the APODETI party as such. The process of decolonisation in Portuguese Timor has only just begun and Australia should not seek to influence the political development of the territory, nor appear to give the nod to such political leaders as have emerged in the early stages of free political activity.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: AJ838, 3038/10/1/2, i]