181 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 24 August 1975


Portuguese Timor: Humanitarian Concerns

Following represents Departmental views only.

  1. With evacuation of Portuguese and others possibly to be completed today 24 August we expect attention to shift to security and humanitarian situations on Portuguese Timor. Governor's accounts of the deteriorating situation and appeals for help have been prominently reported and Portuguese Foreign Minister's letter handed to UN Secretary-General23 August refers to Portugal's appeal to Indonesia and Australia 'asking for their support and assistance in the humanitarian tasks which must receive primary emphasis under the present circumstances'.
  2. We think that plight of local population will be in Ministers' minds.
  3. As with evacuation, while not giving the Indonesians a veto on what we do we should want to approach this question in consultation with them (though not on basis which takes further the process, implicit in the Portuguese Foreign Minister's letter, of establishing us as a party principal).
  4. We are also of course aware that possibilities referred to in the last paragraph of your O.JA13991 are relevant to relief operations.
  5. It occurs to us that visit of Pasquier of ICRC to Jakarta expected for tomorrow may give some scope for useful discussion. In particular we would like to know his reaction to suggestion that, despite its earlier rejection of Portuguese evacuation request, ICRC might organise, administer, or at very least lend its name to a relief operation through which national contributions, both governmental and non-governmental, could be made if practical difficulties of giving of effective assistance in the Timor situation could be overcome.
  6. We would also like you to discuss Pasquier's visit with Indonesians, and try to establish their reaction to a proposition on lines of preceding paragraph.2
  7. Foregoing is exploratory only, and in particular question of available funds, which are as you know very tight, has not yet been discussed with ADAA or Treasury.3

[NAA: Al838, 3038/10/1, xxviii]