206 Cablegram to Canberra

Kuala Lumpur, 2 September 1975


Portuguese Timor

Portuguese Timor

I called on Zaiton (Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) today to explore Malaysian attitudes towards latest developments in Portuguese Timor.

  1. Zaiton began by saying that the Malaysian Government believed that in the long-term interests of the area 'the best solution is for Portuguese Timor to merge with Indonesia'. Although at other points in the conversation he spoke about the desirability of peaceful solutions and an act of self-determination by the people of the colony, I was left with the clear impression that Malaysia saw these principally as steps on the way to Portuguese Timor being incorporated into Indonesia. The final act of self-determination, Zaiton said, might be five years or more away but he believed that in the end the majority of the people of Portuguese Timor would opt for incorporation as the best solution.
  2. It was against this background that over the long weekend Malaysia had received a strong and direct appeal from the Indonesians to participate in a peace-keeping arrangement.

    Until that point they had not expected to be involved directly, but had agreed to the proposal as a practical way for supporting Indonesia in its attempt to re-establish law and order in the area. Malaysian participation would be purely a civilian one. The Indonesians had not asked for military support as they were confident of being able to handle the situation themselves. I pressed Zaiton on whether Malaysia would provide troops if they were asked to do so in the future. Zaiton av oided the question by saying that their forces were at present tightly s[tr]etched with their own security problems. However, he did not exclude it as a possibility particularly, I suspect, if it were desirable to give an added touch of respectability to an Indonesian involvement.

  3. Zaiton said Malaysia as well as Indonesia saw Australia as having an important part to play in settling the problem. He hoped Australia would join the proposed peace-keeping team. Malaysia did not see Australia as having any military role but principally one of administrative and logistic support for the non-military side of the activities. Australia, he said, had already demonstrated its capacity and willingness to help with relief and humanitarian operations. This had been very welcome and Malaysia hoped it could continue as part of a peace-keeping arrangement.
  4. I asked whether Malaysia had given any more thought to an ASEAN initiative as a possible way of inducing Portugal to make some real decision about restoration of law and order. He said Malaysia had thought about this but had put the idea aside for the time being. He added that Portugal had suggested the Philippines as a member of the peace-keeping body but Indonesia had rejected this idea.1 Nor was he sure about the other ASEAN countries at this stage and seemed to believe that an attempt to involve them would certainly mean further delays and possibly other unnecessary complications. Nor did he see any role for a UN-sponsored initiative or peace-keeping committee. He thought that this would run the risk of introducing too many outside interests into the problem and so further complicate it. He believed if the countries immediately interested could look as though they had a solution the UN would be happy to be relieved of the problem.
  5. As I was leaving, Zaiton repeated the point he had made several times in the conversation about Malaysia's wish that Australia participate in the peace-keeping exercise. He thought it in our interests and the interests of the area as a whole that we do so.


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