223 Report by Dalrymple

Darwin, 11 September 1975


Timor-Portuguese Mission

On 9 and 10 September I did not report by telegram on my several conversations with Dr. Santos because the details were being conveyed to the Department by telephone.

Dr. Santos finally got away to Djakarta yesterday evening at about 4.45 p.m. on a RAAF Hercules. It might be worth recording briefly some of the main points of his position as it emerged in several conversations.

[matter omitted]

His suspicion of the Indonesians is considerable, although he seems to understand their interests. He told me several times that he sympathised with what I said to him about Australian/ Indonesian relations and about Indonesia's natural and legitimate concern to avoid the creation of a non-viable unstable mini-state in East Timor. He said that where the Indonesians had made a mistake was in trying to get him to invite them to take over East Timor. That was clumsy and unwise. There were decent and acceptable ways of achieving the result Indonesia wanted while preserving appearances. He wanted to disengage Portugal but he was not prepared to pay the price Indonesia had asked when he was last in Djakarta.

Santos claims to feel that Indonesian tactics have been unwise. He was annoyed when Prof. Mochtar made a public statement about the mission being more interested in Fretilin than in UDT. He told me that he had spent more time and effort trying to contact UDT than he had with Fretilin but Indonesia was deliberately stalling and trying to make it impossible for him to contact UDT in order, as they saw it, to create conditions for their own intervention. The only circumstances in which Indonesia wanted him to talk to UDT was in Atambua or Kupang where there were thousands of UDT people who felt they had been let down by the Portuguese and who would demonstrate against him and where there would be no possibility of real discussion--only an opportunity for the Indonesians to make propaganda and set the scene for their own intervention. (From my contacts with the mission I think they probably have made every effort within their power to contact UDT. Santos sent the Dove for that purpose. Subsequently, they tried to persuade UDT people who came in on the 'highjacked' Caribou1 to go back with messages to the UDT leadership, but the refugees in the end backed out, being fearful for their own safety. The last effort the Portuguese made was to have a letter handed to the captain of a Merpati Nusantara aircraft on a regular commercial flight from Darwin to Kupang on 9 September.)

Santos says the Fretilin are afraid of Indonesia and want to reach a political solution. He believes that the Fretilin leadership will accept completion of the Macau agreement and will co-operate with Portugal, Indonesia and the other parties to this end. I am unable to gauge how far his statements to this effect to me were based on real knowledge and how much they were determined by his own wish to achieve that or his wish that we and the Indonesians believe that that is what will happen. His contact with Fretilin leadership over a very inadequate radio link, and then via Ramos Horta can really hardly have been adequate to establish a clear picture of Fretilin's position.

When he left, Santos seemed fairly optimistic. He said he thought that he could complete his mission within the next 2 weeks. That would suggest that he sees the projected Macau talks on 20 September (assuming they last for 2 or 3 days) as the final stage. He does not of course know whether the parties will accept Macau as a location. A second possibility would be a place in metropolitan Portugal, but not, he said, in Lisbon where they would be surrounded by the press.

Finally, it might be worth adding that my impression from a number of things he said is that Santos intends to propose some form of joint Portuguese, Indonesian and Australian involvement, particularly in the financial field.

[NAA: A1838, 3038/2/1, x]