31 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 13 September 1974


Portuguese Timor

Thanks your O.JA4767.1

Sudharmono's views on how the Indonesian attitude towards Portuguese Timor might be described complicate matters for us. We should be grateful for your comments on the following:-

In essence, Sudharmono is saying that the Indonesian public position is that the association of the territory with Indonesia is a course acceptable to the Indonesians, rather than the course favoured by them. The position we took in the background paper, in accordance with the attitude which the Prime Minister expressed to Soeharto, is that the Australian public attitude should be that association of the territory with Indonesia on the basis on an internationally acceptable act of self-determination would be the favoured outcome for Portuguese Timor, rather than simply an acceptable one.

  1. In the light of Sudharmono's advice, it will be necessary for us to consider advising ministers whether we should in public statements go beyond saying that association with Indonesia on the basis of an internationally acceptable act of self-determination is an acceptable outcome from the Australian point of view. The point which concerns us is whether, particularly in the light of the Prime Minister's remarks to Soeharto about Australian public opinion and Portuguese Timor, Australia should take a public position more favourable to the incorporation of Portuguese Timor into Indonesia than the Indonesians themselves are prepared to do. We wonder whether in public expression of Australian views we should not advise Ministers to follow more or less the line of Sudharmono's reported in para 3 of your ref tel mutatis mutandis as follows: 'the Australian Government bases itself on the principles of the United Nations and supports the right of self-determination for all peoples. If the people of Portuguese Timor desire to associate themselves with Indonesia, Australia would accept (or perhaps welcome) their decision. Australia has no territorial ambitions in Portuguese Timor and the wishes of the people of Portuguese Timor would be decisive'.
  2. It is relevant to Sudharmono's views on this question that, while he himself may have restricted his statements publicly in the way he describes, there are other public indications of Indonesia's attitudes which, it seems to us, more accurately describe them. We have in mind the Antara/AFP report referred to in your Telegram O.JA47392 and Michael Richardson's articles of 5 and 9 September in the Age,3 which were based, we believe, on Indonesian briefing. It may be that Australian and international opinion would accept these indications of Indonesian official thinking as being more accurate tha[n] statements along the lines of those Sudharmono has made, which is a factor we should have ourselves to take into account in any descriptions we give of Indonesian thinking.
  3. The background papet4 referred to in our CH110620 has already been issued but in describing Indonesian attitudes we shall take account of Sudharmono's comments in any supplementary briefing which is issued.
  4. You will know that Parliament meets on Tuesday 17 September and that we shall need to clear a line of public commentary on Portuguese Timor before then.

[NAA: A10463, 80111311111, iii]