331 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 7 November 1975


Portuguese Timor: Rome Talks

I called on Adam Malik this afternoon. Djajadiningrat, Alatas and Adenan were with him. Dan accompanied me. On this occasion Malik was relaxed and friendly.

  1. I said that when I had last seen him he had offered to brief me on the Rome talks. Malik said that he would be happy to do this.

[matter omitted]1

  1. Reverting to the United Nations question,2 I said that the issue was of course already before the United Nations. Mozambique among others had shown interest in the subject and it would come before the Fourth Committee later this month. Did not Indonesia believe it would be to her advantage to draft a resolution before others produced theirs? Malik said that the question of United Nations involvement was discussed in Rome at some length. Both sides realised that it could not stop the Fourth Committee from taking up the question. Nor could it stop the Committee of 24 sending a team to Portuguese Timor. In principal, Indonesia and Portugal would have no objection but the safety ofthe United Nations team and its usefulness would have to be considered. Concerning United Nations matters, it was decided that Portugal and Indonesia would consult very closely before any decisions were taken. (Malik did not include Australia in this reference.)
  2. I observed that the Rome talks had apparently gone well. I asked Malik whether Portugal would in fact be able to resume its responsibilities or provide something more than a symbolic presence in Portuguese Timor. Malik replied that Antunes had admitted to him privately that Portugal's authority had greatly diminished. Of course he could not openly say this. It was important for Portugal to be able to say that it was still able to try to reach at least the point where negotiations between the contending parties could be held. Antunes was hopeful that this process might lead to Portugal's effective authority in Portuguese Timor. I said that if Portugal could not reassert its authority, would Portugal ask Indonesia to restore peace and order in Portuguese Timor? Malik did not answer this directly. He said that Indonesia saw logic in Portugal's decision which was to try to get a ceasefire, to try to get the talks going, and to try to get all three parties to agree to recommence the process of decolonisation. But if this failed, Malik said that the two countries would meet again to give another opportunity to Portugal to look for other ways to complete the process of decolonisation.
  3. I asked whether Indonesia believed that Portugal had the ability to get Fretilin to the conference table. Malik said that Antunes had asked Indonesia to help in this respect and Indonesia believed that it could help indirectly by asking the Australian Government to get a message to Fretilin. He said he would be grateful if I would formally convey this request to you. I said that the Government would not want to be regarded as the 'friend of Fretilin'. But Horta visited Australia frequently and we should be able to pass a message to him. Malik said that, in fact, he had Horta in mind when he made the suggestion. It was in the interests of all countries to bring Fretilin to accept the need for talks.
  4. I asked Malik whether he was confident the talks would in fact take place. Malik said that he could not answer this question immediately. Time would tell. He had not yet had the opportunity to speak to UDT and Apodeti leaders but, as had already been announced, he would go 'fairly soon' with General Adenan to the border area to explore the question of talks.
  5. I said I noted that Indonesia had an open mind concerning the venue for the talks. As he knew our Minister had announced recently that Australia would be happy to allow the talks to be held in Australia if all the parties agreed. Malik replied that Macau and Lisbon had been mentioned by the Portuguese side. He had suggested Indonesia (Bali) as a possible venue. I asked Malik whether he had any reservations about a meeting in Australia. He said he did not.
  6. I asked Malik whether he would be willing to say something about how he saw [Australia's present] role in the question of Portuguese Timor. For a variety of reasons, including the geographical location of Darwin, Australia had been drawn into the problem of Portuguese Timor much more than we would have wished. It had been claimed in some quarters that Australia was pro-Fretilin and that we favoured an independent East Timor. As he knew, these claims were not correct. Malik said Indonesia regarded Australia as very important in the Portuguese Timor question because we were 'close neighbours and good friends'. He hoped that Australia and Indonesia would continue to view Portuguese Timor through the perspective of common interests and common objectives. From the beginning, Indonesia had said that she would accept whatever result eventuated in Portuguese Timor. Whoever won, whichever political view was the majority, Indonesia would accept.
  7. The situation of course in Portuguese Timor had changed dramatically since 11 August. Fretilin had acquired arms and achieved its position only as a result of its possession of arms. Fretilin had continued to seek additional arms to consolidate its position. Indonesia asked of Australia only one thing and that was to view the problem of Portuguese Timor in this light. Here was a situation in which Fretilin was trying to invite outside forces and influences into Indonesia's region. This was also not in Australia's interests. There was the current lesson of Angola. If Indonesia and Australia allowed this to happen, a dangerous situation could develop in the future not only for ourselves but for the region. Malik said he hoped that Australia would not view the problem in a limited time frame. It was essential to look to the future in respect of Indonesia-Australia relations.
  8. Malik went on to say that if one wished to be really objective, one had to acknowledge how hollow Fretilin's claim was to be the legitimate nationalist movement in Portuguese Timor. Fretilin, unlike the legitimate nationalist groups in Angola and Mozambique, had literally sprung up overnight. This provided a remarkable contrast to the true East Timorese nationalists such as the Raja of Atsabe who had been a prisoner of the Portuguese for 17 years because of his nationalist attitudes. Malik said that he understood there was some misunderstanding even within the Labor Party about Fretilin, that is, that some Government members seemed to believe that Fretilin was a genuine national liberation movement with deep roots amongst the people. This was simply not so.
  9. I asked Malik whether the outcome of the Rome meeting pointed to a shift of policy by the Indonesian Government. As we understood it, the Indonesian Government favoured the integration of Portuguese Timor with Indonesia. Australian policy had been to accept the integration of Portuguese Timor with Indonesia so long as this reflected the wishes of the majority of the Timorese people. I said to Malik that all the information we had suggested that Indonesia would not in fact accept a de facto Fretilin Government. What if an act of self-determination produced a Fretilin Government? Malik said Indonesia had made it clear to the Portuguese in Rome that Indonesia's first preference was integration with Indonesia but he had prefaced this by saying that the will of the people had to be respected. If Fretilin won the support of the majority of the people, Indonesia would accept this but it could not accept a situation in which Fretilin obtained control through the force of arms.
  10. I said to Malik that for some time it had been suggested to us, both here and in Lisbon, that Portugal had acknowledged that Portuguese Timor's integration with Indonesia would provide the most satisfactory result provided this reflected the wishes of the Timorese people. Malik said that Antunes had also expressed this view to him privately in Rome.
  11. I noted that Malik had said that at least for the time being he saw no role for the UN in this matter. I wondered whether there might not be a role for the ASEAN and some other regional countries to play. Malik said 'not for the moment'. It would be 'difficult' and 'complicated' to bring in the regional countries at least at this stage. In fact, the main resistance to regional involvement came from Portugal itself.

[matter omitted]3


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