Among the items listed for consideration in the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on 26 February is a statement of the Government's policy on Timor. The agenda for that meeting is very heavy indeed and we suggest that you might seek to have the Timor item taken first. The other items all relate to Papua New Guinea.
- At its earlier meeting on 9 February the Committee had agreed that 'the Minister for Foreign Affairs should prepare for consideration by the Committee, in consultation with the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, a draft statement setting out the Government's policy and including as appropriate a reference to the nature of FRETILIN and the nature of the support it is receiving.'
- We have now prepared the attached draft for your consideration. It includes a relevant section on FRETILIN-pages 6 and 7. We have sought not to be too heavy-handed. But some doubts are cast on FRETILIN's claims to represent the whole of the East Timorese population.
- The draft has been passed to the Departments of Defence and Prime Minister and Cabinet. PM & C have suggested that the descriptive section at the beginning of the statement might include some account of developments before August, the objective being to show the legitimacy of UDT's claim to be a genuine political force alongside FRETILIN. We could add such a section if necessary. But to do so would add to the length of the statement. On balance, we believe it better to leave it out.
- The Department of Defence has not yet commented on the text. However, we felt that we could not delay submitting it to you. We may need to consider Defence comments after receiving your own reactions. As the content of the text does not touch on the responsibilities of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, we have not consulted that Department.
- If it is decided to make the statement—presumably in the House of Representatives—there could be advantages in doing so sooner rather than later. We have in mind in particular that there could be tactical advantages in setting out the Government's own policy in advance of the report of the United Nations Special Representative. That report, when issued, could give rise to awkward policy choices and the Government may wish to await the outcome of the Security Council debate before coming to its own conclusions.1
[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/1/2, iv]