446 Submission to Peacock

Canberra, 13 May 1976


Timor: Self-Determination Process

The submission1 sent to you ten days ago on this matter (attached) was returned without annotation on the recommendation that Woolcott should not accept an Indonesian invitation to attend a ceremony in Dili at which representatives from the thirteen districts of East Timor will declare themselves on the future of the territory (i.e., they will endorse the stand of the PGET in favour of integration with Indonesia). After that, it is intended that a delegation from the Indonesian Government and Parliament should go to East Timor at the end of June to 'verify' that the East Timorese really do want integration.

Latest Infonnation

  1. The previous submission was put to you because we wished to be prepared for what at the time appeared to be an imminent invitation. It now seems, however, that the Dili meeting of district representatives is likely to be held on 29/30 May. Tjan told our Embassy in Jakarta on 11 May that invitations to attend the meeting would be sent soon to selected journalists, 'ASEAN plus' Embassies in Jakarta, including Australia, and the Committee of Twenty Four. 'Extra efforts' would be made to encourage Winspeare to attend.
  2. On 7 May Malik told Mr Woolcott that his preference would be to invite observers not to the Dili meeting, which would be 'too early', but rather to accompany the delegation from the Indonesian Government and Parliament at the end of June.2 Tjan's later remarks, however, suggest that the original idea of an invitation to observe the Dili meeting may still apply.
  3. In either case we shall soon be confronted with an invitation to observe part of the political process, presented as self-determination, on which the Indonesians and PGET are already embarked.
  4. As to U.N. attitudes, Winspeare had told the Indonesians in New York that he could not attend unless there were 'at least an apparent free choice': a gathering which merely endorsed integration with Indonesia would not do. The Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Twenty Four has just told our Mission there that he felt sure that the Committee would not endorse any purported act of self-determination that did not conform to recognised principles; our impression from the Chairman of the Committee is that he would be most unlikely to recommend acceptance of any invitation to visit Timor so long as Indonesian troops remain there. It appears nevertheless that a formal invitation from the PGET to the Committee of Twenty Four is imminent.

Arguments for Acceptance

  1. I asked Mr Araujo whether I could visit a secure place in East Timor which had not been visited by Winspeare Guicciardi, explaining that there was a widespread opposition in Australia to the veil of secrecy drawn over the situation in East Timor. A visit to a place not seen by Winspeare would enable me to see another part of the situation. Mr Araujo said that I could go where I wanted provided that transport could be arranged.
  2. There is also an argument that we should be prepared to approach all questions relating to Timor with a straight bat, taking everything as it comes: that is, that we should not avoid accepting the invitation (though making it clear that acceptance implies no recognition of Indonesian/PGET claims, present or future), nor should we avoid comment-adversely or favourably, but, in any event, honestly-on the process as observed.
  3. If we were to be represented, it would not necessarily follow that our Ambassador in Jakarta must be the Australian representative. Tjan has told us that 'embassies' rather than 'ambassadors' will be invited. (This seems to reflect an Indonesian view that chances of acceptance would be greater if they cast their net wider.) We could therefore send another officer (the Counsellor or First Secretary) from Jakarta as an observer, showing by this down­-grading that we intended no political endorsement of the act; or we could presumably stretch the invitation further to provide representation from, say, our Mission in New York, or by someone not necessarily currently attached to the Government: Sir Laurence Mcintyre comes to mind. There could be some advantage in this, in that while he would be attending as a Government representative, he is one step removed from the Government, and in his former capacity as Australia's representative at the United Nations established a reputation, widely accepted in Australia, for probity and integrity. In short, the choice of Sir Laurence could be useful in a situation where the Department and our Embassy in Jakarta have been the target for public and political criticism for alleged bias towards Indonesia. Were the Government to accept the Indonesian invitation, and were, of course, the proposal to be acceptable to Sir Laurence himself, I should be inclined to nominate him for consideration for the task.

Arguments against Acceptance

  1. The main argument against Australian participation is that it could be held to imply official connivance or acquiescence in a process which will entail no real or even apparent choice between alternatives, and is therefore bound to fall short of acceptable standards. We assume that it was for this reason that the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of Cabinet was cautious about any Australian association with the eventual 'act of self-determination' when it considered the East Timor situation on 9 February.3 The Government could, of course, accept the Indonesian invitation and then denounce the 'act' as inadequate. But, apart from the immediate problems with the Indonesians which this would cause, it would complicate eventual acceptance of incorporation if we assume this is to be likely-at least without some accompanying statement of reservation or withholding of recognition, as in the case of the Baltic states.4 The advantages now would seem to lie in avoiding an 'eyewitness' commentary at this time on the acceptability of the process. By declining the Indonesian invitation, the Government would have less immediate need to define its views-even though the refusal itself would imply disapproval.
  2. Domestically, it is likely to be a matter of damned if we do and damned if we don't.
    1. If the Government agrees to send a representative, it could be criticised for conniving in a spurious act of self-determination. Moreover, it would be most awkward to attend if both Winspeare and the Committee of Twenty Four had refused to do so.
    2. If the Government does not send a representative, it would be open to the charge of phar[i]saism and washing its hands of the problem, and to the criticism that it had declined the opportunity to bring pressure to bear for a more acceptable process, or at least to expose the hollowness of the proceedings followed. The fact that selected journalists are likely to be invited to East Timor to witness these processes will not help. We can expect considerable publicity in Australia about the matter, no doubt most of it hostile.

Position of other Governments

  1. We have not sought the views of other governments on acceptance of the Indonesian invitation. One difficulty about doing so in advance of developing our own position is that other governments may expect Australia to give some form of lead. The fact of any Australian enquiries and representations on the matter would become known to the Indonesians, perhaps in the form that we are trying to lobby against attendance. We think it fair in any event to assume that most of the ASEAN countries will accept the Indonesian invitation. The Japanese and New Zealand decision is likely to hinge to some extent on our own. The Committee of Twenty Four is unlikely to send a delegation to East Timor as long as Indonesian troops remain, while Winspeare seems anything but anxious to be drawn into rubber stamping a process of ascertainment which he knows will be faulted by important members of the United Nations Security Council.

Conclusions and Recommendations

  1. If the Committee of Twenty Four were attending, we might consider being represented also, whether by Sir Laurence Mcintyre, or at a lower level, by an officer from the Jakarta Embassy or from Canberra, who could make a factual report on what he saw and limit his public comment accordingly. But, especially in the light of the attitude of the Committee and Winspeare, the Department's view is that our best approach is to discourage the whole notion of Australian attendance at or identification with the 'process of self-determination'. We also believe that the sooner this position is conveyed to the Indonesians the better; our objective should be to try to forestall an invitation.
  2. It is recommended that we inform Tjan and others who have canvassed the idea of Australian observation of the 'process of self-determination' that such an invitation would not be welcome.5


[NAA: Al838, 3038/10/1/2, iv]