448 Cablegram to Canberra

New York, 14 May 1976


East Timor

We appreciate your inclination against acceptance of an invitation to Australia to observe the 'process of self-determination'.1 However it might make it easier for Australia to decline if a possible UN observation were under consideration.

  1. We feel that we should not rely too much on the Special Representative's observing the process of self-determination in East Timor. As his appointment was requested by the Security Council, Winspeare sees his responsibility in Timor as principally to examine the military situation on the ground. Even if he were able to get to East Timor in time to observe any selection/election of popular representatives in the Territory, it remains to be seen whether he would deal with this aspect in a substantial way in his report. You will be aware that China and Tanzania, among others, believe that the Special Representative should play a limited role in East Timor, and not involve himself in questions relating to self-determination. We would not be surprised if Winspeare, to avoid the question altogether, decided to make his visit to East Timor after the Dili meeting is concluded.
  2. Australian activity to determine whether there were any elements of the Indonesian/ PGET position on self-determination which could be taken up and examined by the Committee of 24 would also seem to coincide with Australian support for a genuine act of self-determination in the Territory. Of course time is short and the longer the Indonesians delay in presenting an invitation to the Committee the less likely it is that there will be points on which the Committee could respond positively to the Indonesians.
  3. However, the Indonesians may already have set the invitation in train. A Committee of 24 rebuff to the Indonesians based on an assumption that the proposed act of self-determination is not worth observing would presumably be regarded by Indonesia as an unfriendly act. But failure by Australia to support a mission of the Committee of 24 might not be understood in Australia. This suggests the need to explore urgently the possibility of even persuading the Indonesians to defer the invitation until they can arrange with the PGET the kind of act of self­-determination which the Committee of 24 could appropriately observe.
  4. We assume that Australia is unlikely to be considered as a possible participant in a visiting mission, should one eventuate, but could certainly make this clear in advance.


[NAA: A 10463, 801/13/11/1, xxii]