456 Cablegram to Canberra

Wellington, 2 June 1976


Timor: Self-Determination and Integration

Ref 0.WL54551

We are sending by today's bag full text ofMs Stokes' report. Paras 1-6 are largely background-factual. Paras 7-11 are by way of assessment. They read as follows:

  1. '7. My assessment is that the People's Representative Council of East Timor in a serious, business-like and formal way unanimously endorsed integration with Indonesia. But for the outside observer there were two serious flaws in this act of self-determination.
    1. Who were these representatives taking this decision, how had they been elected, and did they indeed represent the wishes of the people of East Timor.
    2. Only one option for future political status, that of integration was ever mentioned.
  2. I was told that in Dili the district election has been on the basis of one man one vote and a journalist told me that in Bacau it had also been on that basis. Elsewhere they had been in accordance with local traditional practice of village elders making the selection. When I asked the Indonesians with us why the Popular Assembly addressed itself to only one option, that of integration, they said that the choice must be seen in the whole context of events in recent months during which the other options of links with Portugal or independence had been discarded by the East Timorese.
  3. In addition, there were disappointing aspects to the day:
    1. On the plane we were given a leaflet entitled 'East Timor' put out by the PGET which inter alia stated that 'The East Timor people are fully behind the Provisional Government in the preparation for full integration of East Timor into the Republic of Indonesia .. .': this prejudgement struck the wrong note.
    2. The Assembly's proceedings were in Portuguese and only parts were translated into English. A Timorese sitting near me provided me at my request with a running commentary in English on the proceedings but this was second best to an official translation.
    3. We did not meet any members of the PGET or the Popular Assembly. There was no press conference.
    4. The street carnival and cheering were over-organised and lacked spontaneity.


  1. From what I could see on the drives to and from the airport Dili is certainly not a war-torn city. There are bullet holes visible on buildings near the harbour but signs of outward damage are small. It gives the impression of being rather empty and many shops are closed. There were few signs of security, just the local militia ensuring that the street gatherings did not get in the way of traffic. I would guess the[re] were not more than a couple of thousand people in the streets.2

The Next Steps

  1. A 50-member delegation from Dili is expected here on 5 June for about 10 days to present the Popular Assembly's petition.3 Then an Indonesian fact-finding parliamentary mission will visit East Timor to verify their wish for integration with Indonesia. It is the present Indonesian intention to invite the diplomatic corps to accompany the parliamentary delegation. This will be an Indonesian invitation, possibly from the Foreign Minister. If NZ were also to observe that step, which could involve visits to districts but would presumably at least provide opportunities for discussion with members of the Popular Assembly we could then build on the 31 May visit and try to establish to what extent the district members do represent local wishes. We could perhaps also encourage the Indonesians to report to the Committee of 24 on what is happening and to give the UN sufficient notice next time an invitation is issued. As New York has pointed out the stumbling block of the UN position on the question of the withdrawal of Indonesian troops may mean that Indonesia will not succeed in getting UN observers but it would be useful if it could be shown that it had tried.'4

[NAA: Al838, 3038/7/1, xiv]