473 Cablegram to Canberra and Hong Kong

New York, 25 June 1976


Timor: Winspeare's Mission

RefO.CH373176,1 O.CH3731772

Hong Kong: For Minister and Secretary

In considering possible further action in UN, in particular a further approach to Waldheim, I should like to be clear about our recent and current objectives.

  1. I had assumed that our purpose in advocating United Nations participation in supervision or observation of self determination in East Timor was to secure if possible acceptance by the international community of the emerging settlement, or, if we found it necessary to question the basis of the settlement, to do so as part of a United Nations judgement and not in isolation.
  2. What the Secretary-General has done in tabling Winspeare's report (and by timing this before the verification visit organised by the Indonesians on 24 June) is to indicate that he is not able to carry out the role of facilitating a settlement between the 'parties' (a normal Secretary-General role) and that he is not prepared to inquire into or certify the factual situation in East Timor generally. He is no doubt influenced in this by the strong sentiments on the question of Timor of one permanent member of the Security Council, China.
  3. As Jakarta has pointed out there was little likelihood that Fretilin would in fact nominate a specific rendezvous.3 They have in the past [p]referred to allege that the PGET/Indonesians would take military advantage of any revelation of the Fretilin position. I had assumed that in proposing the challenge to Horta to name a site we were mainly seeking to dispose of Winspeare/Waldheim's argument that they had a duty to contact Fretilin and could not visit Timor unless such contact is possible. Our hope, I thought, was that if they could demonstrate that Fretilin had no visible presence they might agree to a visit to check on other aspects of the situation.
  4. I am not sure what we hoped Winspeare would find and report. He would have been reluctant to make assessments of such questions as continued fighting, Fretilin strengths, continued presence of Indonesian forces and other questions relating to the pressures on the people and their ability to express their views freely. Wmspeare, in making a report, would continue to be guided by his desire not to draw too much fire from China and others. I do not believe that we could ever expect more than bland, largely insubstantial reports from Winspeare (and Waldheim).
  5. There was a hope, however, that Wmspeare might, at least indirectly, throw some objective light on the claim of the Fretilin to control 80 percent of East Timor and to have the support of masses of the people.
  6. There does not seem to be much likelihood that Waldheim would react other than negatively to the message which you have proposed the Minister send to the Secretary-General. Waldheim could easily duck the issue by saying that the question of further action is now in the hands of the Security Council and that he could not, immediately after the publication of the second report, attempt to resume activity without the further endorsement of the Security Council. If your intention is to evidence our effort to seek UN involvement in the territory it would be sufficient for a letter from myself to be sent to Waldheim, to be distributed as a Security Council document. In this letter I could make reference to our various suggestions relating to the return of the Special Representative to East Timor. We might also wait a few days until we can study information froin participants in the visit of 24 June before deciding on our next step.
  7. An approach to the Secretary-General could tie in with an Indonesian plan to write to the Secretary-General, putting down on paper the Indonesian offer to facilitate to the fullest extent a further visit of Winspeare. This letter is apparently still in the drafting stages.
  8. My assessment is that the United Nations as a whole now has very little to offer by way of substantive action on East Timor. While Ambassador Salim of Tanzania and the Missions of Benin and China have indicated to us that they expect Council consideration of the second Winspeare report, they have not done so with any sense of urgency, and all have admitted that there is nothing of substance the Security Council can do. They will no doubt be critical of Indonesia when Timor is debated in the Security Council, the Committee of 24 and the General Assembly, but we do not see any concrete proposals coming from any of these bodies.
  9. Australia is in fact one of the countries which has been most active on the question of Timor in New York. We have been putting constructive proposals before the relevant UN bodies since this matter became a matter of controversy in the UN last year. The government will no doubt wish this mission to participate in the debates that are foreshadowed in the Security Council, in the Committee of 24 and in UNGA 31, but I do not feel that we need play a leading role, unless of course some new possibility for an initiative emerges.4


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