48 Record of Conversation Between Santos and Willesee

Canberra, 16 October 1974

SECRET

EXTRACT

  1. Senator Willesee said that he thought that it would be bad if there were signs of hurry in the resolution of the situation in Portuguese Timor. The problem was Portugal's although Australia and Indonesia were naturally interested in developments there. If,however, a hurried decision was made to integrate Portuguese Timor into Indonesia, it could leave a bad atmosphere, which could easily be avoided.
  2. Dr Almeida Santos agreed, and said that Portugal would do nothing without close consultation with Indonesia and Australia.
  3. He said he thought there was some confusion about the proposed course of events in Portuguese Timor, which he would like to clarify. March 1975 was the date set for elections in Portugal, and this date had no significance for Timor. The date for elections there had not yet been fixed, and depended on the evolution of talks and developments there. The Portuguese would be guided by advice from the Timorese themselves on a suitable date, and this might not be for a year or eighteen months. The leaders in Timor as well as all three parties agreed on the desirability of delay. There are only about 3,000 whites in Portuguese Timor, and a further 3,400 people of mixed race.
  4. Dr Almeida Santos said that the Portuguese were aware that there was a difference between the stated Indonesian position on Portuguese Timor and the true one. Indonesia wanted to annex Portuguese Timor, but did not want it to appear that this was its aim. Portugal understood the rules and would play the game. Senator Willesee said he had spoken to Adam Malik in New York, and had told him of Australia's wish to see any integration cleanly done. Dr Almeida Santos said he did not believe that what Malik had told Soares in New York was the true Indonesian position, and that other members of the Government and influential Indonesians, including Ali Murtopo, had made different declarations. Dr Almeida Santos said that the population of Portuguese Timor did not like what they knew of the labour system in the Indonesian half of the island, and was not at this time prepared to accept the idea of integration with Indonesia. If integration were imposed on them now, it could cause troubles within the next few years.1

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, iv]