50 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 21 October 1974


Portuguese Timor

We spoke to Harry Tjan this morning about Ali Murtopo's visit to Lisbon, about which Ali reported to the President today.

  1. Ali spoke with Campinos, Soares, Gomes, Gonsalves and Santos.1 From each of these Ali received assurances of understanding of Indonesia's position and indications that they regarded independence for Portuguese Timor as unviable and that Portugal did not wish to continue its rule in the territory. President Gomes told Ali Murtopo that independence was 'unrealistic' and that to continue the Portuguese umbrella over Portuguese Timor would be inconsistent with their policy of decolonisation. Each of the Ministers with whom Ali Murtopo spoke stressed the importance of closer relations between Portugal and Indonesia, particularly in Portuguese Timor itself. It was agreed in principle to re-open relations.
  2. Campinos observed that Timor was itself an Indonesian word and spoke of Indonesia's 'historical rights' to the territory. He asked for Indonesian cooperation in Portugal's efforts at decolonisation, particularly in Portuguese Timor. Gonsalves assured Ali that Portugal would ensure stability and order in Portuguese Timor until its future had been decided. Santos['s deputy] spoke of the need for cooperation on the ground in Portuguese Timor and it is interesting that Major Martello, the Junta's representative in Portuguese Timor, was present at this meeting. (Tjan stressed the sensitivity of this piece of information, which the Portuguese had asked the Indonesians to ensure not be made public.)
  3. As they themselves note, the Indonesians did not receive any outright assurance from the Portuguese that the latter themselves favour the incorporation of Portuguese Timor into Indonesia. This emerged only by implication from the fact that Portugal was not anxious to continue its administration of the territory and that they regarded independence as unrealistic. (Ali Murtopo's report, which goes into considerable detail, does not suggest the degree of misunderstanding between the Portuguese and Indonesians suggested in Lisbon's O.LB462.)2
  4. On Santos' visit to Jakarta last week, Tjan said that the President, Panggabean and Malik had all played down Indonesia's interests and concentrated instead on listening to what Santos had to say. The Indonesians were apparently concerned about the possibility that Portuguese thinking might have changed since the resignation of General Spinola. Cooper's conversation with Campinos (O.LB439),3 about which we told Tjan in general terms, appears to have had an important influence on Indonesia's attitude. But the talks with Santos and Ali's talks in Lisbon do not appear to bear out the suggestion that the Portuguese have changed their minds or that they were never in agreement with the Indonesians in the first place. As the Indonesians now see it, the Portuguese regard the incorporation of Portuguese Timor into Indonesia as the most sensible solution, provided that this genuinely expresses the wishes of the people in Timor itself. This falls short of collusion in assuring the outcome, as at one stage appeared to be the case, but the Portuguese are anxious for Indonesian cooperation in developing Portuguese Timor economically.4
  5. Ali returned from Lisbon only last night, having stopped over in Tehran and Bangkok. It seems that his principal purpose in Tehran was to explore the possibility that Iran might take over Japanese interests in the Asahan Project. This was discussed in general terms with the Shah during his recent visit to Indonesia.

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