72 Memorandum to Canberra

New York, 15 January 1975

CONFIDENTIAL

EXTRACT

29 UNGA: Fourth Committee: Question of Territories Under Portuguese Domination (Item 66)

  1. The Portuguese territories were also dealt with in the Plenary debate on decolonisation which commenced later than usual this year on 3 December 1974. The Portuguese Minister for Inter-Territorial Co-ordination, Dr Almeida Santos, participated at the opening of the debate, using it to make a special plea for financial assistance for Mozambique and for the other territories as they reached independence.
    [matter omitted]
  2. He finally referred to Timor as being an exceptional example of a freely accepted Portuguese presence whose continuity was still sincerely desired by a majority of the population. He forecast that there would 'in all likelihood' be a referendum towards the middle of 1975 to determine the actual will, freely expressed, of the people of Timor, and promised that Portugal would scrupulously respect the results. Three currents of opinion could be discerned favouring respectively the continuity of the Portuguese presence, integration into Indonesia, and total and immediate independence. But Timor was far from economic and financial self-sufficiency, and considering its underdeveloped conditions, 'it will be realised that total and immediate independence is a dream'. In 1974 Portugal had contributed nearly $12 million to the Territory's economy, and believed it would have to increase that contribution. In seeking a political emancipation of the Territory that did not threaten the stability of that geographic region (a factor of express importance to Australia and Indonesia), it would be necessary to think in terms of a collective effort to promote the development of the Territory to economic self-sufficiency. Instead of mere subsidies what was required were sound investments to produce wealth. 'This is a task', Almeida Santos concluded, 'which my country, limited by its means and by distance, cannot undertake alone'.
  3. In our view this statement on Timor (reported by cable) was a most significant one - indicating publicly Portugal's willingness to close the door on independence and to stay on in the Territory keeping open the option of integration with Indonesia provided the Timorese did not object, and Indonesia and Australia were prepared to help foot the bill.

P.C.REID

Second Secretary

[NAA: Al838, 906/30/14/3, i]