74 Letter from Joseph to Cooper

Canberra, 29 January 1975


In Graham Feakes' absence, I thought I should drop you a line on the question of Portuguese Timor.

It seems that developments there could be picking up in pace, although one cannot help wondering whether the latest alliance between Fretilin and UDT will hang together. We have also now received your telegram LB 667, which suggests that Governor Pires, at least, remains firm on the need for an eventual plebiscite or election in Portuguese Timor. You will know- our CH 1667091 -that this is something preoccupying us in Canberra.

The purpose of this note is to underline our continuing need for readings from Lisbon on the Portuguese Timor situation. Apart from what your contacts might be able to tell us about the position in Timor itself, we have always had a nagging concern that the outcome there could be effectively pre-empted by developments in Portugal. The burden of empire is clearly closing in on the Portuguese; as you have noted on earlier occasions, whatever their present intentions, pressures could quickly build up in Lisbon to divest itself of its remaining colonial responsibilities, come what may. Apart from this, one cannot but be disturbed by the recent communist successes inside Portugal-the new trade union law and, now, the left wing demonstrations which forced the Popular Democrats to abandon their party convention in Oporto. You can bet your shirt on it that all this has registered in Jakarta with Ali Murtopo and his group from the Centre for Strategic Studies.

At today's FAS meeting, the Secretary expressed concern about Portuguese Timor. It was he who was keen that we should accelerate plans for Mr Taylor's forthcoming visit to Portuguese Timor. He also felt that we should be trying to tap Portuguese sources of information on a more regular basis, including not only the Foreign Ministry in Lisbon, but, if this were possible, members of the AFM as well. I pointed out the possible difficulties of engaging the Portuguese on a matter which inevitably must fall lower in their priorities than the still monumental problems of extricating themselves from Africa. Gordon Jockel, however, demurred. He felt that the Indonesian aspect of the Timor situation would weigh very heavily in Lisbon.

In any event, you clearly have a keen readership audience in Canberra for reporting on Portuguese Timor. This is background to our requests in memorandum 532 and telegram CH166709.

I should not conclude without adding this Division's appreciation for a number of your recent despatches. Those entitled 'Who Governs Portugal' and 'The Decolonisation of Portugal's Empire' were particularly helpful to us in improving our comprehension of developments in Portugal. Under arrangements agreed with the Indonesians during the official discussions in Jakarta last October, our Embassy in Jakarta has passed copies of these two despatches on a personal basis to Harry Tjan of the Centre for Strategic Studies.

[NAA: Al0005, 202/1/3, v]