Department of Foreign Affairs News Release

Canberra, 20 January 1978


Relations with Indonesia

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, announced today that the Government had decided to accept East Timor as part of Indonesia.

Mr Peacock said that, like most Australians, the Government deeply regretted that events in East Timor since August 1975 had caused so much human suffering. 'The humanitarian issues arising from the conflict had been and remained a major concern of the Government,' he said.

'The need to direct emergency assistance to the people of East Timor led the Government in 1976 to direct funds through the Indonesian Red Cross for relief work in East Timor. This followed the breakdown of negotiations for access to the territory by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Government has also discussed arrangements with the Indonesian Government for the reunion with their families of Timorese refugees in Australia.' Mr Peacock said that in political terms the events which culminated in the Indonesian Government's decision in late 1975 to intervene in East Timor had created a most difficult and complex problem. He noted that the situation by then had already developed over a period. In referring to the facts as they faced the Government when it came to power in December 1975, Mr Peacock recalled the confused political situation in Portugal in 1974 and that the Portuguese Government had committed itself to decolonisation in East Timor. The policy had never been effectively administered and the resources required had at all times been beyond the Portuguese Government's means and resolve. The consequences of the failure of this policy in East Timor had been tragic. The attempted coup by the UDT, the subsequent armed takeover by FRETILIN and the ensuing military and political confusion had led directly to the Indonesian decision to intervene.

The Minister said: 'That decision and the events that followed continue to attract criticism both here and overseas. These issues are indeed very real and have never been susceptible to ready solution.' The Australian Government had deplored these developments, above all the use of force by Indonesia. 'The Government has made clear publicly its opposition to the Indonesian intervention and has made this known to the Indonesian Government,' Mr Peacock said.

'Since November 1975 the Government has made every effort to seek a peaceful solution of the problem. In this it has espoused neither the ambitions of any particular East Timorese political movement nor the position of the Indonesian Government. Movement for international intervention whether by the United Nations or other countries has never gained the required support. Since November 1975 the Indonesian Government has continued to extend its administrative control over the territory of East Timor. This control is effective and covers all major administrative centres of the territory.'

In conclusion Mr Peacock noted that the future progress of family reunion and the rehabilitation of Timor were important ingredients in a practical contribution to the peace of the area. He emphasised that in order to pursue these objectives Australia will need to continue to deal directly with the Indonesian Government as the authority in effective control.

'This is a reality with which we must come to terms', Mr Peacock said.

'Accordingly, the Government has decided that although it remains critical of the means by which integration was brought about it would be unrealistic to continue to refuse to recognise de facto that East Timor is part of Indonesia.' 1

[NAA: Al838, 3038/10/1, ANNEX B]