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130 Evatt to Bruce

Cablegram SL4 [1] CANBERRA, 26 February 1943


Your telegram S.36 20th February. Portuguese Timor. [2]

In view of facts of present situation we are entirely at a loss to
understand the attitude of the Portuguese Government. Evacuees
from Portuguese Timor now in Australia total 535, comprising 105
men, 179 women and 252 children. Approximately 400 are natives and
half-castes. The remainder comprise Government officials, first
and second class, and their families, and include eleven Roman
Catholic Fathers and twenty nuns. All are virtually destitute and
are being cared for by the Commonwealth Government. They have been
removed from Timor to prevent their extermination by the enemy and
the Portuguese Government must be made to realise that for
security and military reasons it is quite out of the question to
return any of them.

2. In earlier communications to you we have forwarded for
information of Portuguese Government reports of the kind of
treatment which Portuguese in Timor have suffered at the hands of
the Japanese. [3] In addition it is now learned from messages
received during period 12th to 20th February that a party of about
300 Portuguese including women and children and probably natives
who did not comply with Japanese order of concentration some
months ago are on the South coast of Timor where they are being
attacked by armed natives. Some have already been killed and the
whole party live in fear of the Japanese. They are in urgent need
of food and medical supplies, through lack of which some children
have already died, and are asking for help. At present it is not
possible to evacuate them.

3. We cannot believe that this accumulation of evidence will fail
to convince the Portuguese Government that-
(a) The Portuguese Administration of the Colony has entirely
broken down and is now completely non-existent. To pretend
anything else is farcical.

(b) Portuguese officials and non-officials including women and
children other than those who have been murdered or evacuated are
fugitives from Japanese barbarity.

(c) It is idle to contemplate in present circumstances restoration
of civil authority. Insistence on the return of officials to their
posts can only result in sending them to death.

4. It is imperative that the Portuguese Government face the facts.

At the very least they should accept the proper responsibility for
the care of their nationals which they have so far failed to
discharge either vis-a-vis the Japanese or as regards those
persons evacuated to Australia. Continued failure to meet this
obligation would in our view be not only callous but also
seriously detrimental to Portuguese prestige as the facts can
hardly be concealed to the judgment of world opinion. Further, the
Portuguese Government must expect that, if the present situation
is allowed to continue, the facts and record of their weakness and
evasion in handling their responsibilities in Timor will be placed
before the peace conference when the war settlement of Eastern
Asia questions arise for discussion.

5. Please impress the above considerations strongly on Portuguese
Ambassador. [4] In view of information in your telegram S.32 Eden
should be fully informed of position outlined herein. [5]
Portuguese Government's indication of readiness to invoke armed
assistance against the Japanese to restore evacuated Portuguese
officials (your S.36) is most significant instance yet of growing
Portuguese firmness and should be welcomed by United Nations.

6. See also my immediately following telegram. [6]

1 Sent through the External Affairs Officer in London.

2 The cablegram is on file AA:A816, 19/301/821. It reported that
the Portuguese Govt still insisted that Portuguese officials and
army officers should remain in Timor and that those already
evacuated to Australia should return, if necessary by force of
arms. For earlier correspondence on this subject see cablegrams
SL71 of 16 November 1942 and S160 of 12 December 1942 on file
AA:A2937, Timor (Portuguese), ii.

3 See cablegrams on file AA:A2937, Timor (Portuguese), ii.

4 Bruce reported on 9 March that he had seen the Portuguese
Ambassador (Dr A. R. de Sttau Monteiro) and had 'impressed on him
as strongly as possible the considerations set out in your
telegrams'. On 14 April he commented that: 'Despite facade which
Portuguese Government are trying to keep up I believe they hope
that the S.W.P.A. will soon be in a position to evacuate the 300
Portuguese on the south coast of Timor. I doubt however whether
they themselves are doing anything to alleviate the condition of
these people, e.g., by appealing to the Japanese, or are likely to
do so, although I have put it up specifically to the Ambassador.

'See cablegrams S50 and S70 on file AA:A816, 19/301/821 and
cablegram S69 of 13 April (transmitting the text of a memorandum
given to Bruce by Monteiro) on file AA:M100, April 1943.

5 Dispatched 15 February. On file AA:A816, 19/301/821. It reported
that the Portuguese Govt was concerned at the situation in Timor
but was reluctant to take a stronger line against the Japanese
because of the vulnerability of the Portuguese colony of Macao.

6 See cablegram SL5 on the file cited in note 5. It set out in
detail arrangements made for the care of Portuguese evacuees in

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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