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Portuguese Timor

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^ / O D A T E

w { 31 October 1975


The following is the text of a statement made in the ■ Senate on 30 October 1975 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee.

The Government has viewed with concern widespread reports i^hat Indonesia is involved in military intervention in Portuguese ^Fimor. The position of the Australian Government is clear. We deplore the fighting in the border areas. We continue to believe .

that a solution to the problems in Portuguese Timor should be sought through peaceful means and free of external intervention. Indonesia has been told of our views in this regard and urged to pursue her interests through diplomatic means. .

If there is one _ray of hope in a gloomy situation, it is the possibility that talks will at last get under way. The Indonesian Foreign Minister has agreed to meet with his Portuguese counterpart in Europe this week. Fretilin and UDT have also signified in recent days their willingness to hold separate talks with the Portuguese. We hope that Apodet i will also agree to talks with the Portuguese, and

that all three parties will reconsider their present refusal to talk to each other.

The Australian Government strongly supports resolution of tie conflict in Portuguese Timor by peaceful means through which the will l|f the people will be expressed. We have made numerous representations to this effect to the Portuguese, to the Indonesians, and to the

representatives of Fretilin who have visited' Australia, J- have very recently instructed the Australian Ambassadors in Lisbon and Jakarta to reiterate to the Portuguese and Indonesian Governments our firm hope that the talks between these two Governments later this week

result in a positive and constructive outcome. Were all the parties to wish it, the Government would be prepared to offer an Australian venue for round-table talks. *

That LUo situation in Portuguese Timor has come to its ’ present pass is, of course, cause for deep regret. It reflects, above all,the immaturity of Timor's own aspiring political leaders, who in less than eichteon months have succeeded in wrecking Portugal's decolonization program, sharply polarizing political opinions through

the territory, and finally plunging the territory into violent civil war. The past eighteen months have turned out to be' a graveyard of all those hopes that the Timorese politicians, representing a small



western-educated elite, would shelve their differences for the sake of the territory at large.

. Nor can the Portuguese escape their .share of the responsi­ bility. - Portugal is the administering power, but it was very much weakness of purpose on the part of the Portuguese administration which . allowed the UDT "show of force" in early August to develop into a probably unintended coup and thus· provoked the Fretilin counter-coup.

It seems that Timor, like Angola, has become part of the debris of the Portuguese revolution. .

From the time of the overthrow of the Gaetano Regime in Lisbon and the subsequent decision of the Portuguese to shed their overseas territories, the Australian Government had hoped that the decolonization process in Portuguese Timor could proceed in an orderly

fashion which allowed the people of the territory to decide their own future. .

' We had hoped that Portugal would remain in control for a period long enough for the political consciousness of the people to develop to the point where there was a substantial measure of agree­ ment regarding the future. ,

The need for orderly progress had also been of paramount importance in view of the interest of the countries of the region, " particularly Indonesia but also Australia and other regional countries, in ensuring that the territory would not emerge in a way which would have an unsettling effect on the region. .

These hopes which the.Government had worked hard to see realized have unhappily not been borne out. Portugal.* s inability, or reluctance to retain control opened the way to a struggle for supre­ macy among a number of essentially immature, rival political factions.

. From this struggle the Fretilin group, aided by the

^ T i m o r e s e Army units and by access to Portuguese arms, emerged as being stronger than its rivals.

• The Australian Government had still hoped - and acted

accordingly - that agreement on the future of tlje territory could have been reached by negotiation between Portugal and the main"contending factions. But the scheduled meeting for 20 September did not take place, at least in part because of the intransigence of Fretilin, which has continued to claim to the United Nations and the world in general

that it is the only authentic and legitimate voice of Portuguese Timor. „ -

Fretilin has since agreed that it will speak to the Portuguese -but not, yet, to the other parties. So has U D T , but UDT too is now attempting to lay down preconditions, while at one stage in their approach to talks the overriding concern of the Portuguese

seemed to be with the fate of the Portuguese prisoners held by UDT.

.. ./3

Fretilin has certainly now said that it continues to recognize . Portuguese sovereignty and the right.of Portugal to preside over the decolonization process. .

It is in this situation of drift, of Fretilin's refusal to accept that UDT or Apodeti have anything further to contribute to the decolonization process, and of Portugal's regrettable inability to reassert its authority in the territory, that we view the various policy pronouncements, newspaper reports and the like from Jakarta

and Timor itself. Were there substance in these reports, the Australian Government would .be extremely disappointed and we have so informed the Indonesian authorities; The Australian Government has urged that Indonesia pursue her interests through diplomatic means. We have told the Indonesians that we" remain opposed to the

use of armed force. We have said that we are firm in the view that the people of Portuguese Timor should be allowed to determine their , own. future. We have urged the Indonesian authorities to reaffirm ■ their own.public commitment to the principle of self-determination

in Portuguese Timor.

· Indonesia can, of course, point to the presence of over 40,000 refugees in her territory, some seven per cent of Portuguese Timor's entire population. She can correctly claim that Fretilin has established its present position of supremacy because it control­

led the Army and not necessarily because it had overwhelming popular support. Indonesia can argue, as.indeed we ourselves have been inclined to argue, that before the recent, troubles UDT was vying with, and possibly exceeding, Fretilin in terms of popular .support. All this is not to excuse Indonesia.' s reported actions but perhaps goes some way towards explaining them. We should not lose sight of

Indonesia's concern about order and stability in Portuguese Timor, which is located in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago. It is necessary that we, the Portuguese and the parties in Timor should recognise the importance of the Indonesian interest in the territory,

just as other countries in the region do. i '

’ No more than Indonesia., can Australia accept any one party's

claim to be the only true representative of: Portuguese Timor. Fretilin ■ may have prevailed over its rivals in the initial round of fighting and skirmishing but it has established no right thereby to speak for all Timorese. These matters should not be settled by force of arms:

what if the Timorese Army had decided to side with U D T , or with Apodeti, or had staged, a purely military coup? Of course, nor cane UDT - or Apodeti claim to speak for the people of Portuguese Timor simply because they are not attempting to demonstrate some military capacity

in conflict with Fretilin. These matters, I repeat, should not be settled by force.

The Australian Government does not pretend to know what the people of Portuguese Timor want = But we do want to have the opport­ unity to say what they want. The need in our view is to get all the parties round the table for talks. The Australian Government is doing what it can to help such talks on their way. '