74 Proud to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 73 SINGAPORE, 7 February 1946, 10.45 p.m.



General Political Situation.

I had discussions with Clark Kerr and later with van Mook. I also saw a number of other British and Dutch officials. The whole Indonesian Cabinet at the moment is in Djokjakarta and in any case I felt it would have been undesirable to have established independent contact with the Indonesians at the present stage.

1. Clark Kerr. My discussions with him were mostly confined to matters which I have dealt with in my telegram 71. [1] He emphasized that what he described to me as the 'Side Issues' were subordinate at the moment to the major political issue and asked that the Australian Government should refrain from forcing these matters until the situation had cleared.

On the question of Australian representation he reiterated what he said in the previous interview that I had with him in Singapore.

representative arriving there at the moment might be a case of 'too many cooks'. I told him unofficially that my view was that Australia as a power with vital interests in the area should have these interests recognised in some way. He suggested that the Australian Government might announce that its representative was in close touch with him, and was being kept informed on all discussions.

He would not express himself as optimistic or pessimistic about the outcome of discussions, but said that he had formed a very favourable impression of Sjahrir and thought [it] was mutual. He informed SJahrir that he was going to act as 'broker' and said he had to explain this term to Sjahrir. Clark Kerr said the United Kingdom Government did not like the term 'mediator'.

He said he considered the Dutch proposals [3] extremely reasonable and he had advised van Mook (with whom he gets on well personally) to publish these terms immediately after the first consultations with Sjahrir.

He had not been in Java long enough to form a real appreciation of the situation. As I have already reported he promised to make all information available to me or Brookes.

2. Van Mook. In my telegram 71 I have reported van Mook's very strong feelings on the question of the Australian attitude on the matter of Indonesian repatriation and relief supplies but in spite of this the interview which lasted an hour was personally very friendly. He was inclined to commit himself more than Clark Kerr as to the successful outcome of the discussions and said he felt even if Sjahrir could not get full support and they could not come to a definite agreement the publication of terms would 'be a complete justification of Dutch Colonial policy'. He said they had accepted ultimate right of the Indonesians to self determination, the open acceptance of which as you know from my previous signals has been one of main stumbling blocks. He felt even if terms were not accepted by the Indonesians in toto that there would be such a body [of] opinion in favour of their acceptance that the 'Government' would lose a considerable amount of popular support and that a moderate party would be built up, which would work with the Dutch for implementation of the agreement. He also said he thought that whereas previously time had been on the side of the Indonesians, the situation was now reversed because of the acute economic difficulties with which the Indonesians find themselves involved. In this connection the first effects of famine are already being felt in some of the provinces, and transport and distribution are breaking down. This I confirmed from other sources.

3. Generally speaking, in conversations I had with other people I found the atmosphere less pessimistic than on my previous visit, partly because the Dutch feel themselves in a much stronger position. I also think that they consider they can expect a stronger military policy now that Christison has gone. On the other hand there is no indication that Sjahrir or anyone else has full plenipotentiary powers and in fact there is really no united voice at this moment among the Indonesians. Soekarno's influence is still dominant but he is frightened to commit himself on any matter of negotiation because he is not sure of the support he could get either from the left or extremist elements. Sjahrir's visit is obviously designed to try and get Soekarno to commit himself as far as possible but it is felt in Java that, after terms are presented, Sjahrir will still have to consult again with Soekarno before he can discuss them in detail. You can understand from this that it is very difficult to carry on negotiations with a Government which in fact is not a Government but a collection of individuals united on their main interests but by no means agreed on, the means by which these interests should be achieved. There is in reality no one force sufficiently powerful among the Indonesians to commit itself and be sure of general support.

4. Regarding Australian representation I have already mentioned that I think it is necessary for Brookes or myself to be permanently there and AFNEI [4] have requisitioned a house for us where we can have any conversations we wish. In view of Massey's pending arrival in Singapore it will be necessary for me to spend a considerable amount of time here. I have therefore suggested to you that an additional assistant be sent up to work in Singapore so that I can be completely free to move between here and Batavia as circumstances require it. This additional assistant might well be a member of Massey's staff as he would then be able to get into the picture locally.

I also think that the Government should seriously consider appointing a Consul-General at Batavia as British, Chinese, French and Americans are already represented there. Although there is not a great deal of commercial business at the moment, Australia's future commercial interests could well be safeguarded by such an appointment. He would, with the proper assistance, also be able to report on political matters which will continue to be important for some considerable time to come.

[AA:A1838/2, 403/2/2/2, i]

1 Dispatched 7 February, it conveyed Proud's discussions in Batavia with Clark Kerr and Van Mook about the difficulties with the repatriation of Indonesians and the shipment of relief supplies from Australia.

2 See Document 64.

3 Based on Queen Withelmina's original offer of 6 December 1942 of commonwealth status with Surinam and Curacao, the proposals included the rights of self-determination 'after a given preparatory Period', Indonesian citizenship, an Indonesian parliament and cabinet with autonomy in international affairs subject to Dutch veto, a constitution guaranteeing democratic rights, establishment of a commonwealth cabinet for the Dutch empire, and promotion of Indonesian membership of the United Nations.

4 Allied Forces, Netherlands East Indies.

[2]' He further stated that he thought a Senior Australian