427 Eaton to Evatt [1]

Ministerial Despatch 9/1947

SECRET BATAVIA, 19 November 1947

I have the honour to state that the main interest in diplomatic circles in Batavia is still confined to the progress of the Committee of Three. The general reaction is that negotiations are very slow and that unless something spectacular develops at an early date the Committee of Three will fizzle out.

I fully realise, however, that the problem is highly complex and that the procrastinating tactics of the Dutch authorities preclude speedy progress and necessitate each step being fully considered in order to obviate a false move.

There is considerable comment regarding the early return of Van Zeeland to Belgium [2], and the trend of thought is that, as he cannot agree with the other two members of the Committee of Three, he is effecting a graceful withdrawal.

The statement of our Prime Minister that it was hoped the work of the Committee of Three would be concluded at the end of November has caused apprehension, particularly in high Republican circles, because of the possible withdrawal of Kirby. [3] I feel that the Dutch authorities regard as impossible negotiations with the Republicans without outside influence and that they regard the chances of successful negotiations, with the assistance of the Committee of Three, as remote. I am of the opinion that the Dutch generally consider that the only solution of the problem is by the use of force, and that a considerable section advocates such action notwithstanding the shattering repercussions which would remove all confidence in the United Nations Organisation from the Eastern world.

There is a strong opinion in diplomatic circles that the mind of the Lieutenant Governor-General (Dr. van Mook) is entirely closed regarding future dealings with the Republicans.

Reliable information has been received that for some time past the Dutch have been prepared, at short notice, to advance to Djokjakarta. Instructions in this regard have now been cancelled;

it is thought by direction from The Hague.

2. The Committee of Three has not called again upon the assistance of the Consular Commission although United States, Australian and Belgian Military Observers are being employed on a Sub-Committee which is handling the military aspects to implement the Security Council resolution dated 1st November 1947.

The position regarding our representation on the Consular Commission after 31st December 1947 (when Australia is no longer a Member of the Security Council) is worthy of consideration. I am of the opinion that a Consular Commission without Australian representation would, except for the British representation, be of no real support to the Republican cause. It would therefore be advantageous for the Commission, as at present constituted, to remain in [existence] [4] until the completion of the task of the Committee of Three. In the above connection, objections can also be envisaged from the Dutch against Australian representation on the Committee of Three after 31st December 1947.

3. The Dutch attitude regarding the repatriation of six Republicans from Australia to Djokjakarta, as arranged between the Australian authorities and the Dutch Legation in Canberra [5], has been extraordinary. When information on this subject was first received by cablegram from Canberra, I interviewed personally Schuurman (Head of the Far Eastern Office) who informed me that he knew I was fully aware of his endeavours to help in such matters and that, although a delicate subject, he did not anticipate difficulties, but requested the names of the Republicans concerned, which at that time were not in my possession. Having obtained and conveyed to Schuurman the names, he informed me that there would be difficulties and that when the R.A.A.F. aircraft landed at Sourabaya from Darwin normal landing routine would be necessary and permission for the onward flight to Djokjakarta could not be guaranteed until after examination by the Immigration authorities.

The R.A.A.F. aircraft arrived at Sourabaya on 12th November and immediately after landing, the repatriates, with their luggage, were taken from the custody of the Captain of the aircraft by the Netherlands East Indies authorities, the aircraft was placed under guard and the crew excluded.

In accordance with advice from our Department a formal protest was lodged. [6] No further developments took place until 17th November 1947, when Schuurman, in an apologetic manner, stated that a mistake had been made due to the Dutch Legation at Canberra furnishing our Department there with incorrect information and supplying faulty papers to the Republicans. He further stated that he would immediately arrange for an aircraft to convey them to Batavia where hotel accommodation at the expense of the Netherlands authorities would be made available, that their papers would be put in order and that they could be transported by air to Djokjakarta as soon as convenient to us.

It is now intended that the repatriates should be taken to Djokjakarta on Saturday 22nd November. [7]

1 Addressed to Evatt in Canberra. Chifley was Acting Minister for External Affairs in Evatt's absence.

2 Van Zeeland planned to leave Batavia on 22 November for consultations with the Belgian Government.

3 See Document 425 and note 2 thereto.

4 The text reads 'abeyance'.

5 See Document 406, note 1.

6 In instructing Eaton to lodge a protest, the Department of External Affairs expressed shock at the Dutch action which was contrary to the assurances of the Netherlands Legation in Canberra that the Indonesian repatriates would not be interfered with. The Dutch action was described in cablegrams sent to the Australian Legation in The Hague as 'dishonest' and 'a serious breach of faith'. Eaton forwarded a written protest to Schuurman on 14 November.

7 The Indonesian repatriates were flown in Eaton's aircraft to Djokjakarta on 23 November.

[AA:A4231/2, 1947 BATAVIA]