358 Statement by Coombs to ECAFE

LAPSTONE, 8 December 1948

Delegates will recall that it was the Australian Delegation which, on the first day of this session, moved for the postponement of this application. We make no apology for having done so. We did it because we believed that postponement might have facilitated an early settlement of this problem or at least not interfered with delicate negotiations which we knew to be in progress. That action was strictly in line with the attitude the Australian Government has taken throughout this dispute. We have an intense, indeed I may say passionate, interest in the solution of this problem by friendly direct negotiations between the parties and to that end the efforts of the Australian Government have been directed from the first day on which we became aware of this dispute. But we must recognise that, so far as this Commission is concerned, there comes a time when a further postponement of a decision amounts to a rejection or a decision against the application of the Republic.

We feel, therefore, that this Commission must now make a judgement on this application in the light of the functions of the Commission. I want to emphasise that we, like the New Zealand Delegation, are not concerned in our attitude on this question before the Commission with the political rights and wrongs of the dispute between the Netherlands Government and the Indonesian Republic; we want to make our decision in the light of the work and the functions of this Commission which is, as you know, an economic commission.

It is essential, we consider, to the work of this Commission that all the constituent peoples within the area should be active participants in its work and should therefore be represented at meetings of the Commission in a way which makes such active participation possible. In the present state of the political dispute in Indonesia it is impossible for all the sections-of the Indonesian peoples to be represented as a whole. They have no common government acceptable to all sections of the Indonesian peoples which could represent them here, therefore acceptance of the proposal of the Netherlands admission alone would leave a section of the Indonesian people unrepresented at this Commission.

The only way by which we can ensure that all sections of the Indonesian people participate in the work of this Commission is to admit the areas which are under the control of governments associated with the government of the Netherlands on the one hand, and on the other hand admit the Republican area under the Republican Government by their own application.

Now, it has been argued that by such a decision we would, in fact, be expressing an opinion and implying a judgement as to the merits of the political question; that, in fact, we cannot make such an admission legally without appearing to pre-judge one of those issues. Well, Mr. Chairman, I am not a lawyer, and my Government is not prejudging this question in any legalistic sense. What we want to do is to make the work of this Commission fully effective and if, for it to be fully effective, this is the only way in which we can have full representation, then we believe that a legalistic point should not be a bar to a decision. At the same time every care should be taken to make it clear that it is not the intention of this Commission to make apolitical decision which it is not within its power or capacity to make and that we are not pre-judging any issues which are before the Security Council or in any other way involved in this dispute.

We wish to emphasise and draw the attention again of the Commission therefore to these facts. First, that the Economic and Social Council has decided that this Commission has authority to deal with applications for Associate Membership in territories within this area. The responsibility has been placed upon us and when it was placed upon us the political circumstances in which we would have to exercise that authority were fully and adequately known to the Economic and Social Council. Secondly, I wish to draw the attention of delegates to the fact that this resolution insists that we make this admission, firstly, without prejudice to the political settlement in Indonesia; that means that if a settlement is reached which makes the double admission of these two sections of Indonesia unnecessary it can be and will be automatically corrected; secondly, that we are doing this without expressing an opinion on any aspects of the Indonesian question under consideration in the Security Council or elsewhere. Now, it may be that is not 'legal', but it seems to me to be fundamentally and amply clear to any intelligent, understanding person who approaches it with the intention of discovering what is the intention and meaning of this Commission.

We are clearly, by this resolution, admitting the two parts of Indonesia separately because we cannot admit them together and because without them we are incomplete. On the other hand it is equally clear that we deliberately and positively and by specific mention abstain from judgement on the political issues involved.

Now if that is not clear then I do not know what could make it clear. Therefore, Mr Chairman, I have gone some length into that question because I believe it is the only objection which has been raised to the action which is proposed here because it does involve, or appears to involve, political judgement.

Before I conclude, Mr. Chairman, I want to refer to one point raised by the delegate for the Netherlands in which he indicated that if this decision were made it would result in part of Indonesia, perhaps a different part, becoming unrepresented on this Commission. I would just like to point out that there is nothing in this resolution which produces that result, there is nothing in any favourable decision of this Commission which would produce such a result. It is not in any way a necessary consequence and I believe therefore that that possibility, if it is a possibility, which I would very much regret, does not arise from the action which is proposed here and therefore we should not take it into account.

[AA:A1838, 403/2/3/8]