76 Eaton to Evatt

Ministerial Dispatch 4/1948 BATAVIA, 18 February 1948


I have the honour to report that since the formation of the Republican Presidential Cabinet the political situation at Djokjakarta, according to the information I have from Dr. Tamzil the former Vice Foreign Minister, remains fairly stable, although the presidential character of the new Cabinet is not popular but tolerated as a temporary measure. [1] There is talk of the formation of a new socialist party but on the other hand the various political factions appear to be supporting, at least temporarily, the new Cabinet. Sutan Sjahrir, who is still in Sumatra, recently voiced an appeal for solidarity, and in some quarters there is still hope that both Sjahrir and Sjarifoeddin will join up with the Republican Cabinet.

2. The alleged press report issued at Lake Success by the Committee of Good Offices [2] caused a sensation in Dutch circles and was the probable reason for Jhr. van Vredenburch proceeding post-haste to The Hague. The report was well received by the Republicans. The communique [3] issued by the Netherlands East Indies authorities with regard to the report has now been revoked.

3. Sir Francis Shepherd visited me yesterday and informed me that his Govern-ment was worried with regard to the Dutch attitude towards the arrival of the observer officers, the communique issued regarding the Lake Success press conference, the Dutch attitude with reference to the formation of the new Interim Government, and the possible non-inclusion of fair Republican representation in accordance with the political principles accepted in the 'Renville' Agreement. The British Consul-General told me that his Government might have to take some action in the matter.

4. Talks between the Dutch and Republican delegations are at a standstill and I consider will only be resumed when and how the Dutch authorities wish. Hatta wrote to Van Mook on 9th February stating his Government's readiness to co-operate in the formation of an Interim Government and asking that the discussions concerning this matter might soon commence. However, I understand that in his reply Van Mook merely quoted the second of the six political points of the 'Renville' Agreement [4], expressing his confidence that the Republic would be offered 'fair representation' and stated that he had referred Hatta's letter to the Netherlands delegation to the Committee of Good Offices. It now seems quite possible that the formation of the new Interim Government will be pushed ahead without Republican participation or general political negotiations being re-opened. My opinion is that the Netherlands East Indies authorities have found it so much easier than they originally anticipated to gain their many points in the recent talks that they are now inclined to overplay their hand.

5. Generally speaking, the truce arrangements have gone extremely well, and the fact that over 25,000 Republican soldiers have reported to various centres in Dutchheld territory and have been repatriated without any major incident has greatly surprised the Dutch.

6. Eight Australian observer officers arrived on 15th February and six more are due on 18th February. [5] It is not yet clear whether or not the R.A.A.F. aeroplane is to remain in Batavia, and I wish to again stress its urgent need by the Committee of Good Offices.

7. Yesterday I had a long talk with the Lieutenant Governor- General, Dr. van Mook, and he assured me that there was no question of any blame being attributed to the British or ourselves with regard to-the despatch of observers without the approval of the Netherlands authorities but that it was the fault of the Committee of Good Offices in procedure, which at the time could not be overlooked.

8. The question of the shipping ban was discussed. There is no question but that this is a thorn in the Dutch side. His Excellency described the position as fantastic and said it was developing into a cancer in respect of the relations between the two countries. He said he was positive that it would react unfavourably against Australia in the future. He also stated that the ban might also affect future proposed reciprocal air services between Australia and the Netherlands on account of possible refuelling difficulties for Dutch aircraft. I asked His Excellency his opinion as to the possibility of officially re-opening the shipping question through the political delegations and Dr. van Mook made it quite clear that here was no intention of the Netherlands Indies Government to re-open the question-his actual words were 'To go cap in hand'-but that he did hope it would be re-opened by the Australian Government. The talk, which was at the Palace and attended by Mr. Eschauzier of the Far Eastern Office, was informal, frank and made in a pleasant spirit.

1 A 'Presidential cabinet' was directly responsible only to the President. However, it was also indirectly responsible to the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) and its agent, the Working Committee. See George McTurnan Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, Cornell University Press, New York, 1952, p.231.

2 See Document 63 and note 2 thereto.

3 See note 2 to Document 65.

4 i.e. Principle 2 of Document 24.

5 The eight military assistants listed in note 5 to Document 56 arrived in Batavia on 15 February. The six military assistants who arrived in Batavia on 18 February were; Captain J.A. Hammond, Captain J.R. Baird, Captain D.J.F. Buckingham, Captain J.L.

Denholm, Squadron Leader R.J. Fairbank, and Flight Lieutenant K.A.S. Mann.

[AA:A1838, 854/10/4/2, iv]