488 Hood to Burton

Memorandum NEW YORK, 13 September 1949



Dr Palar, the Indonesian representative in New York, called on the Mission this morning and discussed the question of Dutch New Guinea in a friendly and very frank way. The points he made however have some most disturbing aspects as regards our relations with South East Asia and I feel that I should report in detail this conversation at once.

2. As the Department knows, the question of Dutch New Guinea is causing considerable difficulty at the round table conference in The Hague. For the first time the Dutch are admitting the possibility that the inhabitants of Dutch New Guinea have some political consciousness and are capable of expressing a useful opinion on the form of government which they desire. This admission has been made because the Dutch have persuaded representatives of the people in Dutch New Guinea, who are Papuans, to support a government by the Dutch rather than by the United States of Indonesia. The East Indonesian representatives are strongly opposed to this Dutch manoeuvre and desire the incorporation of Dutch New Guinea in the United States of Indonesia as part, probably, of East Indonesia. The Republic is supporting East Indonesia in this matter.

3. Palar claims that the political development of these peoples has, in fact, been very rapid over the last few years and that the existence of western political ideas is much more widespread than usually known. The Republicans could not, under any circumstances, support the setting-up in Dutch New Guinea of what would amount to no more than a new Dutch colony in South East Asia. Should the Dutch succeed at The Hague with their present proposals for Dutch New Guinea, the Republic would support a freedom movement which, in Palar's view, would be inevitable amongst the people. This support, Palar frankly stated, would amount to more than moral support and would comprise the sending of Republic agents to Dutch New Guinea even if the Republican Government did not admit officially that it had taken any such action.

4. Clearly a serious problem of Australian-Indonesian relations would, in these circumstances, immediately arise. A freedom movement in Dutch New Guinea having a nationalist racial basis would inevitably spread to areas at present under Australian control. Palar went so far as to hint that any such freedom movement would indeed take the form of independence for the whole of New Guinea from the outset.

5. Palar, who has nothing but the friendliest feelings for Australia, was obviously anxious to give us the earliest possible warning of the emergence of this serious problem even although I imagine it would have serious personal repercussions for him if it became known that he was trying to assist us in this way. He frankly discussed the racial aspects of the matter including the problem of White Australia which he claims is well comprehended by Indonesian politicians but totally misunderstood by the Indonesian people as a whole. While our policy in Indonesia has made many friends for us in South East Asia it is also true that we still have very many enemies.

6. It is Palar's view that our policy as regards South East Asia to date has done more than that of any other country in the world to enable East and West to meet on a basis of reasonableness rather than on a basis of instinctive antagonism. Much as he would personally desire it Palar feels that the racial aspects cannot possibly be divorced from any problem of East-West relations. It is interesting that he suggested Israel in the Middle East as the other country having a role similar to that of Australia in bringing widely differing peoples to some common understanding. He also said that New Zealand would be forced by the pressure of circumstances to face up to this problem in the near future.

7. He suggests that the problem of New Guinea would only become the more explosive if the Dutch proposals succeed at the moment as in those circumstances a repressed nationalist group probably with ambitions in relation to the whole of New Guinea, would inevitably secure the full support of the Republic of Indonesia and would present the most complex problems for ourselves. It is Palar's view that Australia must face this problem and tackle it as soon as possible.

8. While expressing the greatest interest in what he had to say I expressed no opinions on this matter. It seems to me fairly clear that Palar found, when he returned to Indonesia, considerable and unexpected hostility towards us on racial grounds and that any gratitude which the Republic may feel, as it certainly does, for our policy in relation to their struggle with the Dutch might very soon be forgotten in any conflict of interests arising in Dutch New Guinea. It is my own view that a great deal of subsequent trouble and misunderstanding might be overcome at a later stage (also the time may not be far off) if it were possible for Australia to make her policy and intentions in relation to Australia and New Guinea perfectly clear at this time.

[AA : A1838, 309/1/1, i]