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189 Department of External Affairs to Legation in The Hague and Ballard

Cablegrams 104, 120 CANBERRA, 1 November 1946



The Government desires that all Indonesians now in Australia should be repatriated in H.M.A.S. MANOORA due to leave Brisbane not later than 18th November.

2. The Indonesians concerned fall into two categories, viz:-

(a) 570 free Indonesians, 200 of whom were discharged from N.E.I.

military custody and demobilised from the N.E.I. Army as recently as October 18th. There is no objection by N.E.I. authorities here to the repatriation of this group;

(b) approximately 300 Indonesians still detained in an N.E.I.

Prison Camp at Casino, N.S.W., where, according to the Netherlands Minister [1], they are serving sentences imposed by Royal Netherlands Indies Court Martial for refusal to obey orders.

N.E.I. authorities here will not agree to release and repatriation but have asked us to ship them to Moratai. The government cannot agree to this. So long after the cessation of hostilities it is not possible to tolerate the holding of seemingly political prisoners in a foreign camp in Australia. The Netherlands Minister has declined as unacceptable an offer made by the Australian Government to keep the Indonesians at Casino in an open camp pending their repatriation.

3. We have requested the Netherlands Legation to take up with the Netherlands and N.E.I. Governments, as a matter of urgency, the question of liberating from the Casino Camp and demobilising from the N.E.I. Army all Indonesians now undergoing detention with a view to their repatriation as free men in the MANOORA on the 18th November. We draw attention to- (a) the spirit in which truce negotiations are being conducted in Java;

(b) the decision recently reached in Batavia for the exchange of political detainees by the Dutch and Indonesian forces;

(c) the widespread conviction of a large section of the Australian people that the Indonesians detained at Casino are in fact held in custody not for simple disobedience of military orders but for insubordination prompted by political considerations;

(d) the unfortunate wounding and killing by N.E.I. military guards of certain Indonesian inmates of the Casino Camp;

(e) the fact that the continued maintenance of Casino Camp as a foreign detention barracks on Australian soil fourteen months after the end of the war is an obstacle to harmonious Dutch- Australian relations, and (f) the fact that no legal justification for the maintenance of the camp by the Dutch will exist after the termination at a very early date of the National Security Regulations covering the establishment of such camps.

4. Please support immediately our approach to the Netherlands Minister at Canberra along the lines indicated in paragraph 3, emphasising that the Australian Government desires to repatriate in the MANOORA as free men all Indonesians in Australia, including those now undergoing detention at Casino.

5. It seems that the only way of obtaining release of the prisoners is a decision by the Netherlands Government to terminate forthwith their sentences. If this is so, you should press unhesitatingly for such action by the Netherlands. In view of the date of the sailing of the ship, you should emphasize the urgency of this issue. In any case attention is directed to paragraph 3(f).

1 Baron F. C. van Aerssen Beyeren van Voshol, Netherlands Minister to Australia.

[AA:A1838/2, 401/3/1/1, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History