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9 Kirby to Evatt and Dunk

Cablegram 147 [BATAVIA], 4 July 1946


Reference murder investigation. [1]

1. From investigations made so far I have been able to ascertain the names of three Indonesians directly, and one indirectly, involved. Sjahrir and his officers have been doing their best to locate these men, but in disorganized state TRI [2] and Interior have not yet been able to do so.

2. It appears from my investigations so far that the two Japanese also involved did (repeat did) commit suicide, and I do not (repeat not) consider this was arranged or instigated.

3. On Sjahrir's return from kidnapping [3] I paid him a visit to offer felicitations on his escape, and he was so obviously anxious for Australian goodwill that I am convinced he has been sincere in his efforts to find and hand over culprits, and also that he will continue to do so.

4. I could not convey accurately to anybody not in this country how difficult it is to put one's hands on any particular Indonesians in the interior. My personal opinion is that one TRI officer concerned will be located soon, but he was not an actual perpetrator. The other men were never under arrest in our sense of the term, and I think they will take some running down. If I could get into the interior with a couple of TRI officers I feel sure I could get some order into their search, but here in Batavia we cannot do much in that regard, and this includes Sjahrir and his civil officers. Of course at present we cannot go beyond the perimeter even with military escorts in strength.

5. However, Sjahrir has agreed to take any particular steps I indicate, and was so despondent about the matter and Indonesian repute in Australian eyes that I thought I would test him by asking if he would be willing to offer a gratuitous but substantial payment of compensation to the relatives of the deceased officers without either awaiting the final result of the investigations or slackening his efforts to locate the perpetrators.

6. Sjahrir said he would only too gladly make such an offer if the Australian Government would accept it, and expressed a wish that if it did the money should go to the relatives in addition to any moneys ordinarily payable by the Australian Government, but said this was purely a personal desire and that this should be for the Australian Government's decision. 7. Sjahrir left for the interior this morning, but left a draft letter and authority for it to be signed if I would receive it, and said he would gladly make any amendments that would make it more acceptable to the Australian Government.

8. The letter, in typical Indonesian English, is addressed to me and reads:-

To His Honor judge Kirby, Australian Mission, Djakarta.

Acting on behalf and by order of Mr. Sutan Sjahrir, Prime Minister of the Indonesian Government, I have the honour to inform you as follows:

Mr. Sjahrir should like to express again his sincere regret and that of the Indonesian Government with the murder of the three Australian officers near Bogor.

He is still doing his utmost to get the Indonesians involved in that murder captured. Conditions have grown so bad, however, that it will cost much time before they will be seized.

Mr. Sjahrir should like to assure you that when the said persons will be seized, the strongest measures will be taken against them, and, if you desire, they will be delivered to the Allied Forces.

He begs for your kindness to forward this to your Government.

He begs you too to forward his condolence with the death of the officers to the relations of the defunct.

Mr. Sjahrir should like to emphasize that the Indonesian Government is most anxious to compensate the relations of the deceased officers, and would be very happy if your Government would accept on their behalf compensation from the Indonesian Government. Mr. Sjahrir is anxious for you to understand that this offer is made with a wish to atone so far as is humanly possible and not in any manner to avoid or delay joint action with you in bringing the criminals to proper justice.

I am, Sir, Yours sincerely,

9. No amount was mentioned but if the idea is acceptable to you I had in mind one thousand pounds sterling or two thousand Australian in each case as an appropriate amount.

10. For your consideration my opinion is that the offer is a sincere one and worthy of acceptance, which would not, I think, in any way lower Australia's dignity or her firm stand in this matter.

11. Could I have instructions please, as if the offer is acceptable details will have to be arranged, draft letter settled, and amount and method of payment fixed. [4]

1 On' 17 April, during an investigation of Japanese war crimes, three Australians from 1st Australian War Crimes Detachment, S.E.A.C., were murdered near Buitenzorg, Java. See Volume IX, Document 196.

2 Tentara Republik Indonesia, the Army of the Republic of Indonesia.

3 On 27 June Sjahrir and several others had been kidnapped by an armed band at Solo while en route to Batavia to resume discussions with Van Meek. They were released on 1 July.

4 Cablegram 71 of 5 July asked for confirmation that no Indonesians had been held under arrest in connection with the murders and advised that the External Affairs Dept had had no opportunity yet to consult Evatt regarding the question of compensation.

[AA:A4355/2, 5/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History