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204 Memorandum from Gilchrist to Watt

Jakarta, 30 November 1951

Indonesia and the Colombo Plan

Yesterday the head of the General Affairs Division of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry (Mr. Tjokroadisumarto), accompanied by two of his assistants, called at the Embassy to ask first of all, the specific question: 'Is the course in Port Control which has been offered to Indonesia and other South-East Asian countries a course offered under the Colombo Plan; and if so, what are the implications for Indonesia if an officer is nominated to follow this course?'

2. The answer given by us was that the offer is in the form of an enquiry made by the Commonwealth Government directly to the Indonesian Government, to find out whether the latter is interested in nominating an officer; further, that although the funds for providing this course presumably come out of the Australian contribution to the Colombo Plan, there appear to be no conditions attached to the offer which would imply Indonesia's participation or desired participation in the Colombo Plan. This answer was the best that we have been able to give 'off the cuff' to this and several other similar but less direct enquiries recently asked by Indonesians.

3. Mr. Tjokroadisumarto then asked whether there was any other Australian fund, other than Australia's Colombo Plan contribution, from which technical assistance of this nature could be given to Indonesia. We replied that there had been a Post-UNRRA Educational Relief Grant of about �30,000 (?) made in 1947 to assist educational reconstruction in Indonesia in pursuance of Australia's support of a UNESCO General Conference Resolution, but that we understood that this fund had now been exhausted or almost exhausted. We added our impression that no fund of more than perhaps �1,000 or �2,000 remains for technical assistance to Indonesia from Australia, outside the Colombo Plan contribution.

4. We also informed Mr. Tjokroadisumarto that we understood that out of the �A8,000,000 of the Australian contribution to the Colombo Plan for the year 1951–52, an amount of �A2� million had been earmarked for assistance to South-East Asian countries which, although not at present members of the Colombo Plan, might come into it. We also explained that in the Colombo Plan a distinction is drawn between the major component—the Co-operative Economic Development Programme—and the minor component—the Technical Assistance Programme. Mr. Tjokroadisumarto then asked whether it would be possible for Indonesia to participate in the Technical Assistance Programme without joining the Colombo Plan organisation as a whole. We replied that a definite answer on this point would require consultation with the Australian Government, which would presumably have to consult with India, Pakistan, United Kingdom and other partners in the Colombo Plan organisation. We gave it as our personal impression, however, that participation in the Technical Assistance Programme only appeared to us to be in principle and on the face of it, feasible.

5. Another context in which these questions are now being pressed is that of our liaison in Djakarta with the E.C.A. and U.N. Technical Assistance Missions. An informal arrangement now exists whereby representatives of organisations offering technical assistance to Indonesia are to meet occasionally and discuss common problems. We are being asked at such meetings whether Australia is in a position to provide Indonesia with training material and equipment of a kind which would fit in with the technical assistance programmes of the E.C.A. and U.N.T.A. Missions here; and if so, under what financial provisions, and with what political implications (if any).

6. I took the opportunity of raising those issues in discussion with Mr. Doig when he passed through Djakarta last month on his way to Paris. The time has now come, however, when the Indonesian authorities and the technical assistance missions here want from us a much clearer explanation of the basis of our existing and proposed assistance to Indonesia. Accordingly, it would be appreciated if you would let us have as soon as possible at least an interim answer to some of the questions raised herein. Without a clearer policy directive, we are unable to act decisively here in order to influence the Indonesian Government regarding participation in the forthcoming Colombo Plan Conference in London.

7. Our impression is that the United Kingdom's reiteration of the invitation to attend has not been received with any enthusiasm. The fact that the conference is to be held in London seems to have been a factor in confirming suspicion that the Colombo Plan is a post-war device for maintaining British economic colonialism in a much more subtle form. If India or Pakistan or Ceylon had issued the invitation it would have had a much better reception here. Darmasetiawan, the Indonesian Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs, told the United Kingdom Charge d 'Affaires this week that Cabinet has not yet considered the invitation; Darmasetiawan himself believes that Indonesia will probably agree to be represented at the forthcoming conference by an observer.

8. Incidentally, we were rather surprised that the British Embassy, when issuing the invitation to the Indonesian Government, took no steps to inform us. When I made a rather pointed reference to this omission to the U.K. Charge d'Affaires, he tried to play it down by saying that it was after all, nothing more than a reminder of an existing invitation. I feel however, that once again, the United Kingdom authorities have been rather casual in their methods of consultation. We did not know that the invitation had been actually issued here until we read of it in the press.

9. Your attention is also drawn to the editorial opinion expressed in the Djakarta daily 'Merdeka' of 26th November, 1951, opposing Indonesia's participation in the Colombo Plan. The attached copies of translation of this editorial are taken from the British Embassy's Press Summary for the period 21 - 27th November.

10. The 'Merdeka' editorial reflects a very widespread opinion in Indonesia, where this newspaper's opinions are influential. Worth noting especially are the assertions that:

(a) the aim of the Colombo Plan is in effect the same as that of the United States Point Four Programme, i.e., to contain Communism;

(b) it aims to make Indonesia 'Britain's tool in the cold war' rather than to give disinterested help;

(c) in any case, charity and loans have a bad influence on a sovereign people;

(d) existing plans by Indonesia's leaders make Indonesian participation in the Colombo Plan unnecessary.

11. It seems to us that if the Commonwealth Government strongly desires to persuade Indonesia to participate in the Colombo Plan, active steps will have to be taken to clarify in Indonesian minds the purposes and methods of the Plan. Up till now, no publication in the Indonesian language has yet been issued to explain the objects and principles of the Colombo Plan. The directives to this Embassy as to what line should be taken in explaining the Colombo Plan to the Indonesian people are insufficiently clear; not has this Embassy sufficient information to answer some of the questions which Indonesians are asking. It should be added that Mr. Spender's elucidation of the Colombo Plan in Washington has been published in today's Djakarta press. But Mr. Spender, unfortunately, is not popular in Indonesia.

12. There is one further point which I must put very strongly. It is of very little use for any Australian training authority to seek Indonesian reactions in principle to a potential course of training (i.e. 'if you are interested, we may be able to arrange a course'). Such feelers usually get nowhere. What the Indonesian officials are interested in is specific, concrete, detailed programmes or syllabi. The officials concerned have not been to Australia; they do not comprehend generalisations about Australian standards.

13. Nor does it seem very realistic for training authorities, to insist on matriculation certificates from young people who were under 3� years of Japanese occupation and four years of intermittent revolution. One presumes that an appropriate level of general aptitude and background should be sufficient. There also seems to be an unfortunate disposition in some quarters in Australia to seek to plan perfect training schemes in advance—schemes which will have no failure or wastage. From this end of the correspondence, however, one imagines that a large amount of trial and error is quite inescapable, and that trainees are readier to forgive original errors than to tolerate slowness and rigidity.

[NAA: A l l 604, 704/2/2]

Last Updated: 10 January 2017

Category: International relations

Topic: History