406 Eaton to Burton

Letter BATAVIA, 6 November 1947

Yesterday I had quite a long personal off the record talk with Jonkheer H.F.L.K. van Vredenburch, Director of the Political Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This man is thought to be one of the most liberal minded men of the Dutch. The conversation was very interesting and he told me quite definitely that since his arrival from Holland (approximately three weeks ago) he had completely changed his mind regarding the Indonesian dispute and feels without doubt that the Dutch in their present manner can clear the whole problem up themselves within a few months, although he thinks too the Committee of Good Offices will be able to assist. He confirmed my view that the Dutch attitude has completely hardened on account of the proceedings in the Security Council.

I think Judge Kirby and the Committee of Three are going to have a very hard task and will soon be up against a blank wall which will result in a show down and will require ruthless action to get over. Vredenburch told me that the Dutch would not give away one inch of the territory they now occupy as regards any arrangements regarding the cease fire order, but they would permit an honourable withdrawal of Republican forces from Dutch claimed territory. Withdrawal of troops of both sides and the establishment of a Joint Police Force in the disputed territory, in my opinion the only real solution, will also not be considered by the Dutch at this juncture.

Judge Kirby arrived back this day from Djokjakarta and I have not had much chance to talk with him, but everything seems quite satisfactory between the Committee of Three and the Republican authorities.

My aeroplane leaves tomorrow morning with this letter for Darwin.

I realise the probably difficult position regarding the Indonesian repatriates and, although Schuurman originally told me that no difficulties would be involved, this morning he said there was a difficulty and that until they got full information concerning the Indonesians concerned no permission could be given. [1] However, the aeroplane has gone to Darwin and I will inform the Department as soon as I get the decision from the Dutch authorities. In any case, the aeroplane should go there to pick up any Military Observer Officers and possibly to change a cylinder of one of the engines. Kirby agrees with me that it is difficult to ask favours of the Dutch at this juncture and the question of foregoing the normal routine inspection of an aircraft coming into the country from outside is a delicate one. It should also be remembered that by virtue of the PICAO [2] Conference it is incumbent upon all aircraft flying to Java to land at either Sourabaya or Batavia.

I wonder what you will think of a suggestion that our Minister, Dr. Evatt, if he is returning from England [3] by his own special aircraft, calls in at Batavia to see our Consulate and for perhaps some informal discussions with the Dutch. I feel it might do some good. The idea, of course, has not been mentioned to anyone. If he has his own special aircraft, he might make an excuse to come here by bringing my wife from London, otherwise she is due to come here by the Dutch ship Willem Ruys, leaving Southampton on 3rd December.

The Consular Commission is going again, but the British, Chinese and French members are a bit chary regarding asking their Governments for Military Observer Officers until they know the requirements of the Committee of Three. They seem anxious to avoid being concerned in any possible political complications. In any case, I am looking forward to a fairly busy time and hope to receive information regarding the proposed new staff for the Consulate-General.

[matter omitted]


I feel that I should let you know what I have written [is] for your own background knowledge. One other point is that I consider it quite probable the Dutch may present in the future a 'fait accompli' by establishing a Federal Government of the United States of Indonesia from the various Governments they have already set up, or will set up. I have no definite grounds for thinking this but I consider it is a great possibility.

1 On 31 October, the Department of External Affairs had informed Eaton that it had been decided to repatriate a small number of Indonesians from Australia by air to Republican territory. Eaton advised in subsequent exchanges that it would be necessary to fly the repatriates via Sourabaya and the Department accepted that the agreement of the Dutch authorities would have to be obtained. On 7 November, Eaton formally sought permission from Schuurman to allow the repatriation of six Indonesian nationals including Bondan (the author of Document 133) and the President of the Central Committee of Indonesian independence, Slamet. Schuurman replied on 8 November that there was no objection to the re-entry of the Indonesians into the NEI, but a decision as to onward travel to Djokjakarta could only be made after their arrival at Sourabaya.

The Department of External Affairs also sought and received 'explicit verbal assurances' from the Netherlands Legation in Canberra that the repatriates would not be subjected to any Dutch interference.

2 The Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization.

3 Evatt returned to Australia from New York by air via San Francisco and Honolulu.

[AA:A4357/2, 48/252, i]