412 Massey to Chifley

Ministerial Despatch 4/47 SINGAPORE, 7 November 1947


The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Indonesia (Hadji Agus Salim) passed through Singapore last week on his way back to Jogjakarta from the United Nations Security Council meeting at Lake Success. During his stay in Singapore, the Hadji remained rather in the background, but he called on various public figures here and granted an interview to the press.

2. According to a statement put out by his own Indonesian News Service, the Hadji expressed himself strongly on the current Indonesian situation. As you will see from Volume I, No.95 [1], forwarded to you under separate cover, he states that the full recognition of the Republic is the one issue on which his Government will now not compromise. On the other hand, he is probably echoing the present mood of his Government in expressing a definite desire for compromise on other questions, such as the withdrawal of troops, and the settlement of property claims arising from estates and other enterprises in Indonesia belonging to Netherlands and foreign nationals. Dr. Oetoyo has for some time now advocated the so-called 'joint gendarmerie'.

3. I had over an hour's conversation with Hadji Agus Salim prior to his departure from Singapore. He possesses a cultivated and worldly personality and, with his wispy beard, reminds one of the traditional Chinese mandarin. He struck me as a rather garrulous old gentleman, prone to lose himself somewhat in anecdote, but extremely active-minded and shrewd on major political questions.

4. After the usual urbanities, in which he expressed great personal pleasure at the appointment of Judge Kirby to represent Australia on the Commi[ttee] of Three, and emphasised his Government's eagerness to secure Australian assistance in the reconstruction and development of Indonesia, he raised the major issue of the Indonesian settlement. I was impressed by the realism, and at the same time the sincerity, with which he approached this question, and I gained the definite impression from him that, while adamant on the principle of de jure independence for Indonesia, he would not reject some compromise solution short of what Indonesian publicists have been claiming in statements in the press and over Jogjakarta radio in recent months.

5. In fact, both from Hadji Agus Salim and Dr. Oetoyo, I have discerned an impression of growing tiredness, and a conclusion that half a loaf would be better than no bread. It is, of course, impossible to say to what extent the readiness to compromise of these men, living abroad away from their own Government and possibly out of touch with political realities in their own country, represents the attitude of the Republican Government.

6. The influence of Dr. Sjahrir with this group is very powerful, and the Foreign Minister showed great anxiety that Sjahrir should meet the Commi[ttee] at an early date, in order to put the case for the Republic before its members informally, prior to embarking officially on mediation between the two Governments. As reported in my telegram No.594 [2], Dr. Sjahrir has not yet arrived in Singapore and there is no exact information available in Indonesian Government circles as to when he may be expected. I shall of course ensure that he is given every facility by this office when he does arrive, and convey to him the message of welcome to Australia indicated in your telegram No.562. [3]

7. Hadji Agus Salim also discussed, with some wit, the probable venue of the negotiations, and said that there was much to be said for holding them in Holland itself. He said that the Netherlands public was, on the whole, sympathetic towards the Indonesian cause, and to hold the negotiations in Holland would afford an opportunity to present the Republic's case objectively to the Dutch people, and even to bring the pressure of public opinion to bear on the Netherlands Government.

1 Not printed.

2 Dispatched on 31 October in response to Document 395.

3 Document 395.

[AA:A4231/2, 1947 SINGAPORE]