107 Critchley to McIntyre

Letter BATAVIA, 18 March 1948

Many thanks for your letter of 26th February [1] and the copies of some of the recent telegrams exchanged with judge Kirby when he was at New York.

Departmental telegram No.64 [2] was received yesterday, and no doubt you had a hand in it. I was most happy to find that departmental views accord so closely to my own. Needless to say, I agree with all the points mentioned. At the same time, it will not be easy for the Committee to capture the initiative. Now that the substantive talks have commenced, it is for the time being impossible. if, however, there is a lack of progress in the discussions, or irreconcilable views develop, it will clearly be necessary for the Committee to take a lead by making suggestions and publicising them. The greatest difficulty will be Dubois, an old Indonesian hand and a close personal friend of Van der Plaas.

He is very pro-Dutch; I am tempted to say the most pro-Dutch American since Billy Foote. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but not much of a one. Moreover, the Americans have established very close contact with the Netherlands delegation, with the result that Scott discusses most matters in detail with them in advance.

While the American policy is obviously to encourage the Netherlands to compromise towards a settlement, this arrangement has serious disadvantages. When Van Zeeland was the confidante of the Netherlands, the Americans provided a further softening influence in the Committee. Now, when important issues are raised in Committee, there is no check. The Americans are usually committed to supporting the Netherlands point of view and the task of Herremans is simple indeed.

Nevertheless, the Americans seem anxious to achieve a political agreement on the Renville principles, and Van Vredenburch has expressed the hope that such an agreement will be achieved within three months. Perhaps he has in mind the need for an agreement before the constitution is revised at The Hague. The possibility that such a revision will not go through seems to be another big question mark on the horizon and it would be useful if we could be kept informed of reports on this issue from The Hague.

The political discussions began today in a reasonably favourable atmosphere. You will have seen from my K.93 that quite a detailed programme has been suggested for the talks. While some of the headings may not be entirely satisfactory, e.g. No.8Future status of the autonomous native states-I believe the publication of this list will have the valuable effect of nailing the Netherlands publicly to the widest possible discussions in the Political Committee.

I agree that the Republicans should show no haste to join the new provisional government and that we should seek, in the Political Committee to ensure a satisfactory general political settlement before we even consider the structure and the participation of the Republic in an interim federal government. Whether this proves practicable or not, we have at least succeeded in ensuring that the first political talks are on the structure of the United States of Indonesia.

Discussions began yesterday in the Economic and Financial Committee. As Chairman of the week, I was able to focus attention on the opening up of trade and communications. Plenty of pushing and shoving will be necessary, but it may be possible to get somewhere on the basis of Article 6 of the Truce Agreement. [3] I have also arranged for the Committee's military representatives to recommend that the directives to the military observers in the field be widened so as to give observers an opportunity to report on such matters as trade restrictions. The Bantam area is a good example of the serious effects the Dutch blockade is having, and I was glad to receive approval for submitting a minority report if necessary on this matter. Only yesterday the Republic applied for permission to ship a large quantity of sugar to Bantam, and I intend to seek an early decision on this question.

Certainly the Republic is far from being beyond help; as telegram 64 states, the election of Wiranatakusumah as head of West Java is a most hopeful sign. My first reactions were that this was a move by the Dutch to counter the recent Chinese resolution' in the Security Council. This view was, I later discovered, supported by editorials in the Republican press. However, it has since become clear that the Dutch were not nearly as happy about the development as they appeared. It will be interesting to see whether the Republic succeeds in having its nominee appointed Prime Minister of the new State. The Republic has nominated an outstanding candidate in Raden Noesoema Atmadja, who is at present Attorney General at Jogjakarta and a most respected citizen of West Java pre-war. If Koesoema Atmadja is appointed, the Republic will control the Cabinet and, in effect, the State itself.

West Java is not the only Dutch headache following the creation of new states. As I have pointed out earlier, East Indonesia is not behaving and there are now indications that East Sumatra is not going as well as the Dutch would like.

According to members of the Committee and the Secretariat, the foreign press boys of Batavia are misbehaving. They have strongly protested to Trygve Lie about the lack of cooperation on publicity from the Committee and the Secretariat, and they have requested that a public relations officer be appointed. The trouble with the press dates back to the first days of the Committee's work in Batavia. The pressmen's excuse for going straight to the Secretary General of the United Nations is that their request to the Committee for greater cooperation made in November last brought no result. Apart from the possibilities that it will provide Russia with ammunition, and perhaps tend to discredit the Committee, I personally find the attack most refreshing and it will certainly help me in the difficult task of endeavouring to keep the Dutch honest and in the open. I intend to do what I can to support the recommendation, which is in fact similar to one I have already made myself to the Secretariat.

Until this week, staffing difficulties have not been as great as I feared. The delay in the start of the substantive talks helped.

With the beginning of these talks, and with Cutts absent in Singapore [5], this week has however been hectic. Nevertheless I am hopeful that, with Cutts' return tomorrow, we shall be able to manage in the future; that is, of course, providing present numbers are maintained. I should like to take this opportunity to warn you that Miss Skidmore, who is a tower of strength on the secretarial side, is due to return to Australia some time in April, and I should be glad if you could bear in mind the need of replacing her with somebody nearly as efficient.

As this is a personal letter, I have sought to avoid raising new issues, but have aimed merely to give you a little additional background on matters already reported. I hope this is of use.

1 Not located.

2 Document 104.

3 See Article 6 of Document 22.

4 See paragraph 6 of Document 96 and Document 97.

5 Cutts had returned to Singapore on 8 March because of his wife's illness.

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