110 Critchley to Kirby

Letter BATAVIA, 2 April 1948


On instructions from Van Zeeland, Herremans has asked that the corrigenda [1] to the summary record of the 61st meeting at Kaliurang on January 13th [2] be incorporated in a completely revised summary record. You will recall that the corrigenda include the revision agreed by the original members of the Committee in New York many weeks after the Kaliurang meeting and after the time limit for submitting corrigenda had expired.

Herremans argued that there were so many corrections to be made that it would be difficult to consider them without a new complete document.

I was personally reluctant to agree, partly because the proposal was contrary to our agreed procedure, partly because the issue of a new document with a serial number would destroy the status of the original summary record, and partly because the issue of the new document to the parties would have an unsettling psychological effect on the Republicans. As a compromise, it was eventually agreed that, in order to preserve the status of the original summary record any new record would not be counted as an official document nor given a serial number, but would be prefaced by a short statement explaining its precise nature. I suggested that this statement should make it clear that the new revised record was issued at the request of the Belgian representative. This was unsatisfactory to Herremans and it was therefore agreed that the preface should say that the new record was 'compiled and issued at the request of the original representatives of the Committee of Good Offices in order to facilitate a reading of the record together with the corrigenda', but that the record should not be issued until approval was obtained from each of the original representatives on the Good Offices Committee.

In accordance with this decision, I am enclosing a copy of the new compilation for your approval or otherwise. [3] Delay in obtaining approval is inevitable and the procedure agreed upon as good as kills Van Zeeland's proposal. In other words, if you are at all uncertain as to whether you wish to agree with Van Zeeland's proposal, I suggest you do no more than hang on to this document.

There is little to report on developments of the last fortnight.

The talks are still in process of settling down and it is largely a matter of the parties exploring their respective positions in informal discussions. Originally we endeavoured to carry out discussions in Committee meetings but the difficulty of coping with three languages and translations, and in fact four languages when Herremans was chairman, soon showed that if we were to reach any agreement the discussions would have to start with informal across-the-table talks in one language.

In the informal across-the-table talks, discussions of the two papers on the 'scope of the eventual political agreement' revealed, I understand, two outstanding points of difference. [4] These concerned the plebiscite and foreign affairs. The Republicans claim the plebiscite should be held only in the Netherlands occupied areas. They know their case is weak but they are motivated by political difficulties in the Republic and they fear the psychological effect of proposals which contemplate, however remotely, the division of the Republic. Nevertheless they realise they will have to give way and I believe they will prepare for this.

With regard to foreign affairs the Netherlands are stressing that as the sovereign power they must be responsible in the interim period. The Republic, on the other hand, is prepared to hand over their foreign affairs to an interim government providing that interim government has real power such as the right to approve treaties which affect Indonesia. The Dutch are adamant and deadlock may develop on this issue. For the time being, the Republic intends to suggest that the subject be left for later consideration when other issues are clearer. I need hardly stress that the right of Indonesians to have a say in matters affecting the foreign relations of these Islands may be extremely important to Australia even in a short interim period.

Informal discussions on the United States of Indonesia seem to be going reasonably well. Where there are differences of opinion the parties follow the simple device of agreeing that the problem is one for the 'Constituent Assembly'.

The Netherlands still appears to be confusing the issue by making numerous complaints at the slightest provocation and on some occasions with, to my mind, no provocation.

There is also a marked tendency for the Dutch, in their approach to the problems under discussion, to look back on the position as it existed before the war and to seek to return there rather than face up to the formation of a United States of Indonesia and to make proposals leading up to this final settlement.

I have been giving special attention to the need of developing trade between the two areas. We are getting somewhere with local trade but there is as yet no prospect of the Republic being permitted to trade with outside countries direct. In this connection the announcement of the trade agreement between Malaya, Singapore and the NEI is a serious blow. [5] The full effects cannot yet be estimated but it will certainly restrict the Republic.

In committee, Van Vredenburch has skilfully put Roem. in a position in which the Republic appears to be stalling. I have already mentioned my misgivings about the leader of the Republican delegation and now reinforce them. In part, the difficulty may be Roem's inability to conduct discussions in English, but he gives, both in appearance and in speech, the impression of a man who lets a lot pass over his head. Hatta, on his way to Bukittinggi in our plane, was in Batavia yesterday afternoon, when we had a long chat. I endeavoured to sow some seeds of doubt and suggested a strengthening of the delegation, but I had to be extremely careful as Roem is obviously a close and trusted confidante of the Vice President.

Hatta did not say so, but there are still many political undercurrents in the Republic. I am informed, for example, that our friend Setiadjit is playing a waiting and watching game and will not be unhappy to find an opportunity to embarrass the Government. Sjahrir is playing canny. He has been asked by Hatta to return from Singapore but is stalling unashamedly. The Republic's position would be far stronger if they could submerge their political differences and ambitions for the time being, at least until the establishment of the U.S.I.

Criticism of the Committee's publicity arrangements has for the time being abated. I was in a minority in pressing for the appointment of a public relations officer, but in effect we will have much the same thing, as the Committee has now agreed that one of the new members of the Secretariat, the assistant head, who is reputed to have press experience, will be given the primary task of looking after the Committee's press relations. The storm while it raged was useful in obtaining a general agreement that publicity should be extended. Van Vredenburch continues, however, to seek the restriction of any publicity without both parties' consent, and he has the ear of the other two members of the Committee.

I feel that a key to the situation here will be Dutch policy in the structure of the Netherlands-USI Union. The Netherlands delegation is under instructions not to discuss it at this stage.

As you know, there are two points of view, one that Indonesia should be tied to the Netherlands in the strongest possible fashion and with the creation of a special structure, the other that the agreement should be loose in treaty form and only concerned with matters in which there is a real mutual interest.

Tahiya, East Indonesian representative here and a member of the Dutch delegation ('with whom I have established the most friendly relations') assures me that the Netherlands have sent out a paper which goes a remarkable way in providing for the freedom of the USI. He says the proposal is so generous that he feels sure it will cause trouble in the Netherlands and possibly affect the election plans of the present government. You also will probably scent propaganda in this latter statement. Tahiya is not averse to creating a wrong impression, so I take his statement under advisement with suspicion.

1 The Corrigendum to the summary record of the 61st Meeting S/AC.10/SR.61/Corr.1 was dated 16 February.

2 See note 8 to Document 21.

3 Not located.

4 A reference to the talks on 31 March of an Ad-Hoc-Sub-Committee of the Political Committee, consisting of Abdulkadir, Dzulkarnain, Van Vredenburch, Riphagen, Roem, Pringgodigdo, Supomo, Latuharhary, and Ali Budiardjo, concerning the Netherlands general working paper 1 (S/AC.10/CONF.2/C.1/W.1 and the Republican reply (S/AC.10/CONF.2/C.1/W.3) and the Netherlands and Republican working papers on the structure of the United States of Indonesia (S/AC.10/CONF.2/C.1/W.2 and W.40). See also Document 106.

5 On 30 March the United Kingdom and Netherlands Governments announced that they had concluded an agreement covering trade between Malaya and the NEI.

[AA:A10158, 42]