139 Critchley to Burton

Departmental Dispatch GOC2 (extracts) BATAVIA, 21 May 1948


During the first week in May, I accompanied President Sukarno and the Vice President of the Republic, Mr. Mohammed Hatta, on a presidential tour of the northern area of Republican Central Java, a region where large numbers of evacuees from Dutch-occupied areas in the northern parts of Central Java have settled themselves temporarily following the police action. Coert Dubois, American representative on the Committee of Good Offices, was also in the party. [1]

2. We left Jogjakarta on the morning of 4th May. The itinerary was Magelang, Wonosobo, the Dieng Plateau and return. All along the road, but particularly near the villages and towns there was convincing evidence of the extreme popularity of the President and the Vice President. People of all ages flocked to the roads to cheer them enthusiastically. At many places crowds blocked our way and insisted on the President getting out of his car to be welcomed. Often hero worship was expressed in efforts to touch him.

[matter omitted]

13. That evening at Wonosobo the President received 350 'Pocket Soldiers' (soldiers evacuated after the Renville agreement from the pockets of resistance in Netherlands-occupied areas).

Representatives of the pocket soldiers spoke movingly of their gratitude for the hospitality they had received from the people of Wonosobo, their joy at meeting the President and Vice President, and their determination to continue the fight for freedom though separated from their families. They hoped that the members of the Committee of Good Offices would see and appreciate their will for freedom and their devotion to their President and Vice President.

14. Hatta replied first. Quiet and academic, he appears an unlikely speaker but his looks belie him. He proved an impressive orator who soon assumed control of the responsive and enthusiastic audience. After appropriate introductory remarks he mentioned the satisfactory election results in several Dutch occupied territories, and assured his listeners that when the plebiscites were held they would be favourable to the Republic. He mentioned the difficulties which had arisen, in the negotiations with the Netherlands, regarding the plebiscite and observed that the Dutch now insisted that the plebiscite should be held in Republican territories. This statement brought a storm of derisive laughter.

He stressed that the Republic would not give in on this issue (cheers), not because it feared the outcome but because as the Republic had previously given way and withdrawn the resistance pockets, the Dutch should be prepared to give way in this case.

15. The President then spoke in rather more moderate terms.

However, he lived up to his reputation as an orator. Although I was unable to understand what he was saying except through an interpreter, it was impossible not to feel the depth of emotion he aroused.

16. Before returning to Magelang the next morning we inspected the local government anti-illiteracy school which has been established as part of the anti-illiteracy campaign recently started by the Republican Government. Classes in which adults sat with children of all ages proved enthusiastic and effective. it was obviously a matter of pride to the President that the anti-illiteracy campaign was proceeding satisfactorily and he was especially proud of the fact that one village in the area had no illiterates.

17 My outstanding impressions of this trip were:

(a) The enthusiasm of the common people even in remote areas for the President and the Republican government.

(b) The close teamwork of Sukarno and Hatta. Sukarno went out of his way to pass on some of the crowd's enthusiasm to Hatta. The two obviously worked in harmony and their speeches were closely integrated.

(c) Solidarity of the people of the Republic. Contrary to Dutch propaganda the T.N.I. and evacuees appear to be on the best of terms with the local inhabitants.

(d) The extreme shortage of textiles and motor transport.

(e) A population well fed and happy notwithstanding shortages.

(f) A spirit of 'make do' reflected in the use of all kinds of substitutes.

18. I believe the trip had a useful effect on the Americans who had not previously realized the enthusiasm of the common people for 'Merdeka' and for their political leaders.

1 See note 2 to Document 128.

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