430 Quinn to Burton

Departmental Dispatch Hag 67/48 THE HAGUE, 22 December 1948



The first reactions to the police action undertaken by the Netherlands Government in Indonesia are somewhat mingled. While there is general gratification at the rapid successes won by the Dutch forces and the capture of the majority of the Republican Government, there is some uneasiness at the almost uniformly unfavourable repercussions abroad. In particular, sharp attacks on the Netherlands in the Security Council are expected. The Netherlands delegate's statement in Paris that the Council is not competent to deal with the Indonesian question [1] is featured in the Press but despite the widespread contention here that the police action is a 'domestic affair' and that foreign interference will not be tolerated, the probable long term consequences for the Netherlands of a step which had been talked about for so long that it had become almost an abstraction, are slowly beginning to be realised.

2. The fact that the action was begun at a weekend has delayed pronouncements by trade unions and other bodies, which needed to call meetings of their executives before being able to state their policies. However, as early as Sunday 19th December, the Executive Committee of the Trade Union Federation (N.V.V.) had appealed to the Dutch workers to continue at their jobs and take no ill- considered action. The Chairman of the Catholic Labour Union (K.A.B.) announced that the task of the Labour Union was purely social and there was no reason for it to interfere with the decisions of the Government in the Indonesian question. The (Protestant) Christian National Labour Movement (C.N.V.) made a similar pronouncement. The Communist party published a proclamation in its organ DE WAARHEID attacking the Government and calling upon all workers, including members of the P.v.d.A.

(Labour Party), to refuse co-operation with the Government. The proclamation alleges that the members of this latter party, to which the Prime Minister belongs, had been betrayed by the party executive, which had met in secret to approve the military action.

'Without the co-operation of your party' the declaration continues, 'this new violation of right and democracy would not have been possible. You must now show your true colours. A socialist and a democrat can never tolerate the use of force against the fraternal people of Indonesia... If you mean to be a Red, then you must show it now by openly resisting the Drees-Beel policy ... Not one more cent or one more man for the Government's policy.' 3. With the attack on the Netherlands Government, the Communist paper linked an equally strong criticism of the Republican Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Republican armed forces, whom it described as traitors who had deserted to the Dutch and were enjoying 'princely' internment at their hands. It further suggested that this so-called 'Hatta Group' did not attempt more than the token defence of Djokja and preferred to await the arrival of Dutch parachutists and comfortable imprisonment to fighting. It also described what was said to be Hatta's last act before his capture, namely the signing of an Order of the Day in which Administrative officials in Sumatra were urged to remain at their posts and in which administrative authority was delegated to local defence councils, as one of treachery. 'Apparently' according to DE WAARHEID, 'the aim was to prevent the setting up of any central direction for the defence of Sumatra'. The somewhat tortuous reasoning of this last suggestion may perhaps be explained by references appearing in the Proclamation already cited, to the 'opening of the doors of the Republic to colonial troops by types like Hatta' who had by 'cowardly murder' deprived the Republic of its best defenders-the Communists.

4. In the debate in the Second Chamber which followed the statement by the Netherlands Prime Minister on the Indonesian situation on 20th December, the Communist motion calling upon the Government to give an immediate order to Dutch troops to cease fire, was defeated by 80 votes to 8. All parties except the Communists supported the Government. Although supporting the Government in the vote, Jhr. van der Goes van Naters of the socialist section of the Party of Labour, raised the question of whether the last letter to Hatta [2] had not been 'unfortunate' and 'too stiff' and whether the time limit allowed the Republic had not been too short. In the course of his speech he strongly criticised Professor Romme of the K.V.P. (Right Wing Catholic Party) for an article he had written for the VOLKSKRANT attacking the proponents of arbitration. He declared that some members of his party had strong objections to the course adopted which in their opinion would not put an end to extremism but would drive the extremists into the Communist camp and strengthen the position of Communism in South East Asia and in particular in Indonesia.

Van der Goes concluded by saying that his party would await developments and remain 'constructively critical'.

5. In a statement after the debate, the Minister for Overseas Territories, Mr Sassen, in expressing the Government's appreciation of the confidence shown in it, declared that the action had been taken only after it had become clear that consultation was no longer possible. With reference to the question whether the last letter which had been handed to the Republican Government through the United States member of the Good Offices Committee, Mr Merle Cochran, had not been 'very stiff', Mr Sassen stated that the intention had been to make clear the seriousness of the situation and in the opinion of the Government it had been useful and necessary to draft the letter as had been done. The Minister rejected the possibility of arbitration and stated that the same difficulties would be involved in mediation as had been involved in observance of the truce.

6. In the course of his statement Mr Sassen said that he had before him a decree of the Republican Minister of Defence relating to resistance, revolt, intimidation, sabotage and rebellion in Java. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister's statement to Parliament was built around the alleged preparations of the Indonesian Republican Army for a large-scale offensive early in January, which it was claimed, justified the launching of the Dutch action. In this connection, a pamphlet issued by the Netherlands Information Service at the same time as the first communique regarding the police action was furnished to the press, purports to give documentary evidence regarding alleged Republican orders for mass infiltrations and the commencement of a Bersiap [3] period of terrorism. An examination of this document, copy of which is annexed (Annexure A [4]) shows it to be somewhat clumsily drafted. Moreover the principal support for the Dutch Intelligence report regarding the proposed action by the Indonesians appears to be an alleged confession by a captured Japanese quoted on page 16 of the pamphlet. The document is dated 15th December, suggesting that propaganda preparations for the police action had been set in train well in advance. It seems, however, to be fairly well established that the final decision was not taken by Cabinet until the morning of Saturday, 18th December.

7. The first suggestions of difficulties being encountered by the Netherlands forces appeared in the semi-official A.N.P.-ANETA bulletin of 22nd December, in which an official military spokesman in The Hague was quoted as saying that the main military action would not take very long but that it would take from four to six months to clean up the extremists gangs 'who would probably become guerrillas'. Indonesian Republican claims that renewed fighting had broken out in and around Djokja are also quoted in the same bulletin with the sole comment that no reports confirming these claims had been received in The Hague.

1 See Document 437.

2 See Document 381.

3 'Bersiap', an Indonesian cry meaning 'Get Ready!', was a signal to rush out and attack.

4 Not published.

[AA:A4231/2, 1948 THE HAGUE]