123 Critchley to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram K252 BATAVIA, 20 January 1949, 2.45 p.m.


Your telegram 16. [1]

1. The former Republican territories are now administered by local Dutch Military Commands assisted by civilian advisors who are being increased in number. This is regarded as a temporary arrangement. The Dutch Administration, however, appears confined to the main towns, while the Republicans are still in control in other areas. If correct, this means the Dutch military withdrawal need not result in disorders but may indeed help restore order, particularly if economic assistance is rendered.

2. No definite information is available as to the relations between TNI guerilla bands and the Communists. At the commencement of the action the Communists held under guard at Djokjakarta either were released or escaped, though twenty of their leaders are reported to have been shot by Republican forces. The Republicans in Batavia consider that nine of the prominent Communists would be accepted by TNI. However 'Sin Po', a Chinese Batavia daily, reports that Communists are fighting with the guerillas.

3. Republican sources continue to claim increased guerilla activities and extensive scorched-earth. The report of Military Observers, who have been restricted by safety considerations, may be summarised as follows:-

(a) Extensive scorched earth policy.

(i) North Sumatra. Numerous bridges were blown and it is understood that several large estates were flooded by breaking of irrigation channels. The Manager of the largest rubber estate (Wingfield) stated that the factory was partially destroyed by fire.

(ii) Central Sumatra. Seventy percent of the town of Pakan Baroe was destroyed by fire.

(iii) South Sumatra. Of 200 oil wells in Djambi area, 37 were fired. 28 fires had been extinguished by January 13th. The entire Pasar area of Djambi was destroyed, damage being estimated at between 12 and 14 million Singapore dollars.

(iv) West Java. Sabotage is reported to be only on a minor scale.

(v) Central Java. Insufficient information so far to hand.

(vi) East Java (North). Already reported K249. [2]

(vii) East Java (South). Extensive destruction of bridges and European-type buildings. Water and electricity supply systems were put out of action but have now been restored.

(viii) General. The scorched-earth policy has been applied in all areas but owing to the limited authentic information available it is not yet possible to assess its extent of effects.

(b) Guerilla activities. Guerilla units are active in all areas so that there are very few roads on which Dutch vehicles can safely travel except in armed convoys. A Military Observer team in Central Java reports that a convoy accompanied by Military Observers was ambushed on January 17th. There have been some reports that bridges repaired by day by the Dutch are destroyed by the guerillas each night.

1 In this cablegram, dispatched on 17 January, the Department of External Affairs requested information on the nature of Dutch administration of occupied territories, the state of relations between Republican guerillas and communists and the extent of the 'scorched earth' policy.

2 Document 82.

[AA : A1838, 403/6/5/1]