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Indonesia (Situation)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 23 July 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the present situation in Indonesia; and what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to mediate between the Indonesians and the Dutch.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the outbreak of hostilities initiated by the Dutch military authorities against the Indonesian Republic, he will bring the matter, as an immediate urgency, to the notice of the Security Council of U.N.O. in accordance with Article 35 of the United Nations Charter.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the dangerous situation in Indonesia and the breakdown of negotiations, he will take steps to bring the matter to the notice of the Security Council under Article 35 of the United Nations Charter.

I would ask the hon. Members to await the statement which I propose to make at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions:

As the House is aware, Netherlands troops began military action against the Indonesian forces at dawn on 21st July. The reasons for the actual breakdown have been described in detail in an official statement by the Netherlands Prime Minister on 20th July, and I do not propose to comment on these at the moment. I would like, however, to give the House some account of the efforts which His Majesty's Government have made over a long period to avert this breakdown.

I have learned of the decision of the Netherlands Government with the keenest regret. Ever since December, 1945, when the Political Adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander in South-East Asia was authorised to make our first attempt to exercise good offices and bring the two parties together, we have continued our efforts to this end. It will be recalled that early in 1946 Lord Inverchapel was sent to Batavia by His Majesty's Government and succeeded in securing a wide measure of agreement between the Netherlands authorities and the Indonesians on certain proposals providing for Indonesian autonomy within the framework of the Netherlands Kingdom, a state of affairs which had been foreshadowed in a broadcast declaration by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands in 1942. Unfortunately, these proposals were subsequently found to be unacceptable by the Netherlands Government at The Hague.

In August, 1946, Lord Killearn was invited by both parties to exercise his good offices. The result of the ensuing negotiations was the Linggadjati Agreement, which provided for the establishment by 1st January, 1949, of a federal government to be known as the United States of Indonesia, and of a Netherlands-Indonesian Union in which the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on the one hand, and the United States of Indonesia, on the other, were to co-operate on a basis of joint partnership. Since March last, when the Agreement was signed, negotiations have been going on between the Netherlands and Indonesian authorities for its practical implementation.

Until recently these negotiations were going fairly well. We know that a wide measure of agreement was reached, but there were one or two outstanding points on which the Indonesian authorities were reluctant to accept the Dutch proposals. One of the chief points was a Dutch proposal for the creation of a joint Netherlands-Indonesian gendarmerie, which would restore order in the interior. Even on this a compromise seemed possible, since the Indonesian authorities were ready to pursue negotiations with a view to meeting, in some measure, the Netherlands proposals. In the hope of promoting agreement, His Majesty's Government suggested to the Netherlands Government the possible appointment of a neutral police commissioner, but this idea did not prove acceptable. Meanwhile, His Majesty's Consul-General in Batavia, Mr. Mitcheson, has done a lot of valuable work to bridge the differences between the two parties, which was very greatly appreciated by both.

At all times His Majesty's Government have made it plain that they were ready to place their good offices at the disposal of both parties, and in our official statement of 21st July this offer of good offices was renewed. I would add that His Majesty's Government have acted throughout in full consultation with the United States, to whom also, on various occasions, the Netherlands Government and the Indonesian authorities have appealed for help. They have also kept in close touch with all members of the Commonwealth.

In reply to our offer, which was published yesterday at The Hague, the Netherlands Government state that they are grateful to the United States and His Majesty's Governments for their help; that they have taken good note of our offer of good offices; and that it will depend on developments whether, and if so when, it will be opportune to appeal again to the U.S. Government and His Majesty's Government. I am keeping in very close touch with events, and will take advantage of any opportunity to bring about a peaceful settlement, but I cannot, at the moment, express any view as to the quickest and best way of bringing this conflict to an end. I cannot, therefore, at present give an opinion as to whether the Security Council is the best and most appropriate means of achieving this object.

While fully appreciating the efforts which have been made, and are being made, in regard to mediation, may I ask if the Foreign Secretary does not feel that the situation has now so deteriorated that there is both a technical and a moral obligation to refer the matter to the United Nations and, indeed, would not this be in the best interests of all concerned, and of the world at large?

I am giving very careful consideration to that. Obviously, I do not rule it out, but I have to be guided by experience. In regard to questions we referred to the Security Council recently, it does not bring about a final and peaceful solution, and the matter drags on, with vetoes, and all sorts of difficulties going on, which is disappointing. What His Majesty's Government are determined to do is, to try to use their good offices to bring this matter to a satisfactory solution at the earliest possible moment.

Can the Foreign Secretary say to what extent the Indonesian Government who were carrying on the negotiations with the Dutch have, in fact, lost power; and to what extent has that power now reverted to a much more extreme section of political opinion?

I cannot answer that question, but I do say this, that all history proves that whatever may happen when negotiations are going on, once you start letting off the guns you create an entirely different situation, with a rallying round the Government.

Would my right hon. Friend be willing to see and to talk personally with Dr. Sjahrir, if he should be able to come to this country; and would my right hon. Friend also give an assurance, now a war has actually begun, that we shall not provide any more arms or equipment for the Dutch, or train Dutch troops, or allow them to be trained, anywhere on British soil, here or in Singapore?

I do not feel disposed to make threats of any kind at this moment. With regard to Dr. Sjahrir, he is not now the Prime Minister, and, therefore, I do not see that it would serve any useful purpose to see him. We are working on other methods, which I think might be more appropriate if they can be found to be practicable. Therefore, at this stage, I would not like to commit myself to any actual decisions which His Majesty's Government might take.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement—which I think we all understand fully—that he does not feel able to comment at the present time on the Dutch Government's note, would not this House be well advised to pursue a similar attitude in dealing with a matter of this delicacy in relation to an Ally, when His Majesty's Government have already offered their good offices?