890.114 Narcotics/42

The Netherlands Ambassador ( Loudon ) to the Secretary of State

No. 372

Sir: In execution of instructions received from Her Majesty’s Government I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that it has taken cognizance with a great deal of interest of the Department of State’s aide-mémoire of September 21, 1943, concerning the adoption of a common policy by the interested governments to terminate the use of narcotic drugs for non-medical purposes in the Far Eastern territories now occupied by Japan, as soon as these areas are recaptured by the armed forces of the United Nations. I am further instructed to advise that such a concordant course of action is fully acceptable to the Netherlands Government, which, however, wishes me to interpret to Your Excellency the following observations on the propositions set forth in the aide-mémoire.

The United States Government submits in the first place to the consideration of Her Majesty’s Government the pursuance by the governments concerned of a common policy to govern the action of the armies under allied command. Such policy would have as an objective that each interested government should instruct its military authorities to issue certain orders as delineated in eight specific points.

The Netherlands Government is in accord with this proposition, as it would create the opportunity to counteract, at the earliest possible time, the evil which may have been brought about by the Japanese occupation authorities.

[Page 1084]

The orders proposed to be given to the military authorities are, in general, in accordance with the instructions previously given to the Netherlands Indies civil authorities for the enforcement of existing Netherlands legal provisions governing the subject-matter, and also with those to be issued to them pursuant to legal provisions to be enacted for such regions in the Netherlands Indies as will stand in need of such additional legislation as soon as the Netherlands Government will again be able to exercise its authority in those localities.

With reference to each point in particular Her Majesty’s Government allows itself to make the following remarks:

To seek out and to seize all drugs intended for other than medical and scientific purposes.
No objection is raised to this measure, provided that the tracing of the drugs will be done judiciously, without undue harassment of the population. Perhaps, also in the interest of the troops concerned, it would be preferable not to emphasize so much the “seeking out” but to phrase the order: “To seize all opium and other narcotic drugs found and not intended for medical and scientific purposes.”
To close existing opium monopolies, opium shops and dens.
That all opium shops illegally operating or opened by Japanese authorities shall be closed, thereto is, of course, no objection interposed. If this order should be meant to include the closing by the military authorities of shops and places where régie opium is sold and consumed respectively, as also storehouses for régie opium maintained by the Japanese occupation authorities pursuant to the Netherlands Indies Régie Ordinance, no objection would be taken to such measure, inasmuch as Her Majesty’s Government has definitively decided to extinguish the use of opium and to abolish the opium régie in the Netherlands Indies immediately following its liberation.
To prohibit the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of prepared opium.
Under Netherlands Indies law, the importation, manufacture and sale of prepared opium were prohibited. Possession and use of prepared opium originating from the opium régie were upon certain conditions yet permitted in some places, but, pursuant to the total prohibition, to become effective upon the liberation of the Netherlands Indies, this state of affairs will cease to exist. So far as the Netherlands Indies are concerned, it would therefore perhaps be more to the point to have instruction (c) read: “Where necessary, to extend existing prohibitions on the possession and manufacture of opium and other narcotic drugs for other than medical and scientific purposes to the possession and use of prepared opium.”
To prohibit the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of opium and other dangerous drugs for other than medical and scientific purposes.
Such prohibitory regulation was in force in the Netherlands Indies; the only exception thereto was that, according to the provisions of the Régie Ordinance, on certain conditions the possession and use of régie opium were permitted in some regions. As this exception will be done away with, as appears from what is observed under point (c), the proposal of the United States Government which is considered in this paragraph, has been carried out in its entirety.
To provide medical treatment for drug addicts in need of such treatment.
Although it is questionable whether the military authorities in a transition period when military operations will predominantly require their attention, will have the opportunity to devote their energy also to this point, no exception is taken to their attending to this humanitarian cause as much as may be possible.
To suppress the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.
This task falls within the sphere of action of the Police and the Customs, even if no special measures are taken in this connection. It might, however, be of advantage if the military authorities could find the opportunity to bestow also special care on this problem.
To place under strict control all supplies of narcotic drugs for medical and scientific use.
This measure is very desirable. In order to make such control effective in the Netherlands Indies a number of legal provisions were enacted. It would be a benefit if also under extraordinary circumstances these provisions should be rigorously adhered to and a strict observance thereof emphatically recommended.
To take the necessary steps, including the imposition of appropriately severe penalties, to enforce all orders relating to narcotic drugs.
Under Netherlands Indies legislation, measures were provided for the enforcement of the prohibitions bearing on narcotic drugs and severe punishment was meted out for the infringement thereof. Under this legislation, it was also a criminal offense to possess or use prepared opium when possession thereof was not permitted by law. It would be conducible to an orderly conduct of affairs if offenses committed by the population should be adjudicated on the basis of the laws obtaining in normal circumstances, which laws will operate again when the occupation by the enemy has come to an end, regardless of whether they have been modified or repealed by the enemy in contravention of International Law.

As concerns the statement of the United States Government that, pending agreement with the interested governments on the measures discussed hereinbefore, it reserves the right to take them independently for the protection of the health of the American forces, its attention is respectfully invited to the fact that such independent measures will not be required for troops which will operate in the Netherlands Indies. As appears from what is mentioned above, the Netherlands Government concurs in the common line of conduct as proposed in the aide-mémoire. Further, it may not be amiss to observe that the danger of temptation to the use of narcotics in the Netherlands Indies should be viewed in right perspective. Before the enemy occupation, under the laws then prevailing in the Netherlands Indies, the use of opium was but permitted in certain regions and such lawful use was restricted to régie opium and subject to certain definite conditions. Should American forces operate in those regions, it would be doubtful whether they would be exposed to the danger of seduction, considering that the consumption of opium was limited to certain strata of the [Page 1086] population, indulged in on a very small scale and, taking the population as a whole, was hardly discernible. Unless, through the instrumentality of the Japanese occupation authorities, the use of opium has been greatly increased and spread, the danger of being led astray will not exceed such as, for instance, exists in the larger seaports where, notwithstanding the vigilance of the police, the opportunity for clandestine opium smoking not infrequently presents itself. For that matter, should it ever occur that servicemen of the allied armies would be found guilty of using opium, the commanding officers should take disciplinary action similar to that applied in cases of intoxication and other excesses.

As intimated to the United States Government, Her Majesty’s Government has already published its decision to extinguish the use of opium in the Netherlands Indies as soon as this overseas Netherlands territory will be free again. The proposal of the American Government, put forward in the aide-mémoire, that the interested governments shall proclaim at this time a policy of total prohibition of this drug for the territories to be recaptured from the enemy has therefore been given effect as far as the Netherlands Indies are concerned.

As far back as the year 1909 the Netherlands Government declared at the International Opium Conference at Shanghai that considerations of a financial nature could never have the effect of refraining it from the taking of measures for the advancement of the total suppression of opium consumption. The loss of revenue as referred to in the aide-mémoire never was a factor in the Netherlands Government’s consideration whether the time was ripe for total prohibition in the Netherlands Indies of the use of this pernicious drug. The promotion of public health and welfare has since many years been the colonial policy of Her Majesty’s Government, impelled by its sense of natural duty towards the population. The opium monopoly has since many years been made subservient to a gradual preparation for the abolition of the use of opium, and progress was made in that direction. However, envisaging that, after the liberation of the Netherlands Indies, it will be faced with an entirely new situation, the Netherlands Government deemed the time ripe for putting the last link in its policy of effecting step by step the total suppression of the consumption of opium and, consequently, issued such prohibition for the whole of the Netherlands Indies. Its declaration of October 1, 1943,23 of which two copies are enclosed herewith for the sake of completeness, summarizes the considerations which resulted in that decision.

It is proposed in the aide-mémoire that the Netherlands Government, simultaneously with the other interested governments, shall, at [Page 1087] an early time, make a public announcement that, immediately after the re-establishment of its authority in the Netherlands Indies, it will take all measures and enact all legal provisions necessary for the prohibition of the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of prepared opium and other dangerous drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes. The fact, however, is that, under Netherlands Indies law, such prohibitions were already in force; with reference to the use of prepared opium there existed some exceptions, under which the possession and use of régie opium were permitted in certain regions, but these exceptions will no longer operate after the liberation. For the public announcement as suggested by the United States Government the Netherlands Government cannot find any occasion. Such promulgation would, so far as opium and other narcotic drugs are concerned, not only be superfluous but even misleading, as it would tend to create the impression as though in the Netherlands Indies the legal provisions now under consideration did not exist, notwithstanding the obligations imposed by international conventions in that respect, and, so far as prepared opium is concerned, it would serve no purpose in view of the publication of the Netherlands Government’s declaration of October 1, 1943.

Finally, expression is given in the aide-mémoire to the United States Government’s confidence that the Netherlands Government will be in accord with and cooperate in carrying out the policy and program propounded for the period of military government and for the time following the restoration of civil administration in the liberated Netherlands Indies. The standpoint of the Netherlands Government is made evident in the response hereinbefore given to the propositions contained in the aide-mémoire. Besides, from its declaration of October 1, 1943, it clearly appears that the Netherlands Government, before taking cognizance of the aide-mémoire, had already decided to make all use of narcotic drugs in the Netherlands Indies unlawful, except for medical and scientific purposes. Manifestly, the Netherlands Government has no intention to limit the total prohibition of prepared opium to the transition period of military government, but is determined that such interdiction shall remain in full force and effect also after that time, and that thus the finishing touch shall be put to a policy, pursued since many years past and aimed at the gradual extinction of the use of prepared opium, as referred to in article 8 of the International Opium Conference of The Hague.

However, in order that the total suppression of the use of prepared opium at which Her Majesty’s Government aims may be achieved, international collaboration will be necessary also after the war for the purpose of effectively preventing undesirable imports of opium and of restricting the production thereof to such quantities as will be required for medical and scientific needs. Her Majesty’s Government [Page 1088] therefore ventures to appeal to the United States Government for its full support and cooperation in such concerted action after the cessation of hostilities.

Please accept [etc.]

A. Loudon
  1. Ante, p. 1078.