311. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State1

1458. Department passed CINCPAC for POLAD. Manila for MLG. During 40 minute talk this morning with Foreign Ministry Secretary General Suwito I expressed my concern at Indonesian Government’s actions against Dutch enterprises here and pointed out that members of American community were getting worried about their safety. I showed Suwito memo to me from naval attaché reporting stopping and searching of official attaché car (with DC plate) and members his staff at entrance to airport. I also told Suwito about throwing of rocks by Indonesians at American school children recently and pointed out that although no one had yet been hurt, I considered the situation serious and wanted the government to know [Page 531] about it. Suwito was obviously surprised and concerned and he pointed out that such actions were completely contrary to all government wishes. He referred to radio broadcasts last night by Information Minister, head of West Irian Liberation Committee, and Army Chief of Staff Nasution, calling on all Indonesians to act only in approved manner and emphasizing that no violent action should be directed against individuals, Dutch or otherwise. Suwito said that police and soldiers could not be everywhere at once but he claimed government was seriously disturbed at excesses which have taken place and was doing everything in its power to curb them. I pointed out that as result of many inflammatory speeches by government leaders, including President, it was easy to understand action of laborers and other less educated groups, and I expressed hope that Minister of Information’s broadcast would be followed up and given backing by highest quarters.

Suwito then went on to explain background of Cabinet decision announced this morning (Embtel 1445 to Department, 57 The Hague, 35 Canberra, 160 Manila2) on takeover by military of KPM and other Dutch enterprises. He said he had been invited to represent Foreign Ministry ideas at Cabinet meeting yesterday which lasted all day. He said government was between two fires—the workers on the one hand who had taken over KPM and other business, and on other hand responsibility, which government recognized, of maintaining safety of individuals and property. Suwito explained that government action was not “confiscation” as this would be against international law. It was also not nationalization as Indonesian Government had no money with which to make compensation. What had been done was to place the Dutch companies under what might be called [Page 532] “protective custody”. In his opinion this was much better than leaving them in the hands of the unions.

The Dutch management was being retained and Suwito went so far as to say that if Dutch Government should even now indicate willingness to talk over all problems, including West Irian, the companies could be turned back. He referred to Subandrio’s statement in Paris that as far as Indonesia is concerned, “door is not closed”.

Suwito then went on to express his personal opinion that if only the influential voice of the United States, through Secretary Dulles, could issue an appeal to both Indonesia and the Netherlands to come together and discuss all their differences it would create a good atmosphere in which something might be accomplished. Suwito complained that in past, since attainment of independence, United States and other western nations had always called on Indonesia to do something or other to bring about better relations and had never called on Dutch to do anything. “We do not claim we have not made mistakes but we don’t believe fault is only on our side,” he said. “Only people who have publicly been on our side are Eurasian (our Asian?) friends and, I am sorry to have to say it, the Soviets,” he continued. “But now if America could only call on both countries as equals to get together much good could still be done.” In this connection, Tamzil3 yesterday expressed hope that something could still be done to get Indonesia and Dutch to talking. He said both nations had spent too much time calling each other names. “We are both at fault”, he said and then he also hinted that America should do something to bring the two together.

I am seeing other reasonable and responsible Indonesians over week-end and hope by first of next week to be able to forward our views as to what can possibly be done to help this most serious situation. I am however now certain that if anything is done, America will have to take some initiative and responsibility and that if nothing is done only the Communists will benefit.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 856D.19/12–657. Secret. Repeated to The Hague, Canberra, Singapore, and Manila.
  2. Telegram 1445 from Djakarta, December 6, transmitted a translation of an Indonesian Government statement announcing decisions made by the Cabinet the previous day. It reads in part as follows:

    “With regard to Dutch enterprises which have been taken over by workers in past few days, Cabinet decided to put them under government control and to assign their management to management board; in that way business goes on under government control.

    “In order to ensure normal course of passenger and freight traffic under current state of war and siege, by decision of Military Administrator/Minister of Defense KPM is taken over by government and its daily management assigned to a KPM Administering Board.

    “Likewise will be set up administering body to deal with matters necessary for safeguarding maintenance of best possible transportation service in Indonesian waters and ‘appropriation’will be effected by Ministry of Shipping of Dutch-owned enterprises including their buildings and storehouses in harbor area as stipulated in Government Ordinance No. 55 of 1951.

    “Government has further decided, effective Thursday, to close Dutch Consulates in Indonesia and send back to Holland their personnel and other Dutch nationals whose presence is not needed in Indonesia.

    “All profit and social transfers by Dutch enterprises are blocked.” (Ibid.)

  3. Director of the President’s Cabinet.