198. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to Acting Secretary of State Dillon0


  • Political Developments in Indonesia

In view of significant political developments impending in Indonesia, the present situation in that country is discussed in a paper at Tab A, which may be summarized as follows: On April 22, President Sukarno formally proposed, in his own name and that of the Indonesian Government, that Indonesia return to its 1945 Constitution in order to (1) rekindle the revolutionary fervor and unity of that year when independence was proclaimed and (2) stabilize Indonesian Government and politics through “guided democracy”. The 1945 Constitution (Tab B) envisages a strong executive in contrast to the present parliamentary system which has proved unstable over the past ten years.

The next few weeks are likely to be marked by political tension in Indonesia as the President’s proposal is debated in the Constituent Assembly by representatives of the political parties. Inasmuch as “guided democracy” is designed in part to reduce the importance and power of the parties in the Indonesian political system, the parties are reluctant to accept the scheme. On the other hand, they are also reluctant to oppose Sukarno with his great popular prestige. They must consider as well the extreme but real possibility that the Army might impose a less welcome form of “guided democracy” should the parties fail to accept the President’s proposal voluntarily.

Our Embassy reports that the Constituent Assembly probably will accept the 1945 Constitution but that some of the parties may seek to amend it and thus cause an impasse in the Assembly. The Army is reported to be prepared to force approval of the President’s proposal if necessary, in the interest of ending the chaotic political situation that has fostered the growth of Communist Party (PKI) strength during the past few years.

The U.S. Departments of State and Defense are exploring possible means of accelerating delivery of arms to Indonesia under our military assistance program, in response to requests from highly-placed Indonesian Army officers that we speed up deliveries and thereby strengthen the Army’s position both psychologically and materially in the present delicate situation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/5–759. Secret. Drafted by Moore on May 5 and cleared with O’Sullivan and Palmer. Both tabs are in the Supplement.