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

2579. 1. Indonesia has just gone through its own peculiar form of military coup.2 At long last Sukarno has pushed his luck too far, and his plans to dump top army leadership and bring known-Communist in as Army Minister have triggered army action to curb his power. Way coup handled preserves Sukarno as unifying force and establishes army’s legitimacy. Army believes both of these are essential. At same time Suharto has in KOGAM order number one3 full authority if he chooses to use it.

2. People of Djakarta are clearly with army. Moderate political parties and other organizations have all issued statements pledging support to Suharto. Students, who created atmosphere which permitted, and in fact forced, army to act, are understandably jubilant. They are roaming through city today on foot and in trucks repeating their slogans against Subandrio, Sumardjo, “Gestapu Cabinet” and high prices.

3. Key now is whether army will move quickly and effectively to consolidate its position. Indications to date are that it will.

Parade this morning (septel)4 has provided emotional outlet for people after weeks of growing tension, and has demonstrated army’s popular support. Whole affair was carefully and effectively staged.
PKI and all its front organizations were formally banned by Suharto at noon today. While this somewhat academic since PKI has ceased to exist as effective organized party, ban is clear signal that army prepared to go directly against Sukarno’s well-known wishes. Army may well now move against PKI elements in Djakarta which has been virtual safehaven for them in past several months. 4. It is not yet clear extent to which army will dominate new government and extent to which it will be willing to share real power with its civilian allies from anti-Communist political parties. However, [Page 418] odds would seem to favor coalition between army and moderate political leaders such as Adam Malik, Sultan of Jogjakarta, and others. Group previously banned by Sukarno and older leaders, some of whom are imprisoned and some merely on shelf, may play role as advisers but we doubt groups which survived and which will play key role in government will be willing to share fruits of their victory and yield important posts to these elements.

5. If army moves to consolidate its position, and we believe odds are that it will, we can probably expect following moves:

Major change in cabinet. Subandrio has had it, and other pro-Communists and incompetents can be expected to be replaced. Cabinet will probably be reduced in size and streamlined. There could, however, be deal with Sukarno which would save some of his less obvious cronies.
Crackdown on corruption and effort by army to get its hands on illegal funds many of present Ministers have salted away. Serious attention to basic economic problems will probably follow later.
Re-evalutation and gradual reorientation of basic foreign policies. Army will end Sukarno’s “axis” with Peking and might well drive ChiComs to point of breaking relations. CONEFO is likely to be scrapped. Confrontation with Malaysia will remain on books but likely slowly wither and die as far as serious military action is concerned. At same time, army will be cautious in moving too close to West.
Root out political undesirables from positions of authority in army and other military services.

6. Sukarno is still on scene. As long as he is there is danger of comeback but we believe chances of full return to former position are remote. Army has taken first step. If Sukarno again pushes too far, next step against him directly will be far easier.

7. Major government appointments and treatment present ministers will quickly give indication of precise direction government will now take. Government will continue to use many of the old slogans, as indeed Suharto has done in his order of the day (septel).5 However, deeds will be far more important than words and it on former basis that government should be judged. As far as USG concerned there are number of immediate issues (Lovestand case, return American journalists, compensation for March 8 attack on Embassy, etc.) which will test GOI attitudes. Early next week when situation hopefully more clear we will send our recommendations for US policy.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9, INDON. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD, Department of Defense, Canberra, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, London, Manila for FELG, Medan, Singapore, Surabaya, and Tokyo. Passed to the White House, USIA, NSA, and CIA.
  2. Telegram 2571 from Djakarta, March 12, contains a preliminary reconstruction of the events of March 11 and 12. (Ibid.)
  3. In this order issued on March 12, the PKI was dissolved and permanently proscribed throughout Indonesia. The order also dissolved and proscribed all organizations based on, protected by, or affiliated with the PKI. Under this order Suharto had authority to act on his own initiative and was only required to report to Sukarno on actions taken. (Telegram 2573 from Djakarta, March 12; ibid.)
  4. Not found.
  5. Not found. According to telegram 1157 to Djakarta, March 12, responding to telegram 2579 from Djakarta, March 12, the Department noted that “Suharto’s reiteration of anti-NEKOLIM slogans and policies, including confrontation suggest he would not welcome overt western support at this point.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON)