Ball to Burton

Cablegram 4 BATAVIA, 10 November 1945


I have seen Foote [1] who was most cordial. Makes gloomy prediction. Believes Nationalists represent only small articulate minority but heavily armed and led by German and Japanese Agents.

Believes immediate problem not ultimately complete ownership of these Islands but urgent human need to save 40,000 Europeans from massacre, hence believes immediate show of Allied force necessary, deplored the fact that the American Government too sentimental to accept his expert advice.

2. I saw Van Mook. Though knew him in Melbourne failed to recognize him, grey, lined, depressed. He said yesterday he anticipated meeting Soekarno this morning. His manner coldly formal. My efforts to draw him only brought reply ‘that is too complicated to discuss’. His proud empty palace like a marble sepulchre. Our meeting lasted three minutes.

3. I saw Soekarno this morning, he received me most cordially with the Vice President Hatta, Foreign Minister Soebardjo, Information Sjarifuddin and other Cabinet Colleagues, everything discussed was taken down by shorthand writer. I said:-

(1) That my Government felt the deepest interest in developments in the Netherlands East Indies and had sent me here to seek information from every available source;

(2) That my Government was interested not only because of our Pacific dependence for defence, but because it was anxious to see great advance in the economic, social and educational standards of our neighbours in the Pacific. I referred to Dr. Evatt’s efforts in pushing the Social and Economic Council at San Francisco.

Soekarno expressed great appreciation of us and said that was why he had appealed to Dr. Evatt to stimulate the United Nations initiative in the settlement of the dispute;

(3) That my Government was deeply anxious for the physical safety of European internees and prisoners-of-war.

In reply to a question I said- (4) That very many people in Australia were sympathetic with the aspirations of the Indonesians. Soekarno said he greatly deplored violence and harm to anyone. He was going to Djogjakarta tomorrow to tell a Nationalist youth rally that they would control extremists and avoid bloodshed.

Soekarno urged that all uniformed Dutch be temporarily removed from Java until the United Nations Commission enquiry made recommendations. Soekarno would greatly welcome any Australian Government initiative to secure the immediate establishment of the Regional United Nations Enquiry Commission.

He did not believe the forthcoming bilateral Conference under Christison could produce result since Van Mook’s statement on November 5th wholly unacceptable. [2]

Soekarno, was preparing to entertain Isaac [3] and myself at morning coffee but I took my leave with the assurance his residence would always be open to me. All the Cabinet came to farewell us at car.

My impression is that Soekarno, and Colleagues are academic idealists with considerable psychological sensibility but little executive capacity and decisiveness. They are acutely vulnerable to world opinion.

I most earnestly urge that the Australian Government take immediate steps to secure United Nations action emphasizing American interest and playing down British interests. I believe the next few days will give us a great opportunity. Leadership here should not be left to Britain since she has become too closely associated with the Dutch in Indonesia.

Later saw Christison and Dening. They gave the impression no prospect of success of the conference. Dening claimed membership of Russia and China to any United Nations Commission would destroy the value of this approach.


1 U.S. Consul-General in Batavia.

2 The English text of Van Mook’s ‘Declaration of Policy of the Netherlands East Indies Government’ is contained in Addison’s cablegram G7, dispatched 9 November (on file AA : A1838/2, 403/2/2/2, i).

3 Ball’s secretary and interpreter.


[AA : A1838/2, 401/1/2/1]