What time is it in Indonesia? Last week the public clocks which the punctual Dutch had placed along Batavia's sweltering, mosquito-infested streets did not say; nobody had wound them. Nobody collected electric bills, because the electrical engineers are Dutch and the company accountants Indonesian; they could not decide who should get the receipts. Batavia had two mayors, one Dutch, one Indonesian; two flags, one Queen Wilhelmina's and one Ir. Soekarno's; two currencies, neither of which could buy much, and two possible destinies: it might become the chief city of the first great Moslem colony to free itself from European rule, or it might come to symbolize the first wave of Asiatic nationalism to break into chaos.
By last week it was clearly too late in Indonesia for restoration of full Dutch imperial rule, too early for stable native government. Was it too late for cooperation between Dutch and Indonesians in a framework of expanding independence? From Batavia, TIME Correspondent Robert Sherrod cabled a gloomy forecast :
"Throughout most of Asia, the white man is truly hated and the sky is black with chickens coming home to roostprobably blacker in Indonesia than anywhere except Indo-China. The natives' passions run away with their leaders' intellects. I am inclined to doubt whether whites and colored will work together in this generation."
"We Cannot Stop Her." In Amsterdam, 9,900 miles away, Dutchmen could not bring themselves to accept so pessimistic a view, which would spell catastrophe for their country. Said Pieter de Jong, a middle-of-the-road Dutch businessman: "We've already lost our trade with Germany. If we lose Indonesia too, The Netherlands will become one of the poorest countries on the Continent. If Indonesia really wants complete freedom, we are not going to stop her and we cannot stop her. But we Netherlanders sincerely hope the Indonesians have some common sense left. If we move out, the Indonesians will be a prey to Communism or to ruthless big business."
Last week at The Hague, Johannes A. Jonkman, Minister of Overseas Territories, struggled with the job of putting Citizen de Jong's fears into political terms. Jonkman, who lost all his hair in a Jap prison camp in the Indies, worked so hard to draft his speech to The Netherlands States-General that friends feared his health would break down. After he made the speech, interpreting the proposed pact between the Dutch Government and Soekarno's rebel Indonesian government, Holland's politicians and people were still as unhappy and undecided about the issue as Pieter de Jong.
The pact recognizes Sumatra, Java and little Madura as the Republic of Indonesia, whose degree of independence will be great, but is deliberately left vague. Borneo and the Great East (see map) will be left under Dutch control. Both the Dutch and the Indonesian nationalists agree to work toward a federation which would bring the whole Netherlands East Indies into a future United States of Indonesia, a sort of Dominion under the Dutch Crown. Further negotiations to clarify the pact are expected. Meanwhile, the Indonesians think that events are moving too slowly toward independence, and the Dutch think they are going too rapidly.