INDONESIA: Beginning of Lightness

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Mercurial President Soekarno was too preoccupied to comment. He was busy discussing his favorite hobby—painting—with a visiting artist. But elsewhere in Java last week Indonesians were delirious with joy. After 19 long months of bloody warfare, at least a measure of peace and independence had come to Indonesia.

For the first time in five years Batavia echoed to the burst of festive fireworks rather than lethal gunfire. Food parcels were distributed to the poor as the people prepared for a great selamatan (feast). Forgetting for once their mutual distrust, the city's rival Dutch and Indonesian mayors joined forces on the Palace balcony to scatter 1,000 kilograms of copper coins over the jubilant throngs below.

The occasion was the signing of a long-delayed agreement (TIME, Dec. 23) between The Netherlands and its rich, rebellious East Indies colony. Drafted last November at Linggadjati, the pact (sometimes known as the Cheribon Agreement, for a nearby town) was held up by extremists on both sides who wanted to continue the struggle. After four months of discussion, two still unsatisfied members of the Dutch delegation (both professors) last week refused to sign, and left for home without even waiting to say goodbye. "What influence politics can have even on the manners of the very learned!" clucked the Data via Nieuwsgier.

The signing was a notable triumph for the moderation of Dutch Acting Governor General Hubertus van Mook and Indonesia's common-sensical Premier Sjahrir. "On Indonesia," said Sjahrir to his people, "we are lighting a small torch, the torch of humanity. Let us take care of it. Let us hope it will mark the beginning of lightness all over the world." Five days later he left for the Inter-Asian Conference at Delhi. At the Hague, two hours after the pact was signed, a newly convened Parliament promptly ratified it by a vote of 56-to-26.

"Now," said a stolid Amsterdam Importer with a grunt of satisfaction, "we can again start working and begin mending broken dishes."