Britain plotted to depose Sukarno

James Oliver
Tuesday 01 December 1998 00:02 GMT

THE FOREIGN Office secretly helped the Indonesian military to overthrow the country's former nationalist President Sukarno in the early 1960s, new evidence shows. Their actions brought to power the now notorious pro-Western President Suharto, who ruled from 1966 until earlier this year.

The Foreign Office has always denied Britain was involved in the fall of Sukarno. But new revelations show British intelligence agencies and propaganda specialists carried out covert operations to overthrow his regime.

With Sukarno neutralised the Indonesian military was free to murder hundreds of thousands of suspected communists. Amnesty International has said Suharto sanctionedabout 500,000 murders. In 1975 Suharto's regime also invaded East Timor and killed a third of the population.

As President Sukarno's future hung in the balance in late 1965, owing to growing military discontent, Britain sent a senior Foreign Office official and propaganda specialist to boost anti-Sukarno operations.

Norman Reddaway was given pounds 100,000 by the head of the Foreign Office, Joe, later Lord, Garner to manipulate the media. Mr Reddaway, now 81, says he was told "to do any-thing I could do to get rid of Sukarno".

The former Foreign Office diplomat says the removal of Sukarno was considered a huge success. Indonesia was to become one of Britain's biggest customers for arms.

Sukarno had become president in 1949 after Indonesia won independence from the Netherlands. Western concern grew over the strength of the Indonesian Communist Party and Sukarno's policy of nationalising Western assets. The Foreign Office was enraged by Indonesian efforts to destab-ilise the Malaysian Federation.

In the early 1960s a small unit of the FO's information research department (IRD) went to Singapore to join MI6 and Army psychological warfare officers to spread anti-Sukarno propaganda. IRD was a covert cold-war propaganda operation set up in 1948. In the 1960s it had more than 400 staff.

In late 1965, Mr Reddaway was sent to run the IRD unit. His team worked alongside MI6 officers on covert operations, assisting anti-Sukarno elements in the military.Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency listened in to Sukarno's government communications and passed on information to his opponents in the military.

The evidence of Britain's involvement is published this week in Paul Lashmar's book, `Britain's Secret Propaganda War 1948-1997'.

Review, page 9

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