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Oriental compromise

Vergil Berger’s account of tough negotiations with Japanese officials to bring the Monitor service to Tokyo in the 1970s reminded me of how Reuters correspondents in the old days had to deal with communications bureaucrats. 


In the 1960s President Sukarno of Indonesia opposed the formation of the British-backed Malaysian Federation which included Malaya, Singapore and the British crown colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak. An undeclared war was fought in the jungles of Borneo and the British embassy in Djakarta was sacked and burned by demonstrators. 


Indonesia severed communications with Malaysia, stopping the twice-daily Reuters Djakarta morsecasts to Singapore. As the morsecasts were our only means of transmitting news out of the country, I went to see the Indonesian PTT director who was sympathetic. He asked to see a copy of a recent Reuters morsecast. It started with the line “Attention Singapore herewith Reuters Djakarta.” After some thought he said: “You can use the same radio frequencies but instead of Attention Singapore make it Attention Tokyo.”


It was a compromise of which Confucius would have been proud. ■