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Historical documents

160 Stuart to Burton

Memorandum SINGAPORE, 11 June 1948

By this bag I am sending a report on the visit of the Macmahon
Ball Mission which I have tried to make as objective as possible,
and so capable of circulation.

I very much regret the controversy which the visit appears to have
aroused in Australia, and Macmahon Ball himself has been deeply
upset by it. The fact is, however, that the Mission could not come
here without facing the issue of our present unpopularity, or
without making some attempt to meet the importunities of political
and other local leaders.

If I may express myself to you freely personally, I think the
Mission's visit to Malaya at the present time was ill-timed. It
was impossible for them to come and go unannounced, as Macmahon
Ball would have liked to have done, in view of the publicity given
in Australia itself It cannot be said that the Mission was
welcomed. In the circumstances the best had to be made of it as a
'Goodwill Mission' which is clearly what it was not intended to
be. Relation with Australia is a very sore issue just now in
Malaya and of course, the last-minute changes in schedule did not

Whether or not any good has been done as a result of the visit is,
I think, questionable. It has however, demonstrated very clearly
to Macmahon Ball, and I hope Australia, that our foreign policy
and our immigration policy cannot be regarded as in separate
compartments. As I understand it, the view is now taken that the
Mission came here to discuss the limited questions of Relief
Supplies and educational facilities, but you will remember that we
were told here that Macmahon Ball would discuss political
questions also, and there is nothing more highly political than
this immigration question. In any case, whatever his instructions,
he simply could not have avoided replying to questions put to him
and the attacks made upon him in connection with this problem.

Ball himself made a good impression and at least achieved some
progress with the individuals he met.

One lesson of the visit to me has been the failure, up till now,
to see that our entire South East Asia policy may be jeopardised,
and quickly, if a way is not found of meeting Asian resentment
over immigration. Fresh from the very warm and cordial atmosphere
of Djokjakarta, Macmahon Ball's reaction to Malaya was one of
shock, and I asked him squarely whether there was not a general
tendency in the Government to underrate Malaya. I put it to him
that because this country is a British colony, it is thought less
important than, say, Indonesia or Burma. He agreed that he thought
this was the case and I emphasised that, apart from Java, itself,
there is no greater centre of Malay National feeling than Malaya.

If present trends continue our policy towards it must be based on
the assumption that it win one day be a second State of the
Indonesian Republic in its final form. Furthermore, in Singapore,
the natural centre of all South East Asia, we have a cosmopolitan
hub of intellectual activity for all South and East Asia,
comparable perhaps only to New York in relation to the United
States. Opinion as far afield as India and China is largely
affected by heads in Singapore-particularly Chinese opinion,
because even the millionaires here are moving away from the K.M.T.

[1] Failure to take these two factors into account is one of the
greatest mistakes we could make.

1 Kuomintang.

[AA:A4968/2, 25/35/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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