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Historical documents

201 Massey to Chifley

Dispatch 4/48 SINGAPORE, 30 July 1948 [1]


When Dr. Evatt was in Singapore he discussed the situation here at
length with the Commissioner-General (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald) and
the Governor of Singapore (Sir Franklin Gimson). You already know,
from his telegram No. 43[2] of 24th July, 1948 [2] that Dr. Evatt
was concerned at the deterioration in the situation since your own
visit. He was impressed, too, by the character of the insurrection
as a minority attempt to sabotage, not only the present British
colonial rule here, but the true independence movement, which is
of course Malay.

2. I now attach a report [3] on the situation as it appears to me
in its latest phase. Briefly, while I wish to urge the anti-
national and anti-democratic nature of the insurrection, I must
advise you that the Government's attempt to suppress it has
inevitably entailed the adoption (very reluctantly) of certain
emergency measures which are repugnant to democratic sentiment.

The suppression of political parties, the power to detain without
trial for a period of up to two years, and the right to enter and
search au premises, are extreme measures, and naturally represent
a setback to the development of constitutional practices here.

Beyond recording regret at their appearance however, I must add
that I cannot see how a totalitarian threat to this community can
be met by other than totalitarian counter-measures.

3. My conclusions on the present stage of the crisis here are as

[matter omitted]

(d) Conclusions.

12. Unless the Malays can force the British authorities to take
them into partnership, the latter can be expected then to attempt
to restore order solely by military means. This will necessitate
in my opinion, the use of very much larger forces than there are
now available or are likely to be available in future.

13. For a very long time I have been studying the question whether
permanent Australian interests lie with the development of Malaya
as a multi-national state perhaps under United Nations guarantee
if, and when, the British leave-or with its development as a Malay
national state. There is a third alternative-its transformation
into a Chinese province-which we all reject. I am beginning to
feel that there is so little prospect of the first alternative now
proving practicable that we are left, in spite of all its
difficulties, with the second. The question which I leave with
you, then, is whether, if the Australian Government's advice is
sought on this matter, it will feel bound to recommend a greater
discrimination here in favour of the Malays, with the ultimate
goal of creating a Malay-governed peninsula.

I am sending a copy of this Despatch to Dr. Evatt in London for
his information. [4]

1 A note on the cited copy discloses that the dispatch was not
passed to External Affairs until 17 September 1948
2 Document 199.

3 Not published.

4 Burton Commented that the despatch was 'mostly opinion & very
silly opinion: Massey should be asked to report facts'. See
handwritten annotation on Moodie's minute to Burton dated 22
September 1948.

[AA: A6537, SEATS 3A]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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