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 follows:

[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]