Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Thailand (Stanton)



  • Mr. A. Ratnayake, Minister of Food and Cooperative Undertakings, Ceylon GADel, Paris
  • Edwin F. Stanton, American Embassy, Bangkok


  • Food Problems in Ceylon

Mr. Ratnayake, Minister of Food of the Government of Ceylon, together with Mr. Alva Tillai [Alvapillai], Director of Food Supply, and Mr. Edwards, Secretary of Food Directorate, F.A.O., called on me on January 18.

Mr. Ratnayake expressed appreciation for the assistance rendered by the American authorities in arranging for a loan of rice from Japan. He described the food situation in Ceylon as “very critical”, and said that the present rice ration was only 51/2 ounces per person. He said the situation was particularly serious in view of the growing strength of the Communist Party in Ceylon. He said his government had felt it unwise to prohibit the establishment of the Communist Party or to censor or suppress Communist propaganda, since to do so would run counter to democratic and liberal policies and objectives of the newly constituted government. While he did not criticize the government’s policies in this regard, he emphasized the fact that Communists were flourishing, that a cabinet minister had recently defected to the Communists, and that Communists and fellow-travelers now control 40 out of 101 seats in Parliament. He repeated several times that the situation was such that the Communists through constitutional means might seize control of the government “without firing a shot”. He also underscored the fact that elections are to be held during 1952, and that there is genuine anxiety regarding the outcome.

The Minister said it could readily be seen that a shortage of rice and food stuffs was a critical matter and that if his government were unable to obtain an additional 200,000 to 300,000 tons of rice, rations [Page 1504] would have to be decreased, with perhaps disastrous consequences for the country. In this connection he described his unsuccessful efforts at Rangoon to get a larger allotment from the Burmese Government, and added that here in Bangkok he had succeeded in obtaining only a promise of 10,000 tons. He also mentioned American rice, but said that Ceylon’s small dollar earnings precluded purchase of any substantial quantities of American rice.

He referred to the displeasure occasioned in Washington by the sale of rubber to China. He said his government seriously regretted what had occurred, and was genuinely anxious to remain in the “democratic camp”, but he described the serious difficulties it faced. He said at this juncture the Chinese Communist regime had come forward with an offer of 100,000 tons of rice. He stated he knew the offer was spurious, but that nevertheless the Communist Party in Ceylon naturally capitalized on the offer, and criticized the government for not accepting it at a time when the people were so short of food.

I thanked the Minister for outlining the difficulties facing his government, and said I felt sure that these matters had been brought to the Department’s attention and were being given careful and sympathetic consideration. He replied that the Department of State had, of course, been apprised of the situation faced by his government.

Edwin F. Stanton