746E.13/3–2752: Telegram

The Ambassador in Ceylon (Satterthwaite) to the Department of State


542. Lunched today with Gov Gen Lord Soulbury who returned Colombo shortly after noon yesterday and almost immed asked Dudley Senanayake form govt (Embtel 541, March 26).1 He confirmed that before his departure he asked late PriMin, who was then in hospital what his wishes were re successor shld anything happen him during Soulbury’s absence from Ceylon and that PriMin clearly stated in reply (my 532, March 24)1 that he hoped his son Dudley cld succeed him in such event. Even without this strong constitutional peg Soulbury had, he said, decided some time ago that Dudley was only official who cld hold govt together in event his father was incapacitated. Actually Gov Gen’s decision was eased by receipt communication from large number govt MPs to effect Dudley was only member govt they wld support for PriMin. As this definitely means Sir John Kotalawela cld not form govt it was therefore not even necessary consider his claims for Priminship. Soulbury is pleased with way situation has worked itself out and is inclined believe delay due his absence was all for best.

Foregoing para as in case my 532, March 24 shld be handled with greatest discretion and not used outside Dept. Greatest problem confronting new PriMin is bitter disappointment Sir John Kotalawela who is reported furious at being passed over and may defect. Today’s papers, however, publish conciliatory statement from him and it is possible he may still be persuaded remain in govt or at least not oppose it. Reliable source indicates PriMin may visit Sir John this afternoon in effort persuade him remain in Govt.2 Question timing next elections will presumably have wait for decision for few days at least. New PriMin is not mtg govt Parliamentary group until Tuesday as immed after funeral he is going Kandy to worship at sacred Buddhist shrines there. He may therefore not receive chiefs diplomatic mission before Wednesday.

Vaithianathan will presumably remain in present position. PriMin has two sure vacancies to fill, his own in Agric and that of Health which has remained vacant since Bandaranaike’s defection; also Min Transport in event Sir John refuses remain in govt.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Telegram 545, Mar. 28, 1952, reported that the new Prime Minister visited Sir John at the latter’s house and persuaded him to stay on as head of the Ministry of Transportation (746E.13/3–2852).