455. Telegram From the Department of State to the Consulate General at Singapore1

1635. Your despatch 358.2 Department realizes full significance this problem and sympathizes with real difficulties confronting British. In conversation February 14 (Department telegram 1541 to [Page 767] Singapore 4634 London and 121 Kuala Lumpur3) UK Embassy officials informally asked us what would be reaction of US Government and public opinion to abrogation of Constitution and direct UK rule over Singapore.

Department’s preliminary thinking is that US should endorse UK decision to revoke Constitution but only as last resort when situation had reached point where UK had concluded no other feasible alternative. At same time we strongly hope UK authorities share our view other possible preventive actions should be urgently and fully considered and tried out to extent possible to avoid such last resort. Substitution of direct rule by force and revocation of Constitution could have profoundly critical effects all over Asia unless adequate steps have been taken beforehand to prepare the way with interested Asian Governments. Department concurs in the assessment your despatch regarding this problem.

We believe UK should know that our final decision would be guided to considerable extent as you suggest by our conclusions on (1) degree to which reasonable, realistic and feasible alternative measures have been exhausted and (2) nature and scope of British countersubversive measures. Vigorous comprehensive countersubvesrion program is already urgently required and in our view would continue to be necessary whether or not Constitution revoked.

We would also be interested in being informed on British plans and expectations regarding Marshall or alternatives to him; British position to be taken Marshall talks April; extent to which British plan minimize anticipated adverse psychological effects other countries by prior consultation Rahman and leaders friendly nations, especially Asian; expected timing and manner of any Constitution abrogation (i.e. would People’s Action Party be allowed come to power in elections before decision taken revoke Constitution or would British prohibit vote if appears likely pro-Communists would win?); and probable reaction to Constitution abrogation on part of Labor Front or other anti-Communist Government in power at time if British decision taken before new elections.

Department requests comments priority on conveying as soon as possible substance this message to Scott and other British authorities in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.4 Department would hope any such [Page 768] conversations would provide opportunity obtain information on any British countersubversion program either planned or in operation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 746F.00/3–156. Secret. Drafted by Young. Also sent to London and Kuala Lumpur.
  2. See footnote 3, supra.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 453.
  4. In telegram 859 from Singapore, March 5, the Consulate General reported that the substance of the position outlined in telegram 1635 to Singapore had been conveyed to Commissioner-General Scott that day. (Department of State, Central Files, 746F.00/3–556) Telegram 865 from Singapore, March 6, reported that Sir Robert Black, Governor of Singapore, had also been informed of the U.S. position. (Ibid., 746F.00/3–656)