179. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 20, 19582


  • Ceylonese Need for Flood Rehabilitation Assistance


  • R. S. S. Gunewardene, Ambassador of Ceylon
  • William M. Rountree, NEA
  • Armin H. Meyer, SOA
  • Rufus Burr Smith, SOA

The Ambassador of Ceylon called, at his request, and expressed the gratitude of his government for the emergency aid rendered by the U.S. during the recent floods in Ceylon.3 He said that the Navy personnel conducted themselves in an excellent fashion and had won the hearts of the Ceylonese people. He was pleased that Western countries, including the U.S., had been the first to offer effective assistance in Ceylon’s emergency.

According to the Ambassador, initial estimates of damage exclusive of food losses amounted to 650 million rupees. The Government of Ceylon is now planning to raise foreign loans and credits for approximately one billion rupees for rehabilitation purposes. As evidence of the extensive damage from the flood, he said that at least 350,000 people had been rendered homeless. In addition to the immediate damage, the floods had stopped progress on development projects, which would result in further loss of anticipated production.

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The Ambassador said that he wished to inquire as to the possibility of further U.S. assistance to help Ceylon in rehabilitation. He specifically requested that the U.S. consider the possibility of supplying 30,000 tons of flour per year for three years under Title II of PL 480.4 He also hoped that it would be possible to supply some rice, although he realized that U.S. stocks of rice are limited. Lastly, he expressed the hope that the U.S. would be able to grant Ceylon assistance for rehabilitation in the form either of grants or long-term loans.

Mr. Rountree replied that the U.S. Government was interested in helping Ceylon. Our Embassy in Colombo is reporting fully on the situation and has already suggested that additional flour will be needed. The details of possible additional assistance are under active consideration, but the precise form of possible aid cannot be determined until more information as to the exact requirements is received from the Government of Ceylon. He assured the Ambassador that request for rehabilitation assistance from his government would be given the most careful and sympathetic consideration by the U.S.

The Ambassador then turned to a general and fairly vague discussion of political trends in Ceylon. He stated that he was concerned at the increasing extent of Communist activity and propaganda which is now reaching out into the Ceylonese villages. In his opinion, Mr. Philip Gunawardena, Minister of Food and Agriculture, is a complete Marxist [1 line of source text not declassified]. While the recent floods have resulted in a great loss, the Ambassador hoped that the people of Ceylon would be brought to a greater appreciation of the value and nature of their contacts with the U.S. and the Western world.

The Ambassador closed by stating that he would be leaving the U.S. in April to take over his duties as Ambassador in London.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 846E.49/1–2058. Confidential. Drafted by Smith.
  2. The International Cooperation Administration announced on January 2, 1958, that the United States was sending 10,000 tons of wheat flour to Ceylon for relief and rehabilitation. (Department of State Bulletin, January 20, 1958, p. 94)
  3. Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, approved on July 10, 1954. (68 Stat. 454)