181. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, February 27, 19581


  • Review of Ceylonese Situation


  • Mr. R.S.S. Gunewardene, Ceylonese Ambassador
  • Mr. Annesley de Silva, Counselor, Ceylonese Embassy
  • Mr. William M. Rountree, NEA
  • Lewis Hoffacker, SOA

Calling at his request, the Ceylonese Ambassador sought Mr. Rountree’s comment on the latter’s recent visit to Ceylon.2

Mr. Rountree replied that the Prime Minister, using the recent article on Ceylon in Time magazine as a point of departure, spoke at length concerning the merits of democratic socialism, neutrality, and the maintenance of spiritual and cultural values. Mr. Rountree used this opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister the U.S. position regarding collective security and genuine neutrality, adding that some countries were able to indulge in neutralism because the U.S. and its Allies chose to stand up and be counted. On the whole, Mr. Rountree was reassured concerning the cordiality of U.S.-Ceylonese relations, particularly in some Ceylonese quarters which had only recently been less than friendly toward the U.S. It was gratifying, as well, to note that Ambassador Gluck had developed warm, close relationships with a wide circle of Ceylonese officials and others.

Ambassador Gunewardene said that Ceylon greatly appreciated U.S. assistance during and following the disastrous floods of December, 1957.3 He was confident that this American aid had left a favorable and lasting impression on the vast majority of Ceylonese, who now knew their true friends. The Ambassador asked if it was possible to anticipate future U.S. assistance in response to the substantial Ceylonese request for aid in the economic rehabilitation program now underway. Mr. Rountree spoke of Congressional limitations to committing the U.S. Government financially for more than one year in advance but gave assurances that Ceylonese requests continued to be reviewed sympathetically.

[Page 376]

Referring to speeches he delivered last summer in Ceylon, the Ambassador said he was “the first” Ceylonese to contrast the U.S. favorably with the USSR and to do so at great risk to his career. Since then, others have found courage to speak up against “subtle communist subversion” of both domestic and international origin. With regard to reports of the Prime Minister’s annoyance with Minister of Food and Agriculture Gunawardena, the Ambassador expressed doubt that the former would face the issue squarely [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The Ambassador did not believe that the recently enacted paddy lands bill would lead to collectivization, principally because of the firm attachment of the peasant to the soil and his reluctance to [accept] a land tenure change such as Philip Gunawardena apparently had in mind.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 746E.00/2–2758. Confidential. Drafted by Hoffaker.
  2. See supra .
  3. On February 26, the Department of State announced that a further gift of 30,000 metric tons of foodstuffs had been offered on February 25 to the Prime Minister of Ceylon, under the authority of P.L. 480, Title II. See Department of State Bulletin, March 17, 1958, p. 426.