267. Telegram From the Embassy in Malaysia to the Department of State 1

146. Exdis for Secretary from Ambassador. Ref: Deptel 109.2 Information reftel correct. Will be announced in Parliament this morning that Singapore to be completely independent. Bill to this effect to be introduced this morning. Calls for separation as of August 9.3

Lord Head British High Commissioner learned of this inadvertently last night. He saw Tunku, Razak, Ismail and Tan Siew Sin at social event. Asked for 24 hour postponement. Met with completely adamant attitude. Head said decision taken only by small number Cabinet Ministers. Most Ministers not informed.

Early this morning Head gave GOM leaders message from Harold Wilson asking 24 hour postponement. Again refused.

At 0900 Tunku met with party leaders. Announcement expected at morning session of Parliament which opens 1000. Reftel received 0830. Impossible get in touch with GOM leaders as they going to party meeting and then directly to Parliament.

Head has reported to London that he informed (although inadvertently) but not consulted on move.

[Page 589]

In view Head’s plea last night and rejection Wilson’s request and fact separation will be fait accompli in about one hour I believe we should not comment at this time.4

Comment follows after Parliament meeting.

Bell
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15 MALAYSIA. Secret; Flash. Passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA.
  2. In telegram 109 to Kuala Lumpur, August 8, also sent Flash, Rusk informed Bell that he had just been told by the British Ambassador that Singapore was withdrawing from the Federation of Malaysia and would become independent. Rusk asked for confirmation and instructed Bell to try to counsel the Malaysian Government to postpone making the announcement. (Ibid.)
  3. On August 9 Singapore proclaimed itself an independent and sovereign state based on an agreement signed on August 7 between the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore. Telegram 66 to Singapore, August 19, transmitted the text of the official U.S. note recognizing the independent state of Singapore, with instructions to the Embassy to give the note to the Foreign Minister of Singapore. In telegram 130 to Kuala Lumpur, August 12, the Department told the Embassy that the Prime Minister of Malaysia informed President Johnson on August 11 that he was unable to forewarn him of the move because, “had my intentions been made known there would be trouble within the country.” (Both ibid., POL 16 MALAYSIA)
  4. In an August 16 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy entitled “The Week in Asia,” Thomson, Ropa, and Cooper reported that they “continue to share State’s relatively sanguine view of the Singapore-Malaysia divorce. The previous arrangement had become intolerable; Lee Kuan Yew is one of the ablest leaders in Asia, no fool on the subject of Communism or Indonesia.” The three NSC staffers suggested that U.S. newspaper accounts of the event “seem inordinately and prematurely alarmist.” They then stated that what was needed was “a top notch ambassador” and suggested John L. Emerson or Henry Byroade, neither of whom ultimately got the job. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Cooper Memos)