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Wednesday, 21 April 1971

Senator MAUNSELL (QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Leader of the Government seen reports in today's Press regarding the establishment by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of an air force fighter base in Ceylon at the invitation of the Government of Ceylon? Can the Minister divulge to the Senate any information on this 'matter at this time?


I could give some information at . two levels. I understand that the Soviet Union is supplying arms and personnel to Ceylon in response to a request from the Government of Ceylon to meet an immediate insurgency threat. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India and Australia, have also been approached for various kinds of assistance. The Soviet Union and India are the only countries so far which have provided personnel. In the case of the Soviet Union it was because it is unlikely that Ceylon could have provided personnel who were trained to use Soviet equipment.

At the second level, coming back to the Australian position, I wish to say that since' the middle of March there has been a state of emergency in Ceylon. On 5th April bands of armed insurgents made a series of unco-ordinated attacks on police stations and other government installations. So far the situation has been contained by the Government of Ceylon, which is led by Mrs Bandaranaike, but it is still faced with the continuance of the insurgency threat. The Government of Ceylon has sought arms from several countries, lt has inquired about the possibility of obtaining certain items from Australia on a commercial basis - I repeat, on a commercial basis - in particular, rifles and ammunition. Ceylon is a member country of the Commonwealth of Nations and its Government is democratically elected. Assistance to the Government of Ceylon in its present difficulties would be in accordance with

Australia's long standing friendship with that country. We have informed the Government of Ceylon that the items requested could, with one exception, be made available. However, it is not yet certain whether any firm order will be placed.

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