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Malaya (Anti-Terrorist Measures)

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1952

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

60. Mr. RANKIN: To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the punishments inflicted on the people of Tanjong Malim.

61. Mr. WOODROW WYATT: To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the collective punishment imposed by the High Commissioner of Malaya on the village of Tanjong Malim.

At the end of Questions

On a point of order. In view of the important nature of the issues involved, could we have a reply from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Questions 60 and 61?

I must repeat what I said again the other day. It is for the Minister himself, if he judges it of sufficient importance, to ask my permission to give the answer to a Question. The right hon. Gentleman has not asked permission.

Could the Minister be asked whether he does not agree that it is of sufficient importance?

Following other precedents, and since the first Lord of the Admiralty did ask us to await the answer to Question 48, might I, through you, Sir, ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence if he would seek your permission to answer that Question, as has been done on the spur of the moment in other cases in recent weeks?

I had better deal with one matter at a time. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies desire my permission to read this answer?

If the House wishes to have the answer to Questions 60 and 61, I will give it, with your permission, Mr. Speaker.

There has been a long series of terrorist outrages in the Tanjong Malim District, culminating in the murder on 25th March of the Assistant District Officer, a public Works Department engineer and 10 others. The penalties which have been imposed until further notice include a 22-hour house curfew in the town and a ban on leaving the town. The sale of unrationed rice has been prohibited and the standard ration reduced from about six and two-thirds pounds to four pounds per week.

The object of this measure is not punitive but is to enforce greater control of food distribution and to ensure that spare rice is not available to the terrorists. As a whole these measures are intended to demonstrate clearly to the inhabitants of this area that the Federation Government are not prepared to tolerate the continued acceptance by them of outrages without any effort on their part to assist the security forces.

Is there any truth in the statement that if proper protection had been afforded to the party which was attacked, the lives of the party would have been saved and this totalitarian action rendered unnecessary?

Those are two separate questions. The area was known to be very dangerous, and the escort for this party was doubled. It amounted to one n.c.o. and 15 men for this small party, but they were attacked from a carefully prepared ambush.

Is it not a fact that this village has never had adequate police protection by the authorities and, therefore, is it not fantastic to expect ordinary villagers to give information to the authorities when the result of their doing so is to be murdered by the terrorists, because the authorities are unable to protect them from the terrorists? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that collective punishments of this kind will only alienate sympathy from the cause which we all have at heart in Malaya; that they are very reminiscent of Fascist methods before the war; and that if we carry on in this way in Malaya we shall lose Malaya because we shall never get the co-operation of the people?

I can only say that the hon. Gentleman's question was couched in terms which give an entirely distorted view of the situation. I am not prepared to intervene in cases where these outrages are committed, and where certain security measures, which are not totalitarian, are imperative.

On a point of order. You were good enough, Mr. Speaker, to ask the Colonial Secretary whether he desired to answer that Question. Could you not at least ask the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Defence if he wishes to answer the other Question?

On reflection, I am not sure that I was wise in asking the right hon. Gentleman.

In view of the entirely unsatisfactory nature of the reply by the Colonial Secretary, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Might I reinforce the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) about Question No. 48. because this matter is creating great concern in the mining areas?

No, we are bound by the Standing Order. I am afraid that such Questions cannot be answered except in exceptional circumstances.

Further to that point. I would suggest, with great respect, that this is an exceptional case, in that this Question was referred to by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who said that if we would wait to hear the answer we might then be satisfied.