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Tanjong Malim (Collective Punishment)

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far relief for the people of Tanjong Malim, Malaya, arising out of the curfew, has been left to charitable organisations and how far it has been undertaken by the Government; to what extent the supply of food is adequate; what attention is given to the villagers' cattle during the curfew period; and when the curfew will be lifted.

Local communal organisations provided relief for the poorer inhabitants of Tanjong Malim. It has not proved necessary for the Government to give relief. The supply of food is adequate. The 22-hour house curfew was lifted on 9th April. There is now a house curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. over the whole area and a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. in some districts. During the period of daytime curfew, arrangements were made, at the villagers' request, for cattle to be brought within the perimeter area and owners were allowed out each morning and evening to care for them.

While it will give some satisfaction to right-thinking people that the curfew has been withdrawn for at least some period, is the Minister aware that the period of the curfew was for 22 out of 24 hours; that people live four and five in a room and were not allowed to leave their houses to go to an outside latrine, and were fined 50 dollars for so doing—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to ask a supplementary question which is nothing but an effort to pass on information?

In general, supplementary questions should be interrogatory, but I have known them used as a vehicle for imparting information. Mr. Awbery.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is because of the requests of the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians that the curfew has been reduced by several hours?

I have no information upon that. I only say that the curfew has been reduced—

I have no information that it was at their request. I only know that it has been reduced, and I would remind the hon. Member that these measures are far less severe than those taken in similar cases by our predecessors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what have been the results of the system of collective punishment on Tanjong Malim in bringing about greater co-operation from the people; and if he will give instructions that, in future, collective punishment should not be used.

Useful information has been received but it is as yet too soon to assess the full results of the measures taken at Tanjong Malim. I have no intention of interfering with General Templer's reasonable exercise of the discretion entrusted to him to deal with the very serious situation in Malaya.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this form of collective punishment is very repugnant to right-thinking people—

—and that this method is causing hostility against the Government among the people of Malaya? Is he doing all he can to protect the people during the period of the curfew?

The answer to the second part of the question is, "Yes." Wherever we can, we are endeavouring to improve the wire round these new villages.

While it is undesirable to cause embarrassment to General Templer, who has been appointed to undertake this difficult task, will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is desirable, on the other hand, that General Templer should proceed with the utmost caution in enforcing collective punishment, which may not be at all efficacious?

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that these measures are not primarily punitive. They are in the main in order to prevent rice being passed through the wire to the bandits, and also to control movement in these black spots. I repeat that they are much less severe than some measures which have been taken in the past.

While I quite appreciate the difficulty, may I beg the right hon. Gentleman to understand that many of us, while not wishing to cause any embarrassment to General Templer, are anxious that he should not proceed in a direction which may have very serious repercussions?

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman asked that question. I say freely that the use of these measures has to be confined to places where demonstrably the inhabitants are helping the terrorists against our Forces in a way they should not. They will not be applied in a wholesale manner or without careful consideration of the circumstances. I hope that re-assures the right hon. Gentleman.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that as new collective methods by the bandits, both of mass murder and of helping their own supporters, come into operation, equally new methods have to be taken against them?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that repressive measures on a collective scale of this kind have always had the effect, not of reducing resistance to them, but of increasing it? Is he also aware that there is no war crime in history that has not been justified by the doctrine of giving unquestioning, blind support to the commander in the field?

I can accept neither suggestion of the hon. Member. I am afraid each is founded on ignorance of the circumstances.