Crimes of Violence

Oral Answers to Questions — Malaya – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1948.

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Photo of Sir Patrick Donner Sir Patrick Donner , Basingstoke 12:00 am, 16th June 1948

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the Communistinspired outbreak of crime and violence in Malaya; whether any exceptional measures are being taken; and if he wilt make a statement.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the increase in crime in Perak in Malaya and what steps are being taken to combat it.

Mr. Creech Jones:

I would refer to the statement made by my hon. Friend on nth June. The worst affected areas are Central and South Perak and Central Johore, in which there were, during the week ending 12th June, five murders and two attempted murders, all of which, save one attempted murder, can be attributed to organised violence. In addition the House will learn with regret that this morning two European managers and one European assistant of three neighbouring estates in Central Perak were murdered by a gang of 12 Chinese, armed with Sten guns and pistols.

The High Commissioner has at once issued a Proclamation in this area and in two other areas in Johore where criminal attacks have taken place, giving the police extraordinary powers of search, detention, curfew, and control of movements of persons and traffic, and reimposing the death penalty for unlawful possession of arms, ammunition, grenades and explosives. These powers are being taken for a period of emergency only, are confined to the areas I have mentioned and will not remove offenders from the jurisdiction of the Courts except in the case of individuals whom it may be necessary to detain in the interests of public safety.

Police posts and military patrols have been increased in the affected areas, and police have been posted temporarily on some estates where violence has occurred or is expected. Other measures are being taken for the safety of plantation staffs in remote areas, including the issue of police weapons on loan to individual planters. Other measures, which involve legislation, to enable the Government of the Federation to act decisively against persons challenging its authority, are being prepared. These include the strengthening of the Restricted Residence, Seditious Publications and Printing Press Enactments, and the Emergency Regulations Enactment.

The strike situation is improving; on the 13th of June there were 22 strikes with 4,800 workers involved, compared with 27 strikes involving 6,900 workers a week earlier.

Photo of Sir Patrick Donner Sir Patrick Donner , Basingstoke

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the measures that are being taken, may I ask him if he has considered the banishment of all persons found guilty of banditry whether British subjects or not, and will he bear in mind how much the Chinese in particular dislike banishment?

Mr. Creech Jones:

We are giving immediate consideration to the banishment ordinance.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the public statement made by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the High Commissioner, that international Communism has played an important part in this unrest; and will he also say why it is that the powers to banish British subjects which have been asked for by public opinion of all races in Malaya, have not been granted by the Colonial Office?

Mr. Creech Jones:

The latter point is obviously one of great difficulty. It has been considered and a decision is about to be taken. In regard to Communist propaganda, we have tightened up the regulations in regard to all kinds of subversive propaganda, and we have also taken the necessary steps to amend the trade union regulations.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Bristol West

In view of the numerical weakness of the police in Malaya is the right hon. Gentleman taking the necessary steps to increase the numbers; and, secondly, has he asked for and got all the assistance he needs from the military to make up for this weakness?

Mr. Creech Jones:

In regard to the police force, steps have been taken over recent months to increase its strength; further steps have been taken within the last few weeks. Energetic measures have been adopted to get out to Malaya the new equipment and apparatus which the police have had on order for some time. In regard to the troops, no requests have been received from local governments for their use, but the Colonial Office has that point under consideration.

Photo of Major Ernest Bramall Major Ernest Bramall , Bexley

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the necessary measures to preserve order will be accompanied by measures to ensure that the root causes of discontent in Malaya are removed?

Mr. Creech Jones:

During the last few months several Commissions have been sent to Malaya to examine the economic and social background to see what further steps can be taken to meet some of the distresses in that area.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

Has anything been done to assist the police by providing the aircraft for which they asked some time ago?

Mr. Creech Jones:

We are trying to meet all the requests that have been made by the police to assist them in their work.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

On a point of Order. I did not want to interrupt the supplementary questions that have been put, but now I want to ask if it is in Order or tolerant that anybody should be allowed to put down a Question referring to "Communist-inspired murder" when there is no evidence of any kind—[Interruption.] No, but there have been a whole lot of murders in Britain since the war—ghastly outrages by men with Sten guns and has anybody put down Questions about "Communist-inspired murder"? It is a scandal that anybody should put down a Question referring to, such things as "Communist-inspired murder." It is more like Tory-inspired murder.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

There is no point of Order about that. Let the hon. Member remember that if he abuses the rules in, regard to points of Order I need not call him for the next Question. That has been done by other Speakers.

Photo of Sir Patrick Donner Sir Patrick Donner , Basingstoke

Further to that point of Order. As I was responsible for putting down this Question, may I say that the evidence came from the High Commissioner himself.

Photo of Sir Patrick Donner Sir Patrick Donner , Basingstoke

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the lawlessness in Malaya and the numerous acts of violence and intimidation in the peninsula, he will, as a temporary measure, impose the death penalty for the illegal carrying of arms.

Mr. Creech Jones:

Both in Malaya and in Singapore I understand that the law allows the death penalty to be imposed for the illegal carrying of arms and using or attempting to use them. For the offence of illegal carrying of arms severe penalties involving up to 10 years imprisonment are also prescribed. As an exceptional measure in one area of Central Perak and two areas in Johore the High Commissioner has made emergency regulations reimposing the death penalty for the simple unlawful possession of arms, ammunition, grenades and explosives.

Photo of Sir Walter Fletcher Sir Walter Fletcher , Bury

In carrying out this would the Minister consider sending some of the policemen from Palestine who are now available?

Mr. Creech Jones:

That problem is before us.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

Can my right hon. Friend give us any information that suggests that this lawlessness in Malaya has been 'instigated by the Cominform in Bucharest?