Malaysian activists petition British Queen over massacre

1st December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Malaysian activists Wednesday petitioned Britain's Queen Elizabeth II after her government rejected a probe into the massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by British troops in 1948.

The move follows the rejection by British government lawyers on Monday to hold any investigation despite a decades-long campaign by relatives and supporters for such a probe into the killing of villagers in Batang Kali.

Calling the government's response "legally and morally hollow," Quek Ngee Meng, a legal representative of the victims' families, added that the failure to hold a proper inquiry "amounts to a very British cover-up."

"The worst features of colonialism, i.e. powerful self-interest on the part of the armed forces and bureaucratic obfuscation over decades, have, so far, conspired to ensure that the events at Batang Kali remain unanswered for and inadequately explained," Quek said.

Officials at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday confirmed that the British government had sent a letter to representatives of the victims' families rejecting an inquiry into the matter.

In response to the decision, Quek, along with a delegation from the Chinese Associations Federation, which also represents the victims' families, submitted their petition to the Queen through Britain's High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, Simon Featherstone.

In a statement, Featherstone said he would "faithfully convey their views to the British Government."

The "Batang Kali massacre" occurred in a village in central Selangor state on December 12, 1948, when 14 members of the Scots Guards killed 24 unarmed ethnic Chinese and torched their village.

British colonial authorities said at the time of the incident -- at the beginning of a 12-year communist insurgency in the former Malaya -- that the men were shot because they were suspected guerrillas fleeing the scene.

Explained away in 1948 by the then Malayan attorney general, the massacre was largely forgotten until 1970 when a British newspaper ran an explosive account of the killings, publishing sworn affidavits by soldiers who admitted the villagers had been shot in cold blood.

The revelations triggered an uproar in Britain but a promised investigation was later dropped after a change in government.

The guerrilla war in Malaya left thousands dead and formally ended only in 1989 with the signing of a peace treaty with the Malayan Communist Party.

© 2010 AFP

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