Britain pressured Malaysia to stop a police investigation in 1993 into the 1948 massacre of 24 rubber tappers, all men, in the village of Batang Kali, Ulu Selangor, by soldiers of the Scots Guards regiment on operations during the Emergency, reports the Guardian newspaper.
The revelation of Malaysian complicity in the 64-year cover-up comes a year after Madam Tham Yong, the last surviving witness of the massacre died of cancer at the age of 78, leaving the campaign for an official investigation in uncertainty.
News of the massacre made front-page headlines in 1970, with The Straits Times (which almost missed the story the day it broke in British newspapers) sending in a team to the scene interview survivors and dig up background. Scotland Yard initiated an investigation, which petered out.
In 1992 the BBC produced a documentary “In Cold Blood” on the massacre and the British government’s refusal to reopen the case.
The MCA and the DAP both got involved in campaigns for an official investigation, which the British government repeatedly rebuffed. In December last year, a petition was sent to Queen Elizabeth II, which was refused. The newly-appointed British High Commissioner, Simon Featherstone, promised in December to bring the matter to the attention of his government.
But the official curtain of silence has never been lifted. Now the Guardian reveals that Malaysian police stopped an investigation under British pressure.
Malaysian police officers contacted Interpol and were due to visit the UK in 1993 to interview soldiers involved in the shootings, only for the Foreign Office to pressure the country’s high commissioner into halting the visit. One memorandum states that senior Foreign Office officials later met Malaysian police chiefs to discuss closing the inquiry shortly before it was aborted.
The documents, released by Malaysian sources ahead of a judicial review related to the massacre, also reveal how a Metropolitan police investigation in 1970 into the allegations was “terminated” because an incoming Conservative government did not want the darker aspects of Britain’s colonial past exposed.
The Guardian’s report is based on documents filed for a High Court review of the Batang Kali case, filed by activists on behalf of the victims’ families. One of those, Quek Ngee Meng, a lawyer and activist, who has been helping surviving family of the victims for years, said the petition was their last resort in seeking an inquiry, and to establish the innocence of the victims. The hearing is expected to take place soon.