Malaysian campaigners ask Queen to press for action over 1948 deaths

Campaigners in Malaysia have petitioned the Queen to use her influence in gaining an apology and compensation from the British Government over an alleged massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by British soldiers in 1948.

The move comes after a request was rejected for an investigation into the killing of the 24 ethnic Chinese in the remote village of Batang Kali, Selangor province, despite a decades-long campaign. A lawyer acting for the victims’ families, Quek Ngee Meng, criticised the British government’s decision as “legally and morally hollow”, adding that the failure to hold an inquiry amounted to a “very British cover-up”.

The families along with a delegation from the Chinese Associations’ Federation have presented their petition in Kuala Lumpur. It asks that the Queen use her “vast influence” over the government to ensure it issues an “official apology” and “reasonable compensation” for the victims’ families and the wider community, which it sets at £30 million and £50 million respectively.

The families contend that a contingent of 14 Scots Guards entered the village on 12 December, 1948, and detained 25 unarmed men at the beginning of a 12-year insurgency in what was then the colony of Malaya.

Twenty-four of the men were killed while one, who fainted and was presumed dead, survived and is still alive. The men’s wives and children who had been separated from them witnessed the killings.

At the time a British investigation into the massacre found they were killed on a river bank to prevent them from escaping.

In 1970 a British newspaper reported the damning allegations on what is sometimes referred to as “Britain’s My Lai Massacre”. The revelations forced the Labour government to order an investigation but a lack of evidence led to the next government dropping the inquiry.

A BBC documentary in 1992 threw up fresh evidence of survivors’ testimony, the confession of Scots Guardsman and interviews with the Scotland Yard officers on the 1970 inquiry. The following year the families first petitioned the Queen demanding justice, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said no new evidence had been unearthed to warrant reopening an inquiry.

But the families refused to give up. In accepting the new petition the British High Commissioner, Simon Featherstone, said he would “faithfully convey their views to the British government” when he passes it on.

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