KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Despite British soldiers admitting to unlawfully killing 24 unarmed Batang Kali villagers, a change in government ensured the truth behind the massacre remained buried for nearly half a century, a UK high court heard yesterday.
For the first time, lawyers disclosed cautioned statements given to the police from six British troopers that corroborated accounts that 16 soldiers from the 2nd Scots Guards had shot and killed 24 villagers in what is now called the 1948 Batang Kali massacre.
“The (villagers) were going to be shot and we could fall in or fall out,” Alan Tuppen, one of the Scots Guards, was quoted by The Guardian as having told British police during a 1970 investigation ordered by the then Labour government.
“The bandits were then shot but I’m sorry I must tell you the truth, they were not running away,” George Kydd, another Scots Guard, was reported by the UK daily to have said in his 1970 statement.
Kydd added: “There was an inquiry later on and I’ve got to go along with this, we were told before going in to tell the same story, that is that the bandits were running away when they were shot… I don’t remember who told us to tell this story but it was a member of the army.”
The prominent paper reported that the Labour government-mooted inquiry was cancelled in June 1970 after the Conservatives won the general election, which led to a 42-year cover-up.
Detective Chief Superintendent Frank Williams, who led the British police probe, had noted that the soldiers’ statements contradicted the government’s official stand — that the investigation was called off due to insufficient proof.
“At the outset this matter was politically flavoured and it is patently clear that the decision to terminate enquiries in the middle of the investigation was due to a political change of view when the new Conservative government came into office after the general election,” the paper cited William’s report as having said.
The Guardian reported the judicial review hearing will continue but judgment is expected to be reserved.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office maintain that it is too late for lessons to be learned from any inquiry and that most of the witnesses are no longer alive, the paper reported.
The Batang Kali massacre took place on December 12, 1948 during British military operations against the communists in the post-World War II Malayan Emergency.
British troops surrounded a rubber estate in Sungai Rimoh, Batang Kali, and shot dead 24 villagers before setting fire to the village.
After 64 years, three surviving septuagenarian family members of those killed have finally got their wish for the first complete investigation of the alleged atrocity.
The three who went to the UK for the hearing — Lim Ah Yin, 76, Loh Ah Choi, 71, and Chong Koon Ying, 73 — are not trying to seek compensation or court charges of the soldiers who had executed the villagers.
They want a judicial review of the British government’s 1970 decision to not conduct a public inquiry.
The trio are represented in the UK court by lawyer Michael Fordham.