Britain urged to probe colonial era killings

Survivors of a shooting of Malaysian villagers by British colonial troops in 1948 are renewing a campaign to pressure the British government to acknowledge the killings were unjustified.

Survivors of a shooting of Malaysian villagers by British colonial troops in 1948 are renewing a campaign to pressure the British government to acknowledge the killings were unjustified.

Malaysian opposition politicians said today that the killing of 24 unarmed rubber tappers by Scots Guard soldiers in what was then British-ruled Malaya was comparable to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when American soldiers killed perhaps 500 civilians.

Details of the December 12, 1948, killings have languished in obscurity for more than three decades, after the Conservatives won power in 1970 and reversed a former Labour government decision to investigate the deaths.

British officials have since said there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal proceedings against a 14-man Scots Guard patrol troop, who also burned the suspects’ village.

A 77-year-old male villager who survived the killings and two women who saw it happen are now making a last-ditch appeal to the British government to reopen the probe and establish the truth, said Lim Kit Siang, Malaysia’s top opposition parliamentarian.

“The British government must own up to this historic injustice,” Lim told a news conference.

Officials at Britain’s High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said they had no immediate comment.

The three complainants – one stricken with cancer, another wheelchair-bound and the third nearly deaf – met Lim and other officials from his Democratic Action Party this week, seeking their help to bring international attention to their cause.

Party leaders urged lawmakers from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s ruling coalition to help in a campaign aimed at persuading the British government to “rewrite the history books” and provide some financial compensation to the three villagers.

The three, who live in a rural district northeast of Kuala Lumpur near the site of the shootings, said they sent a petition to the Queen for help in 1993, but received no response.

The controversy was rekindled after Chin Peng, the exiled former leader of the defunct Communist Party of Malaya, vented frustration over Britain’s handling of the issue in his best-selling biography, published last year.

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