HC Deb 11 May 1899 vol 71 cc346-7
MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received the report of the Governor of Ceylon on Mr. C. J. R. Le Mesurier's indictment of the Governor and of other officials in Ceylon; whether these complaints were sent to the Colonial Secretary in January, through the Governor himself; and whether it is imperative on the Governor, under the Government Regulations, to report on such a complaint at the time of forwarding it to the Secretary of State; and whether the Inspector-General of Police in Ceylon has protested against the use of police to eject the occupants of lands claimed by the Crown; and whether the Law Officers of the Crown in Ceylon have advised against the action of the Governor in using force to occupy such lands, and advised him to proceed under the Common Law; and has the Government at last taken proceedings under the Common Law of the island to assert the right of the Crown to use of these lands; and why the same procedure could not have been taken with all the other lands in dispute.


The petition in question, dated December 31, was forwarded with a despatch dated April 3, which reached me April 24. The Acting Governor, who wrote the despatch, explained the delay as follows:— It has not been possible to deal with this memorial as speedily as I should have desired, owing to the number of references which were necessitated to the several officers who were charged by Mr. Le Mesurier with grave dereliction of duty. They, in fact, include all those officers of Government whose duties necessitated their coming in contact officially with Mr. Le Mesurier, and his complaints range over a period of some 3½ years. The Governor, who is in England, states that as far as he is aware the Inspector-General of Police did not, and was most unlikely, to make any such protest as the question implies. The Attorney-General of Ceylon, under whose advice all pro- ceedings under the ordinance have been taken, has not advised as suggested in the honourable Member's question, nor has he advised the Governor to proceed under the ordinary law, except in one or two cases where Mr. Le Mesurier is concerned. In these cases Mr. Le Mesurier, by technical objections, thwarted the proceedings under the Waste Lands Ordinance, and consequently the Attorney-General saw no reason why he should continue to have the benefit of the cheap procedure provided by the ordinance, especially as he would not have the same opportunities for obstruction under the more rigid ordinary law. To adopt the same procedure in all cases would be unfair to other claimants, who prefer the inexpensive and expeditious procedure under the Waste Lands Ordinance. That ordinance is generally very popular, and many large proprietors are anxious to have settlements effected under it because, besides being cheap and expeditious, it provides for the amicable settlement of claims, and Government has from the first directed that all bona fide claims are to be treated in a generous spirit. Consequently, nearly all claims other than Mr. Le Mesurier's have been amicably disposed of under the ordinance without the intervention of the ordinary courts, which are open to every claimant.