§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I beg to move," That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a short Bill to repeal the Straits Settlements Act of 1866 and to make further provision for the government of the territories heretofore known as the Straits Settlements. The Settlements are set out in the Schedule and include Singapore, the Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Labuan, and a number of subsidiary dependencies. It is known to the House that until 1866 the Settlements were regarded as dependencies of India and were administered by the Government of India. After the appointed day these Settlements, if this Bill is passed, will be divided, as will be set out in Orders in Council, and they will be governed, either singly or in conjunction with such other territories as may be specified in the Orders in Council. That is to say, Malacca and Penang will be linked with the Malay Union, and Singapore will become a separate Colony. So far as the Settlements are concerned the British Settlements Acts of 1887 and 1945 will apply. The underlying purpose of the proposed change is much wider than is 638 revealed in the short Bill before the House. It is to make possible the creation of a Malayan Union which will include the Settlements of Malacca and Penang and the nine Malay States. This policy is designed to set Malaya on the road to political progress. The Bill must be considered in relation to that wider policy. I would like the House to believe that this policy was evolved after long and careful consideration by His Majesty's Government in consultation with distinguished Malayan civil servants, representative organisations, knowledgeable and experienced individuals, and after the study of a very considerable volume of literature on the problems concerned. It was also studied by Ministers not only in this but in previous Governments, and its principles were, I think, provisionally approved before the Labour Government came into office. I think, therefore, it can be said that the policy we are considering this morning is not one involving acute party difference.
It is scarcely necessary that I should delve at this moment into the past history of the Malayan Peninsula. I should point out, however, that over the past century, the Malay States have grown from comparatively small and isolated communities, each living independently with its own ruler and with Britain encouraging economic development and affording protection, while standing aside on matters of the Mohammedan religion and Malay custom. The Chinese communities in the Peninsula go back a long way. To Malaya came Chinese for copper and for tin and Indians far work on the rubber plantations. British influence encouraged communications and such services as health and education until the disaster of the Japanese invasion. I think the House recalls the horror of that disaster. It was, primarily, a military disaster, and many bitter things were said about British administration. Round the world were circulated stories about our Imperial weakness and the assumption. which it was alleged underlay British policy. The stories were broadcast and brought much criticism even in our Dominions, as well as in the United States of America, and other countries. But if there were any inherent weaknesses, if the Imperial system were wrong, if there was a divorce between Government and people, as was often alleged—assertions which I can only accept with considerable 639 reservation—then the British people de manded that whatever was wrong should be put right after the war. That time has now come. The charges against us were often irresponsible and grossly unfair. I want to pay a tribute to our Colonial service and the quality or the job they achieved. I think the House sympathises with those men and women who, in the ordeal until victory came, showed infinite heroism, and made great sacrifices, in the incarceration they endured under the Japanese, and still more in the magnificent way in which they have expressed their eagerness to get back to their posts and carry on their work. I think, however, most of us agree that there were faults in the system. The diversity of authorities impeded swift and united action. The system was clumsy and wasteful and encouraged separatism and created difficulties of administration. Moreover, the country was politically stagnant, and could not progress to self-government. There was no sign of unity or conception of common citizenship among inhabitants drawn from a number of races and professing various creeds. The States were not popularly controlled, and a big proportion of the population were outside political rights. It was a system which offered no logical basis for the development of self-governing institutions. In place of a number of self-centred units, the country obviously needed, if there was to be social and political advance coordinated policy and uniformly directed services.
The Government, therefore, propose to secure union and common citizenship along the lines set out in the announcement of the Secretary of State in October of last year, in the terms of the White Paper, No. 6724 issued in January, and in accordance with the proposals set out in Command Paper 6749 which indicates the possible lines of the Order in Council which will be necessary. Already, a series of agreements have been negotiated by Sir Harold MacMichael on behalf of His Majesty's Government with the rulers concerned, and the Bill before the House deals with the Straits so far as they become part of the scheme.
Perhaps in a few words I had better indicate the broad proposals of the policy. In the first place, it is suggested for the Settlements, apart from Singapore, that they should take their place under a, Malayan Union governed by a legislative 640 council and executive. There should be local councils;, established in each of the Malay: States, and Settlements councils in the two main Settlements, these councils to enjoy a real measure of local autonomy, the States not- losing their peculiar identity but moving forward to local government representative of all the people and interests in the States. Further more. Singapore will be made into a. Colony. I will have its legislative council and executive. There will be established a municipality and other local bodies, all. of which must be based on popular consent. Further, all matters of Mohammedan religion concerning the Malays will be dealt with by a Sultans'. Advisory Council, made up of the .Sultans together with, in each State, a, Moslem Advisory.., Council, these bodies to be for the purpose of considering all matters appertaining to the Mohammedan faith and its application in the territories.
The political life of the Union and Singapore will rest on the principle of common citizenship. In addition, there will be appointed a Governor-General to coordinate policy and to secure common approval in regard to certain aspects of development. With regard to the Settlements, Penang and Malacca will retain their status and identity inside the proposed Union. Their citizens will continue to be British subjects, and they will have their own Settlement council. As I have said, they will come within the Union legislative council and the Union will not be complete without them. Their economic interests are substantially tied up with the mainland interests. As to Singapore, because of its very high proportion of Chinese population, because of its entrepot trade, commercial and economic interests which are distinct from the mainland, it was felt that it should have separate treatment, though later it could be reunited to the Union if circumstances warranted it.
It is necessary, I think, to explain that there are constitutional difficulties about laying the actual drafts of Orders in Council before the House. We have tried to meet the difficulty so far as this Bill is concerned by what I believe is an amicable but exceptionable arrangement. I will only add that His Majesty's Government are studying whether more satisfactory arrangements: are possible to help Parliament watch this matter of colonial 641 constitutions. It will be appreciated that for the territories involved in this Bill, the Order in Council will be by virtue of the British Settlements Act, whereas that part of the Order in Council relating to the Malay States will be by virtue of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1890.
Perhaps here I ought to add to the reasons set out in the Government's statement on policy why we cannot well go back to the position at the time of the Japanese invasion and pick up the threads of administration where they were dropped at that time. The military authorities hand over to civil administration on 1st April. Between now and then the framework of the new order must be promulgated, the Governors appointed and the appropriate instruments prepared. The war has made great changes in the world and released new forces and influences for freedom and democracy which cannot be ignored. I referred to the inherent weakness in the system and the political stagnation which resulted. The people now excluded from political life in Malaya have played a conspicuous part in the struggle for liberation. Their loyalty and devotion have not been adequately recognised. Our returning Colonial servants have told of the sacrifice and unflinching courage which some of these men, Chinese and Indians as well as Malays, have shown. Perhaps I might diverge to read a brief extract from a report of one of the officials who has visited Malaya since the fall of the Japanese. He said:Another most encouraging feature of the. situation in Malay was the astonishing loyalty which has been maintained towards the British cause throughout the period of the Japanese occupation on the part of the Asiatic staffs, not only Government but also municipal, and the Singapore Harbour Board. In most cases these staffs have kept the machinery of government working as nearly as possible on pre-war lines in a determination to be ready for the return of the British administration. For instance, at Sempang land records had been maintained complete, and all transactions which had taken place during the Japanese occupation had been, properly entered up in accordance with the established form. The survey records had been dispersed to Kedah and Singapore, but the principal Asiatic official in the Survey Office had made it his business to locate these records and transport them back where they are now virtually complete even down to the field books.A similar spirit of loyalty and cooperation prevailed among the Singapore Harbour Board 642 employees. Much of the machinery at the dockyards and shipyards and at the power house had been dispersed throughout Malaya. The employees had taken the trouble to keep track of the dispersed machinery and afforded all information and assistance to the British authorities to recover it on their return. The result was that the dockyards and shipyards were almost fully equipped, and when I visited them they were already working to 80 percent. of their pre-war capacity in the repair of naval and other shipping.I think the House must agree that it is inconceivable that these people should now be treated as mere sojourners in their country which, in point of fact, has become their homeland. Their political aspirations have been stimulated by the stride of events in that part of the world, in India, in China and in Indonesia, and there can, in the future, be no stability or security unless these developments are recognised and action taken now. I venture to think that in some of the Malay States the surest safeguards against submergence, which some of our Malay friends fear, is the speedy adoption of the principle of common citizenship. In any case, a more liberal constitution is imperative, for under the prewar order self-government could not be achieved.
It is, therefore, inconceivable that Malaya should have no fewer than 10 autonomous States—which would mean separatism and Balkanisation—with a big percentage of the population in the independent States not enfranchised, and no unity at that. It would preserve a privileged section in an artificial position, and a privileged population, often but a minority of the population of the State concerned. It would confirm a policy which we, the British, have consistently rejected in most of our Colonial territories, in Fiji, in Ceylon, in Kenya, in Mauritius, and in the West Indies. After all, in Malaya only 37½ per cent. of the population are Malays or Malasian; in the Federated Malay States only 26 per cent. Of the Chinese population, 31 percent. were actually born in Malaya, and it can be said that the indigenous Chinese represent a proportion not unlike that of the indigenous Malays. To perpetuate this kind of political privilege would be to sow the seeds of future trouble. It would create the greatest misunderstanding in the eyes of the world and renew the damaging and ignorant criticism and misconceptions of British purpose.
We are aware that latterly there has been growing opposition to this policy, 643 opposition coming not from the Sultans only but from the more vocal of the Malays themselves. We have been told that the new British policy is at the expense of the Malays. We have received resolutions and messages not only from rulers but from Malay associations and conferences. The rulers have sent us proposals and reservations for consideration since they themselves conceded jurisdiction. I had hoped that I should be able today to give the House a full summary of these reservations in a written answer to a Question, but unfortunately something went wrong in the arrangements. I hope that in today's Hansard a summary will be printed indicating what the rulers and others have been asking of us. I am conscious, as are the Government, that the Malays have apprehensions, and I can assure them that their representations have been and will be most sympathetically studied.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
On a point of Order. I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, and perhaps I am being stupid, but I have not followed his last sentences. Are we not to be told what is the nature of these complaints, and how are they to get into today's HANSARD if they are not to be part of the speech? I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would clarify this.
Mr. Creech Jones
I must confess that I had hoped that this information would be available before the Debate, but, unfortunately, the information could not be tabulated in time. The request came somewhat late and we have done our best. I think the substance of the request is already known to hon. Members of the House.
Mr. Creech Jones
I have a draft of the reply here, and will read it if hon. Members insist, although it is off the main line of my argument. I was coming back to the subject. The proposals made by the rulers are concerned with jurisdiction. Summarised, they ask, firstly, 644 that the State Governments should control their own finances and allot money to the Central Government; secondly, that alienation of State land should be a matter for decision by each State Council; thirdly, that the rulers should have control over the decisions of the State Council and over their membership; and fourthly, that the oath of allegiance should be to the ruler in each State and not to the Malayan Union. The second group of representations are concerned with religion: firstly, that it is improper for the Governor's name to appear on legislation dealing purely with Mohammedan religious affairs; secondly, that the rulers should have a more complete control over the membership of the Malay Advisory Council in each State; thirdly, some of the rulers have expressed anxiety about citizenship and have asked that Singapore should not form part of the Malayan Union.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
Since I see that copies of this statement are being handed out to hon. Members behind the Under-Secretary, may I ask that we, on this side, should participate in the distribution?
Mr. Creech Jones
Fourthly, if residents of Singapore are indeed to qualify for citizenship they should not qualify for public and administrative service in the Union, particularly on the Legislative and Executive Councils. Qualification for citizenship should be by birth and domicile and should involve the ownership of property in the Union, certain knowledge of the Malay language, and the forfeiture of all personal status and rights in allegiance to the applicant's country of origin. Further, those who qualify automatically for citizenship by virtue of birth or by 10 years ' residence, should be required to swear an oath of allegiance to the Malayan Union no less than those who become naturalised. There is a fourth group of miscellaneous points concerning, for instance, the preservation of the individual postage stamp, and less important matters than that.
Mr. Creech Jones
Few rulers seem to go back on the view that their signature of the cession of jurisdiction was, in all the circumstances, inevitable. Their 645 main difficulty centres on citizenship, on the conception of common citizenship and the consequent modification which is involved in the matter of privileges by the acceptance of that principle. But so far as religious demands are concerned, I think it can be fairly said that the Government are prepared to go the whole wav, including the withdrawal of the Governor from presiding over the Sultans' Advisory Council when matters of religion are being dealt with and religious bills are under consideration. On miscellaneous matters. the requests are concerned sometimes with matters of prestige, civil lists, properties, residences, and stamps and these questions present no difficulty whatever. The Malayan land reservation laws will be safeguarded, and the question of the alienation of land will be sympathetically handled. I should like to say on behalf of the Government that we are grateful to the rulers for their submissions, and for the suggestions which they have made, which have been of great help to us.
I will now come back to the criticisms of the way in which the cession of jurisdiction was obtained. It was obvious from the announcement made in this House, and made in Malaya last October, that Sir Harold MacMichael was entrusted with a mission to persuade the rulers to cede jurisdiction, so that the policy I have been describing could be brought to fulfilment. There were obvious time limits for such a mission, but I must inform the House that nowhere did this fact interfere with the facilities for ample consideration and discussion which Sir Harold felt necessary, indeed essential, for his difficult responsibility. In the discussions the rulers had access to their councils, advisers, and any customary procedure when matters of great consequence to their State were discussed. The discussions were generally friendly and frank, with no recourse to threats or duress. I remember in the midst of these talks seeing a message from Sir Harold saying how much he appreciated that such important matters as these must in no circumstances be rushed. True, there were certain rulers who had been acting as regents and who had not been recognised by His Majesty's Government because of the events of the war, but Sir Harold pursued a proper course in the settlement of that recognition.
646 So far as 1 have been able to ascertain, the rulers did not ask to confer with one another. It may be that some of them did not confer as widely as some critics think they should have done, in accordance with their customary procedure, with the bodies they sometimes consult, but I doubt the validity of such criticism. It cannot well be thought that Sir Harold could direct the Sultans on internal constitutional procedure in their own States, but in any case, in order that there should be no ambiguity, Sir Harold presented to each of the rulers, at the opening of his discussions, a full explanatory note setting out all aspects of the new policy, and spent much time explaining and dealing with difficulties. Only some days after, as a rule, did he suggest that the signature to the treaty might be obtained.
I think I have said enough to show that federation was no way to deal with the problem of Malaya, but, on the broad policy, why did we want to act now without retiming to the status quo before the war? It is because the Government desire to use this opportunity for reform which may never recur. The only alternative to the course which His Majesty's Government have actually adopted was to let the old system, with its multiplicity of authority, its divided loyalties and its political backwardness re-establish itself, and then to set about changing it. His Majesty's Government were bound, in the interests of Malaya and of its inhabitants, to waste no time in taking these first steps to establish a political union and common citizenship without which the country cannot progress. Those are the essential foundations, imperative in that part of the world and in the modern world in which we are now living.
I know that some Malayans are apprehensive about the energy and enterprise, and are not enamoured with the ways of life, of other sections of people in their midst. They fear their entrance into the Public Service, but for those who have made Malaya their homeland or who have been born there, or who have resided and worked there and built up the country, often on our encouragement, civil and basic rights ought not to be denied. Nor could those people be denied the right to exercise some of the qualities which will enrich the life of what might otherwise be a stagnant community. In any case, 647 the conception of citizenship can be conditioned and controlled with great care, and I hope that when the Order in Council is made the qualifications laid down will give wider satisfaction than the particulars in the original statement of policy, to which some exception has been taken.
I conclude by saying that many of the matters involved in this policy must be worked out in the framework of the broad scheme by the Governors and the Governor-General. The names of those gentlemen should inspire confidence. It will be noticed in the White Paper, No. 6749, that the Governors will be required to consult all sections of local opinion on the composition of the councils, the executive bodies and other institutions which have to be created. They will begin with an Advisory Council which will be broadly based. The military authorities in Singapore have, for the last four months, had such an advisory body, which has been conspicuously successful Every endeavour will be made to preserve and develop a real degree of local interest and authority in the States, consistent with the Union and with Malayan development.
Many of the details of the new policy will be worked out in the closest collaboration with local opinion. But His Majesty's Government cannot be deflected from the policy to which they have given so much careful consideration, and of whose essential Tightness they are so confident. Therefore, I beg our Malay friends to co-operate in this policy. It is not annexation but fulfilment; not imperialism, but an effort to carry out more faithfully our human responsibilities. We have to get cooperation amongst the races, a community of interest, and unity of purpose, so that self government becomes a reality in the Malay Pensinsula. This is the scaffolding, and I, therefore, hope the House will prepare the ground by giving the Bill before us this morning a Second Reading.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I feel a sense of both honour and responsibility in opening this Debate on behalf of the Opposition, because I believe that since Sir Edward Campbell died I have probably a greater personal experience of Malaya than, so far as I know any other 648 hon. Member of this House. I lived there for 14 years and know most of the leading members of the various communities. They have always regarded me, somewhat facetiously, as the "Member for Malaya"; and, therefore, I have to try to put before the House today the views of those communities, who, unfortunately, are not able to speak for themselves. I want to make only one party point, and that with considerable reluctance. There are so many Members opposite, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer downwards, who seem to think that no Member on this side of the House can speak on a subject unless he has some personal financial interest in it. I, therefore, had better make it quite clear that when I was in Malaya it was as a Colonial servant. I have no interest otherwise, except that of the welfare of the people.
Vast and fundamental changes are implied in this White Paper and this Bill. I feel I must at once raise a protest at the way in which this House has been treated. It was only a week ago that the second White Paper on Sir Harold MacMichael's Report was published. It was only Monday that we had published a White Paper setting out the Orders in Council; and here this morning we have little bits of paper being passed round the House of Commons as though this were a school debating society. I suggest that that is no way in which the Government ought to treat the House. They issued two White Papers after the Second Reading of this Bill in another place. These two White Papers, which are fundamental to the whole of this reorganisation, have not gone to Malaya. The local inhabitants have had no opportunity of seeing them or discussing them or of representing their views to us in this House. Therefore, I sincerely hope the Government will give ample time between the Second and Third Readings so that the report of this Debate in the House today can go to Malaya, and so that we on this side can make up our minds whether to challenge the Government to a Division on Third Reading. Anything less than that would not only be discourteous to this House, but would be rushing the Bill in a most scandalous manner.
I do not think we can understand these changes which are proposed without knowing something of the history of Malaya. There can be few examples, I 649 suggest, of a country which, in so short a space of time, has gained such a high degree of prosperity and of general well-being. After all, it was only 70 years ago that Malaya, to all intents and purposes, was an undeveloped land covered with thick jungle; and, except for the settlements of Malacca, Singapore and Penang, its inhabitants were largely restricted to Malay kingdoms on the banks of the rivers. Then two things happened. The first was the development of tin and the second was the discovery that the rubber tree, which grew wild in the jungles of Brazil, would grow even better as a plantation product in the hot steamy climate of Malaya. Two results followed. The first was that immigrant races, chiefly Chinese, poured into the country, first in their tens of thousands, and later in their millions. The reason for this was that the Malay did not take a very active part in the development of these latent assets.
I think it is necessary for the House to understand a little about the Malay character and the Malay temperament. Superficially, visitors to Malay say that the Malay is lazy. It is not true. It is simply that he has a different philosophy of life which does not fit in with European conceptions. He certainly is not a "go-getter" in the American sense. He is, by occupation, either a fisherman or a peasant; but, above all, he is an individualist. A roof over his head, a wife to look after him, enough to eat, and, above all, his independence, are more valuable to him than the acquisition of wealth, either by commerce or by industry. After all, not everybody in this world wants to be either a proletarian or a successful business man; and it is for that reason that the Malay has been content to leave to others the wealth which his own country has produced. However, let us remember that it is our policy which has allowed this country to be opened up to the alien races, and it is our policy which has created the very problem that we are trying to solve today. I am not trying to argue whether or not we could have prevented that or whether it was desirable to prevent it. But, from the Malay's point of view, I have no hesitation in saying that he would have preferred the country to have been developed in a different way, and not by the immigration of so many alien races.
§ Mr. Sorensen
May I put this question to the hon. Gentleman? Is it not obvious that we, who were anxious to exploit the country, quite legitimately, encouraged those so-called alien races to reside there?
§ Mr. Gammans
It was deliberate policy to open up the country. Whether it was possible or desirable to prevent it I do not want to argue; but it has created the problem which we are trying to solve today. Therefore, that imposes upon us an obligation to see we do it with decency and with honour.
The second result of this policy is that Malaya has enjoyed a higher standard of living than any other country in the Colonial Empire, a standard which would compare favourably with that of many European countries. Before the war Malaya produced merely 40 per cent. of the world's tin and rubber, and it was from these enterprises and the fact that Singapore became the great centre of entrepot trade in the Far East, that the prosperity came. Roads, schools, hospitals, medical and health services, education, reached the highest point known in any part of the Colonial Empire simply because there was money to pay for them. In 1938, the foreign trade of this small land of only 5,000,000 people was half that of the total Indian Empire with its population of 400,000,000. This is a triumph of British administration and enterprise, combined, as the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary has pointed out, with Chinese and, to a lesser extent, Indian business ability. Of course, the Malay has benefited by all this. I realise that. But he has benefited by finding himself in numerical inferiority in a country he has always regarded as his own.
There is another phenomenal side to the development of this country. Malaya was noted for the spirit of harmony and good feeling that existed between all the races. At a time when nationalism was rearing its ugly head in most of the countries of Asia and most of the countries of Europe, one could find that the Malays, Chinese, Indians and Europeans could sit down together in perfect amity. I am very glad indeed that the hon. Gentleman has paid a tribute to Malaya's part in the war, especially after the campaign of mud slinging and slander which was carried on both inside 651 and outside this House. No part of the; British Empire stood more firmly by our side in 1940 and 1941. After all, H.M.S. "Malaya," which was given during the last war by the Federated Malay States, is still part of the Royal Navy. Between the two wars Malaya has given £30,000,000 in free gifs to Imperial de-fence, and after the war had started £600,000 by way of donations to the Lord Mayor's relief fund when London was being bombed, and two bomber squadrons to the R.A.F. It is a little ironical that, at a time when Russia is abusing the British Empire in every part of the world, almost the last letter which came out of Singapore enclosed a cheque for £325,000 for Mrs. Churchill's Aid to Russia Fund; it was a proof that the people of Singapore felt no resentment that the arms which might have gone to them, and which would certainly have prolonged their resistance, were going to Russia.
Let us understand what this Bill seeks to do. The Colonial Office is attempting two things, and I wish to make it quite clear from the beginning that I am entirely in favour of what they are trying to do. Firstly, they are attempting to tidy up local administration. As the hon. Member has pointed out, in a country which is only as large as England without Wales, there are nine separate States, each with its ruler and three British units under the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlement. Or, to quote again from Sir Harold MacMichael's Report:His Majesty's Government has become convinced that some measure of simplification was required.As I have said, I do not dissent from that aim, although it is possible to exaggerate its importance. This arrangement may be illogical on paper, but it is certainly no more illogical than the British Constitution itself; it is certainly no more illogical than the government of London, or the various local governments, where in Lancashire, for instance, I believe there are no less than twelve separate police forces. Every argument, which the hon. Gentleman could use for tidying up the Government of Malaya, could be used with equal or greater force in compelling federation of the West Indies, where there are six separate Governors and six separate legislatures. But, if there is to be a policy of federation of the 652 West Indies, it must come by agreement and not by compulsion. Not by the slightest stretch of imagination can it be urged that there is anything urgent about Malayan reorganisation, or anything to justify a change, except with the fullest consent of the local inhabitants.
The second point in the White Paper, with which I am in entire agreement, is to face up to the fact that many non-Malayan races have made Malaya their home, and that their position requires regularising. While again I do not dissent from this objective, there is certainly nothing urgent about it, and there has certainly been no agitation on any large scale to effect such a change. It is worth while examining what discriminations there are against the non-Malayan races. Racial differentiation can be only on four grounds; it may be political, it may be economical, it may be administrative and it may be social. As to political differentiation, there were no ballot boxes in Malaya, and there was no differentiation against the Chinese on that score. As to economic differentiation, except for the fact that certain land was reserved under Malaya Reservation Acts for Europeans only, any foreigner was free to own property or trade on an equal basis. The proof of this is that the retail trade throughout the country is almost entirely in the hands of the Chinese. The Chinese and the Indians, and the Japanese, before the war. owned rubber estates, and it is the Chinese and not the Malayans who are the wealthy section of the community As to administrative differentiations, there is only one case, and that is in the Malay States as opposed to the Straits Settlements, where it is insisted that Malays, and not Europeans, shall occupy the higher Government posts; but even today the majority of civil servants are non-Malays As to social differentiations, there are none. When the hon. Gentleman speaks of differentiation, it is as well to go into the facts, and to see what barriers exist.
While I have no objection whatever to what the Colonial Office is trying to do, I have the strongest possible condemnation of the way they have done it. Malaya has just emerged from 3½ years of Japanese occupation, and, of the nine rulers, five were appointed, either during the occupation or immediately after. I would refer the House to one part of Sir 653 Harold MacMicnael's instructions. He was told:In any Malay state where the ruler was recognised by His Majesty's Government before the outbreak of war with Japan, who either is not in office, or has so compromised himself, you should telegraph to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, through the Supreme Allied Commander the name and credentials of the Malayan personage whom you recommend as competent and .responsible to undertake such commitments in respect of the State concernedWhat does that mean? It means that not only had Sir Harold MacMichael to go out and initiate a treaty with nine Malayan rulers, but that he had to appoint five rulers before he started or confirm them in office. That may appear very innocent in London, and I am quite sure when the Colonial Secretary put that into Sir Harold's instructions, that he had nothing but innocence in his head, but anyone who has lived in the Far East knows how that would probably be interpreted. The dilemma was that a Malayan ruler would feel, if he did not sign on the dotted line, that he would not be confirmed in his appointment. Sir Harold ought not to have been put in a position where he had to obtain a treaty with the rulers and confirm or appoint five out of nine of them at the same time. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Sultan of Kedah categorically said that he was told if he did not sign, that he would not be confirmed. The hon. Gentleman wags his head, but I have quoted what the Sultan has stated.
I suggest that this is not an atmosphere in which a new treaty should be signed. The country is suffering both from starvation and inflation, and in many parts of Malaya Chinese bandits are terrorising Malay villages. Malay rulers were asked to sign a treaty, virtually affecting their future without having by their side any of the Europeans whom they knew and trusted, and, as the hon. Member has admitted, they were not even allowed to meet each other.
Mr. Creech Jones
That is certainly not the case. No ruler asked that he should be brought into contact with another.
§ Mr. Gammans
There is complete conflict of testimony on that. At any rate, they did not meet each other under the circumstances under which they should have been allowed to do so. They had 654 no chance to come to England to see the Secretary of State, nor has the Secretary of State seen fit to go to see them. The whole country is bewildered by the events of the past few years. We, who were under treaty to protect these countries, failed to do so. It is in that atmosphere that they are being asked, or, as some of them say, compelled to sign treaties which, to all intents and purposes, depose them from power.
I ask the House to contrast this policy with what His Majesty's Government have done in European countries. In France, the new postwar constitution has not yet been devised, simply because the French feel that the right atmosphere has not been created. In Poland and Greece, no elections have yet been held. We have supported the peoples of those countries in that view. In the case of Malaya they are called upon to sign these treaties while the Army of Occupation are still there and the Japanese were still in the country. We submit to the rulers there a constitution of this sort with the minimum of delay and a complete absence of real consultation.
I want to raise an even more delicate point, because here British honour is involved. Were these treaties freely negotiated, because if they were not, British honour is compromised as it has never before been compromised in the history of the Colonial Office? Let us understand the basic position. The Malay States are not British territories. We did not acquire our position there by acquisition, but by agreement. There was a series of treaties of friendship between ourselves and the Sovereign States. The rulers were always referred to as independent; they agreed to accept a British resident or adviser and to take his advice in all matters, except those of Malay religion and custom. While I am on this question of advice, I think that the wording of Sir Harold MacMichael's instructions could not have been more unfortunate. Let me read them out:You will visit Malaya … and invite each Malay Ruler's cooperation in the establishing of a fresh constitutional organisation.No negotiations, no discussions, but "invite." Many Malay rulers, and a lot of Malays themselves, would construe that word "invite" as falling within the purview of the treaty powers whereby the Malay Ruler has to accept the advice of 655 His Majesty's Government. I think it most unfortunate that these words were used and that there was no hint of discussion or negotiation.
§ Mr. Davies
That is not quite the impression I get. I think that the effect would be slightly different if the hon. Member read it more fully
§ Mr. Gammans
I think that all hon. Members who are interested in this subject have already obtained a copy of this White Paper. I do not want to take up the time of the House by reading it through. [Hon. Members: "Read it all "] If hon. Members read it themselves, they will find that it strengthens my argument. The relationship between ourselves and the Malay States, I think, is best contained in Cmd. Paper 4276 of 1933. That was at a time when Sir Samuel Wilson, who was Permanent Under-Secretary of State, went out. What he reported in that White Paper is, to my mind, fundamental. He said:The maintenance of the position, authority and prestige of the Malay Rulers must always be a cardinal point in British policy, and the encouragement of indirect rule will probably prove the greatest safeguard against the political submersion of the Malays which would result from the development of popular government on Western lines.He went on to say:Everything points to the desirability of the Rulers and their respective governments being allowed to have control of their own domestic affairs without interference, except in those cases where a unified policy is still necessary.''That is a sort of "Ark of the Covenant" in our relations with the Malay rulers. Nothing could be more explicit than that.
There is one further point which 1wishto make clear. Anyone who has ever lived in Malaya knows that the basis of Malay civilisation and culture is their loyalty to their rulers. Hitherto, we have managed to graft upon this ancient and well-understood relationship, a modern system of government; but anyone who imagines that we are dealing with rulers who are divorced from their people 656 simply do not understand the facts. Let us contrast our policy in the past with what is now proposed. The rulers, as rulers, are to be swept away. They will remain a facade, but the hon. Gentleman does not even pretend that they have any authority as rulers. Their State Councils, without which in the past they have had no authority at all, are to disappear. In their place there is to be a highly centralised administration and a centralised Legislative Council in which the rulers are not represented either directly or indirectly. In the place of the State Council, there is to be a local Council. The last White Paper refers to a Council of Sultonis, although I think it is only in the second White Paper that expression has been used at all T am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has said that that Council of Sultonis is no longer to be presided over by the Governor. I cannot imagine what the Colonial Office could have been thinking about to set up a Council of Sultonis, which is to deal primarily with Mohammedan law, and allow it to be presided over by a European who, in Islamic law, is an infidel. A tremendous amount of dissatisfaction has arisen because of this appalling ineptitude. I say without the slightest hesitation that this treaty bears no relationship at all to the well-established contact we have had in the past with the Malay rulers. In no sense is it a development of our policy. From the Malay point of view it is nothing more or less than a naked acquisition.
Were these treaties freely negotiated by Sir Harold MacMichael, in whose integrity and ability 1 have the utmost confidence, or were they not? Here we have a conflict of testimony which must be resolved by the hon. Gentleman in the House today. I would like to ask him this: At the time when the Sultans were asked to sign these treaties were they given any details as to the meaning of Malay Union citizenship? There is not the slightest reference to it in the treaties. Did the rulers understand that, to all intents and purposes, they were to be superseded in their own States? Did they sign on that understanding? I hope the hon. Gentleman will clear up that point.
I must ask the House to bear with me whilst I very briefly state what the Malayan rulers themselves have stated on the question of whether these treaties were freely negotiated or not. I first 657 of all will deal with the Sultan of Johore, who is here in London. He wrote to me yesterday, as follows:I was not in any way coerced or stampeded by Sir Harold MacMacMichael into signing the agreement he placed before me. I signed it quite willingly, firstly, because I was so happy and relieved at the liberation of Malaya from the Japanese occupation, and, secondly, because I felt confident that I would not be asked to sign anything that was not in the interest of the Malays. It was impossible for me to consult either my State Council or the Executive Council which as the result of deaths and the Japanese occupation, had simply faded away.I would make the point clear to the hon. Gentleman that the Sultan of Johore had no authority to sign anything without first consulting the State Council of Johore State, and anything signed by him without first consulting the State Council, is null and void.But after thinking the matter over carefully and lengthily, I came to the conclusion that I had signed the Agreement without scrutinising it as closely as I should have done and that I had, unfortunately, not realised its far-reaching implications. I accordingly wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 15th February telling him this and informing him that, in the circumstances, I could no longer maintain the unqualified approval I had originally given.
§ Mr. Gammans
The day before yesterday. This is what the Sultan of Kedah said:I was presented with a verbal ultimatum with a time limit, and in the event of my refusing to sign the new agreement, which I call the Instrument of Surrender, a successor, who would sign it, would be appointed Sultan. Members of the State Council were compelled to sign an undertaking that they would advise me to sign it. I was told that this matter was personal and confidential, and was not allowed to tell my people what had taken place.Now we come to the Sultan of Perak:On the 22nd November, 1945, Sir Harold MacMichael came with Brigadier Newboult. I had been notified of his coming a few days beforehand but I had no idea as to what I had to do or say. He said that he thought I had heard of the proposed constitutional changes to be introduced into Malay to which I replied that I had. He then spoke at length on the advantage that the people of Malaya would get from them. He then showed me the agreement that I had to sign giving His Majesty's Government full jurisdiction in my State and also a separate printed document containing notes showing in details, the constitutional changes referred to above. He said I could sign the agreement if I liked and that the Sultans of Johore. Selangor, Pahang and 658 Negri Sembilan had signed it. I said that the proposed changes were very drastic and I had had no time to think the matter over or consult my Chiefs, which I must do before agreeing to such an important Agreement. I asked him to give me a little time, to which he replied that he would come the next day to sign it with me. At this meeting two of my Chiefs were present. …In the morning on 23rd November, 1945, I consulted by Chiefs in the presence of Brig. Newboult. I told them that I was asked to sign the Agreement giving His Majesty's Government full jurisdiction in the State and Brig. Newboult explained the whole matter and pointed out that we were at liberty to make suggestions and express our views for and against the proposals. He said all the suggestions and views of ours would be fully considered by His Majesty's Government. One or two of the Malay Chiefs totally disagreed to the signing of the Agreement, others left the matter in my hands on condition that our suggestions and views would be favourably considered by His Majesty's Government. They all deplored the fact that they had not been notified of it in due time. At 4 p.m. the same day Sir Harold came, and I signed the Agreement. At the same time, I handed to Sir Harold my letter addressed to himself giving my views for and against the details in the proposed changes. Sir Harold promised to put my comments and views to the British Government for consideration.The transaction savours of haste. One cannot but regret the necessity for extreme speed in deciding the destiny of a nation when a little delay would have been conducive to wider counsel. In signifying my assent to the Agreement against my better judgment, I did so because I was caught in the atmosphere of haste and because I was engrossing ray unshaken loyalty to the British Crown with full confidence that my rights and the rights of my people would not be disturbed.Never the less I protested in writing against its terms and before submitting them Sir Harold assured me that they would be fully considered. In view of this fact it cannot be said that I have agreed to the serious implications of the proposed Malayan Union.We now come to the statement of the Sultan of Selangor, which, incidentally, is one of the most pathetic documents I have ever read:Sir Harold MacMichael called on me on 23rd October, 1945, in the afternoon. After exchanging the usual courtesies Sir Harold broached the subject of his visit. He asked, ' Has your Highness seen in the newspapers the proposals for a Malayan Union?' I replied, ' I have, but they are not very clear to me.' Sir Harold said, ' The object of the Union is to ensure peace and progress for Malaya. It would be best for you to surrender your powers to the King. The Sultan of Johore has signed and surrendered his powers. I ask your Highness and the other rulers to give your consent and not to be recalcitrant.' My reply was ' I trust 659 the King unreservedly. I beg His Majesty and his Government to manage the affairs of my State with justice. The King is like my teacher and I his pupil. It is only fitting that I should be taught by him. I am anxious to protect the interests of my people, the Malayans.'He goes on:When Sir Harold came Brigadier Newboult made known to him all my suggestions. Sir Harold said ' I shall convey Your Highness' views to higher quarters, but the sole purpose of my coming here is to obtain Your Highness' signature.'Although Sir Harold spoke politely and uttered no threats yet I felt compelled to sign the new Agreement, for the following reasons:
- (1) From what Sir Harold had said I understood that if the rulers did not sign the Agreement there would be no peace in Malaya.
- (2) I sincerely and unreservedly trust His Majesty the King, who is the Protector of this country.
- (3) The Sultan of Johore had signed.
- (4) If I did not sign, it would appear as if I had no faith in the King and the British Government."
§ Mr. Harold Davies
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for a moment? While I agree with him that there is not any great racial feeling in Malay, is it not a fact that in Selango one of the worst anti-Chinese demonstrations is taking place at the present moment?
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not know what that has got to do with the letter of the Sultan of Selangor. Here is what the Sultan of Negri Sembilan, who is a barrister in the Temple in London, says:On 13th November, 1945, Sir H. MacMichael with his Parliamentary Secretary arrived accompanied by Brigadier Newboult and Colonel Calder and presented me with a printed Agreement and a printed explanatory note marked ' personal and confidential.' The obvious implication of the ' personal and confidential ' was that I was not at liberty to discuss the matter with anyone. I was told that His Britannic Majesty's Government had decided on the changes set out in the Agreement and that no changes could or would be made in the terms therein. I was told that the changes would be for the good of my country and peoples and was asked to sign and co-operate. A long silence followed and Sir H. MacMichael then rose saying that he was sending for the five hereditary chiefs to be present on the morrow to sign with me. The five Undangs or hereditary chiefs were brought to my Astana on the 14th. They were—(1) the Dato' Rembau who strongly disagreed with the signing. (2) The Dato' Klana who was brought protesting from his death-bed. He died of heart disease 25 days later. He was so ill that he was prepared to do or sign anything so as to have the peace which we all need 660 under these circumstances. (3) The Dato' Jelebu said it was a fait accompli and although against it, said that under the circumstances it made no difference whether we sign or not. (4) The Dato' Johol is a very old and almost illiterate man who obviously imperfectly understood the whole proceedings. (5) The Tunku Besar Tampin was a minor who appointed his sister to act for him. She merely did what she was told. I asked under the circumstances for means of transport to proceed to consult others and I was told that this was impossible, that there was not time or the facilities available. You will realise that during the Japanese Occupation we were likewise compelled to do many things with which we disagreed under the threat of very unpleasant penalties to ourselves and what is more important to our people. During the two days which was all the time Sir H. MacMichael and his party could give us there was the veiled implication that what we had been compelled to do might be held against us and furthermore we were told that as Johore, Selangor and Pahang had already signed it was pointless our not doing soFurthermore the last sentence in paragraph 5 of the White Paper says ' Great Britain has learnt the richness of such an infusion of new blood and talent and it is one of the foundations of her strength.' I would point out that Great Britain has never at any time accepted an alien influx as citizens, 111 numbers equal to the indigenous British population and furthermore such immigrations as have occurred have been of closely related blood and of the same Religion, in neither case is this true of Malays and Chinese.May I now come to what happened in Johore at a meeting of Malays in Johore Bahru held on Friday, the 1st February, 1946? It was unanimously resolved to protest against the legality of the act of the Sultan in agreeing to the modification of the existing treaties between Johore and Great Britain. A copy of a telegram from Kelantan has been sent to the hon. Gentleman. In it the Malayan officers and employees of the Kelantan Government unanimously and emphatically protest against the principles of the White Paper. I can go on with dozens of that sort of thing as the hon Gentleman knows but I would like to ask him this—Is it not a fact that the Malayans have sent a copy of a telegram of protest to President Truman, Mr. Vyshinsky, and have also protested to U.N.O. I have here a copy of it and I should like the hon. Gentleman to answer that Then, as the hon. Gentleman knows last Sunday there was the great Malay Congress held in Kuala Lumpur, at which the strongest possible protests were made, not only as to the legality of these instruments, but as to the whole way in which they had been carried out.
661 There is only one more telegram I want to read. I sent a cable to the editor of the "Straits Times," Mr. Seabridge, a. man who has lived there for many years, and who is not pro-Malay in any sense. I asked him if he would give me the public reaction. This is what he has said:Malays opposition union initially lukewarm much intensified past month now undoubtedly deep widespread and becoming organised. Gravest feature minority among Malays using union to exacerbate Sino-Malay antagonism which developed during occupation now most serious several country districts. Malays main objections bearing appearance legitimacy are firstly Sultans more coerced than consulted; secondly people completely ignored; thirdly Sultans be reduced status chief kathis; fourthly citizenship proposals involve ultimate swamping Malays by Chinese.He says:''Personally strongly favour modification restricting automatic grant Citizenship …Convinced principle union acceptable after full frank consultation and few concessions to Malays but if forced immediately trouble will persist.Some hon. Members may think it rather odd that Malay rulers should sign a document of this magnitude and then have second thoughts on the subject, but to anyone who knows Malaya there is nothing odd about it at all. This is not a commercial transaction, like trying to sell a motor car and asking for a signature on the dotted line. The Malays are noted for their good manners and desire to please. Above all they signed because of a long established and slowly built up confidence between themselves and their British advisers. I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman two questions. Can he maintain, in the face of all this evidence, that these treaties were freely negotiated, and that they represent the true wishes of the Malay people? Can he maintain that quite apart from the negotiations with the rulers, the voice of the people as a whole, as represented by municipalities, State councils, organisations of whatever type, has in fact been consulted? I suggest that there is such a conflict of testimony between what the hon. Gentleman has said and what the rulers have suggested that he ought to resolve that conflict before the House passes this Bill.
There is one further small but quite important point Under this Bill Malacca, Penang and Province Wellesley are to lose their status as units of the Colony of the Straits Settlement. There is not the 662 slightest evidence in this Report that the local people were ever consulted about that at all. So far as I can gather, Sir Harold Mac Michael stayed exactly one day in Malacca and there is no evidence that he ever stayed in Penang at all. There was no consultation with chambers of commerce, although Penang is to lose its status as a free port, no consultation with what remains of the legislative council or municipalities.
I turn to my last point, which is about Malayan Union citizenship. This can apparently be acquired in one of two ways. Any person of any race who was born in Malaya or has lived there for 10 years out of the previous 15 automatically acquires it. He can also acquire it in another way, if he applies after five years' residence, and swears an oath of allegiance. I have several general comments to make about this. How does one swear allegiance to a union? What sort of passport does one get if one is a Malayan Union citizen? We all know what it is to swear allegiance to a king, or an emperor or a republic, but what is allegiance to a union, and what is the exact status of the people in the Malayan Union? Are they or are they not British subjects? I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would explain that.
I was hoping he would tell us what the point was of applying the Foreign Jurisdiction Act to the Malay States if they are not to be British subjects, and that he would resolve the difference between what he has said and what Lord Addison has said. Lord Addison said:The provision as it stands is that a person who has been continuously resident for 10 years out of the past 15 shall be entitled to claim citizenship, but he will be required to take the oath of allegiance to His Majesty.Is that correct or not? Lord Addison said that in another place, on behalf of the Government. But is there any precedent for people acquiring citizenship by mere residence or accident of birth? We all understand nationality, but what is citizenship? Let me apply this to conditions in Malaya. It will mean that Americans, French, Germans or Chinese, and, in due course, I suppose Japanese, will be able to acquire full rights of Malayan citizenship with equal opportunities to the indigenous Malays without in any way giving up their loyalty to the country of their birth. Is that what is intended?
663 Let us above all apply this definition of citizenship to the Chinese. The Chinese Government have made it perfectly clear that all persons of Chinese race, wherever born, are Chinese citizens. How will that fit in with building up a loyal community? In any civilised country anybody who wants to transfer his allegiance from the country of his birth to another Power has to undergo a lengthy and rigorous examination, and, above all, he has to forswear his previous allegiance. Here we have Chinese settling in the country, and there is no reason whatever why they should forswear their previous allegiance. They are not called upon to do so. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in ten years' time the centralised legislature of Kuala Lumpur, in which the Malay rulers will have no representation at all, could quite legitimately allow unlimited immigration, they could quite legitimately, without any bad faith, if they wanted to do it, pass a resolution, that Malaya should become the 19th Province of China? There is nothing to prevent them from doing it.
Are we to allow people to come in and enjoy these full rights without becoming British citizens, without paying allegiance to the rulers, and, above all, without forswearing any foreign allegiance? Did the rulers understand this when they signed the Treaty? Did they understand that they would have in their countries millions of people who owed no allegiance to them, who could quite legitimately owe allegiance to any other country in the world?
I now want to say a word about what is not in the Treaty and what ought to be in the Treaty, if the Malays are expected to sign it. First, in regard to education, if the hon. Gentleman is trying to create a sense of pan-Malayan citizenship, surely the place where he has to start is in the school. That is what the United States did when they allowed millions of people to come into the country. They said, "We do not mind where you come from but you must learn the English language and build up your loyalty from the time you are at school." At present the Chinese and Indians have separate schools. In the case of the Chinese the teachers and the text books come from China, and are full of Chinese self-consciousness and rabid nationalism. In the past, as the hon. Gentleman knows, many Chinese teachers were 664 banished from the country because they utilised the schools for preaching sedition. Surely, if we are trying to do what the hon. Gentleman wants to do, and what everybody else wants to do, we must start now to build up a common citizenship from a common school. Also, there is not a word in this about economics, either short-term or long-term. What Malaya wants is a few shiploads of rice and consumer goods and not a half-baked Constitution. What is the Government policy with regard to immigration? What safeguards have the Malays got that the country will not be swamped? What is to be the future of foreign capital, both European and Asiatic?
I would urge with all the emphasis at my disposal that there should be delay in putting this Constitution into effect. Look what we have done already. We have destroyed, in the matter of three months, that trust which has been built up between ourselves and the Malay-rulers for four generations, and we have driven a wedge between the Malay rulers and their people, a thing which has never happened before, and we have created greater racial friction than this country-has ever known. I suggest that, secondly, we should send out some sort of impartial inquiry to try and create unity by agreement and not by force. We could easily have achieved these ends if we had gone a different way about it. There is no earthly reason why we should not have retained the Federation and why the sultans should not have remained the heads of their States and been given some real power. Before the hon. Gentleman is going to get the Malays to accept this except by force, I believe there are certain things that he has got to do. The first is that every non-Malay who is not now a British subject must take cut naturalisation and swear an oath of allegiance, not only to the King but also to the rulers, and thereby forswear his allegiance to a foreign Power. Secondly, the basis of Malayan Union citizenship and the basis of naturalisation should normally be by birth and domicile and, possibly, even one stage further than that, that one parent should have been born in the country.
Thirdly, since Singapore is not to be a member of the Malayan Union, why 665 should its citizens be given Malayan Union rights? I think the fourth thing is that the safeguarding of Malay rights should be one of the subjects for which the Governor has reserved powers. Why was that not put in the Treaty? Surely, if the Malay rights are to be safeguarded, that ought to be one of the things over which the Governor has complete control in the finality. As to the Council of Rulers, the hon. Gentleman has met my point on that, but why should not the State Councils be reconstituted as legislative bodies with allotted functions and sources of revenue?
My last point is that the rulers must have some authority in the Central Legislature, whether by direct representation or by themselves forming a Second Chamber. That is one of the ways' in which it could be done. We could have attained the ends in view if we had not rushed it, but we are presenting, at the moment, a loyal race with a fait accompli which is the virtual extinction of their independence and culture. If we do not delay and if we try to steamroller this thing through by a small House of Commons on a Friday, the alternative may be bloodshed and anarchy. I do not say it will, but I should not be doing my duty to the House if I did not warn it that that may be the result. I should have thought that we had enough trouble on our hands without adding to it in a country which was the most loyal part of the Empire before the war. We may turn Malaya into a Far Eastern Palestine, with all its repercussions which no man can foretell. Last of all, if we do this, we may be guilty of the blackest charge which can be levelled against any British Government—the charge of broken faith.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Younger (Grimsby)
I have some diffidence in asking the House to listen to me for a few minutes following upon the impressive speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), who spoke with obvious authority and a most detailed knowledge of the country. I have no such claim, but it is unfortunately the fact that all of us in this country, whether we have knowledge of the particular territory or not, have a great responsibility for making up our minds about the way in which the British Commonwealth is to handle the problems 666 of the Colonial Empire. Therefore, I think that it is not unreasonable for me, in spite of my lack of detailed knowledge of this country, to discuss for a moment or two some of the principles which seem to lie behind this Bill. In his report, Sir Harold MacMichael said that Malaya, in common with other parts of the East, is on the threshold of a new era. I think we all agree about that. A fire has swept across the whole of the Far East and something new is going to arise out of the ashes. That puts a very great responsibility upon the Powers, mainly the European Powers, who are in effect in control of those territories.
The new conception of what Colonial Government should be is embodied in the Charter of the United Nations. That Charter was invoked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hornsey and, therefore, it is appropriate that I should mention it. Under Articles 73 and 74 of the Charter all the countries who administer non-self-governing territory pledged themselves to a number of things of which I will mention only a few which seem relevant to this purpose. They pledged themselves to put first the interests of the inhabitants; that is to say, they discarded the old idea of exploitation. They pledged themselves to secure the political, economic and social advancement of the territory and, finally—and most important for the purposes of this argument—they pledged themselves to develop self government. The United Kingdom repeatedly proclaimed its loyalty to these principles at the recent Assembly of the United Nations and stated that it would take all steps to carry them out. If we are to do that, we must obviously provide ourselves with a suitable instrument.
In the main, the changed conditions we have to face in this and other territories are, first, the obligations I have mentioned under the Charter—a development rather than a change for us, since the British Commonwealth has long recognised them; second, a very great rise in the desire for self determination among peoples of the East; and, third, the growing national solidarity and national sentiment of the Chinese and the Indian peoples in their own countries and, consequently, all over the Far East. It was stated by the Chinese delegation in the course of discussions at the General Assembly that they were particularly 667 interested in those chapters of the Charter which relate to non-self-governing territories because so many of those territories were situated in their part of the world. We must recognise that the Chinese have a great interest not only because they are in that part of the world, but also because they have very many of their nationals in this area. We must see those changes in relation to this particular country.
It is a country of very great resources, and that largely accounts for its past prosperity. It is only the size of England, and has a population of only about 5,500,000, yet it has, in the past, been split up into some dozen administrations operating under three different systems. It is composed of three large racial and religious minorities, so large, indeed, that one could scarcely any longer call them all minorities. They are vast, not only in size but in their influence, and in many ways they play a greater part in the economic activity and prosperity of the country than do the native Malays themselves. Yet these minorities are not recognised for the purpose of citizenship, and they owe no loyalty to the existing rulers. They are simply commercial visitors for longer or shorter periods, and some of those periods are very long indeed.
It stands to reason that self government cannot possibly be built on any foundation such as that. It can only be built on a foundation of equality of citizenship among all those whose homes are in the country. Just exactly at what stage one makes one's home in a country may be a matter for argument, but once a person and his family are permanently there and their life is there, it seems to me that they must have the rights of citizenship. We can make no possible advance towards the self-government which we promise unless we can ensure that type of equality. Of course, we must safeguard any religious rights there may be. We must safeguard the old inhabitants against the mere visitor—the mere exploiter—but that cannot alter the overriding necessity to give citizenship to those who are permanently in Malaya. Equally, we have to ensure economic advancement, and I do not believe that can be possible with the patchwork system which has obtained up to the present.
668 The Under-Secretary of State, when speaking in one of the committees of the United Nations, stressed the point that political liberty is of little value unless there is commensurate economic and social liberty. To that I think we would all subscribe. We all realise that the political future of these backward areas must be based upon a firm economic prosperity— upon the economic development of the prosperity of the peoples. It is fortunate, as has already been said, that in the past there has been little racial hatred and ill-feeling, but I think we should look ahead. Colonial history, and, indeed, national history, give examples of changes being made only after the troubles had arisen, only after considerable pressure had been exercised, and where a little foresight would have effected that change with a minimum of ill-feeling and disturbance, and might have avoided the troubles which eventually came upon us. One has only to look at the relative population figures for the Malays, Chinese and Indians in this territory to realise that it cannot be long before great problems arise about the status of the Chinese population. I do not believe we would be in any way protecting the Malays by leaving the matter simply to go on developing until we came to a point when bitterness would already have arisen. It is much more likely that, by creating a union now and by taking some active steps ourselves, we will be able to avoid prejudicing the rights of the Malays, which otherwise seems to me more or less inevitable.
We have heard about the idyllic qualities and the pastoral occupations of the Malays, and those we all respect, but the fact remains—and I am sure history proves it—that a small people in a large territory full of resources cannot keep that territory to themselves undeveloped. The Malays must either develop the territories themselves or, on some reasonable and just terms, they must allow others in on a large scale to help in developing the resources. The resources of the world do not belong to any small group of men, whatever their race. Therefore, we must face the fact that this development is to come. I do not wish to go into details of the scheme. I feel, as has already been said, it is reasonable that there should be some delay and that there should be no rushing of the Third Reading of this Bill. There may be matters of detail which should be examined and on which further 669 agreement should, if possible, be achieved, but I think, broadly speaking, we must take the responsibility for a change of this kind. The reality, surely, is that whatever the constitution may have been, the policy for Malaya has for a very long time been ours. In the eyes of the world we are responsible for it, and we cannot hide behind any old constitutional position, any paper treaty—
§ Mr. Younger
The treaties by which we have been in Malaya for many years. I am talking about the technical aspect of this matter. Although the technical aspect is that the rulers have been sovereign and we have advised them, the fact is—and I am sure every Member in this House realises it—the policy in that part of the world has been ours. Certainly, everybody outside this country believes that to be so, and I believe they are right. I do not think we can shirk our responsibility for putting into force a new constitution which is in the interests of the people. We have a further difficulty, namely, that there are, unfortunately, no genuinely democratic and representative bodies which can be consulted. The comparison which the hon. Member for Hornsey made with the new constitution which is being worked out in France is an unreal comparison for that reason. There are bound to be objections. Whenever any change is made, there are always objections, very often honest ones, but it is our responsibility to take a step forward. This seems a very big change to those who know the country, to those whose living is there and whose families have spent their whole lives there, but to the outside observer like myself, trying to fit this into the picture of how the British Commonwealth should develop, it is a small step. It involves an improvement in the machinery of government. The justification or otherwise of this step will only be found in the way in which His Majesty's Government carry out and operate this constitution.
I was glad to see in the report of Sir Harold MacMichael how frequently the trust of the rulers in His Majesty's Government was expressed. The Government must have that trust. It is inevitable in any country which has not got full self government. Such government is based upon trust of the administering power, and I have full confidence that 670 His Majesty's Government will operate this proposed constitution in such a way as to achieve the aims of the Charter so as to preserve the religious and cultural heritage of the past in Malaya while, at the same time, placing the daily lives of the people upon a firm economic basis and making some genuine progress towards self government.
§ 12.54 P.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
I would like wholeheartedly to support the views put forward by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). He prefaced his speech by saying that he had no personal interest in Malaya. I would like to preface mine by saying that I have a considerable personal interest in Malaya. I have been a member of a firm exporting a great variety of goods to that country for nearly a century. I am deeply interested in many plantation companies in that country and this has taken me to Malaya periodically for the last 20 years. Those visits have given me an opportunity of travelling the length and breadth of the country repeatedly, and the privilege of coming to know some of the Malays and other peoples in that country, for whom I have the greatest respect. It became increasingly obvious that some change in government was necessary. It was impossible and most inadvisable to perpetuate the former method of nearly a dozen different Governments. It was difficult to see exactly how the new method of government should come about, but, obviously, after the evacuation of the Japanese it was the appropriate time to tackle this matter seriously.
Our real personal interest in Malaya began with a series of treaties about 1874. It is extraordinary to see the friendliness and childlike faith reposed by the Sultans in the British Governments of that time. I would like to quote from a letter referring to one made between the Sultan of Selangor and the Governor of the Straits Settlements in October, 1874. It is a letter from the Sultan in which he says:I inform my friend that I have received my friend's letter brought by Mr. Swettenham, and have understood all that it contains. As to the 1.000 dollars, I will pay that sum monthly to Mr. Swettenham and will be much obliged if my friends will enter it into my country's accounts. As to my friend's request that I would enter into an agreement in order that my friend may collect all the taxes from my country, I would be very glad if my friend would set my country to rights and collect all the taxes.671 In that vein, a letter is written by the Sultan to the Governor of the Straits Settlements. The Mr. Swettenham mentioned is still alive and well, and very definitely against this proposed union.
We have a great responsibility in view of the origin of our commitments in that country at that time. It is not like two countries making agreements where both are strong countries with adequate advisers. At that time we obtained the confidence and friendship of the Sultans. We were going to advise them, and help them to govern their country. For that reason it behoves us to be extremely careful today how we handle that great confidence which was reposed in us. As the hon. Member for Hornsey has said, the Malays are largely an agricultural and fisher folk and in the early days they lived largely round the seashore. Later, they came up the rivers and became mildly interested in agriculture. The change in government was arranged in London. I quote from the Report by Sir Harold MacMichael:I was sent as Special Representative of His Majesty's Government in the autumn of 1945 to conclude formal agreements with the rulers of the nine States.That is very definite. There is no question of asking for their views and getting their ideas in the matter. Then, later, in paragraph 4, he says:Plans were worked out in London during the war years for the future of Malaya.I regard it as utterly wrong that the future of Malaya and the Malays should be worked out in London without any expression of their hopes or aspirations and then imposed on them in this way.
As the hon. Member for Hornsey pointed out, the present population of Malaya is very mixed. There is a very large number of Chinese. There has always been a large proportion of Chinese in the country, but it is due to us that they have substantially increased in the last 25 or 30 years. The Malays were not interested in employment in the tin mines and rubber plantations which were being developed, so the Chinese were invited to come in. They came for a period of years and earned good wages. Then they went back to their country of origin. During my last visit to Malaya in 1939 1 was interested to see large numbers of families who were born and brought up in the country. That was an 672 entirely new phenomenon. For the first time, they were becoming Malay-Chinese in large numbers. Similarly, in the plantation work, Tamils were imported in large numbers from India. For a time they worked and made money, and then returned to their country of origin. To a lesser degree than the Chinese the Tamils, too, were tending to settle down and bring up families which would be indigenous to Malaya.
If we are not careful, we shall have great racial animosity growing up in the country. There are three entirely different types of people there. The Chinese are strong, energetic and very often commercially minded. In many cases they have built up large fortunes in Malaya and brought great wealth to the country by their ingenuity and hard work. I do not at all underrate the Chinese in merit. They have done a great piece of work there, for which we all admire them. But we must recognise that these three races are living together cheek by jowl. 1 maintain that the method by which the Government are trying to impose a new government on them is the wrong method and will be very difficult to work. Considerable resentment is growing up. As soon as it became known that the Sultans had signed these documents, the people began to organise in Malaya as never before in my experience. The hon. Member for Hornsey quoted a number of documents sent to him. I have had cables sent to me and it is obvious that considerable ill-feeling, which never existed before, is rapidly arising. It appears that the Sultans have been coerced and intimidated in secret, and the people have not been adequately consulted.
It seems strange that the present Government, of all Governments, should adopt such means, as it is neither democratic nor, in my opinion, in accordance with the provisions of the Atlantic Charter. It seems a relic of the bad old buccaneering days which we thought were long past. It is a modern version of the type of imperialism which has exposed us to so much criticism in the past. We all agree that progress and good government demand a change and closer working arrangements between the different States, but I very much deprecate the method by which it is being achieved. I suggest that the Colonial Secretary should carefully reconsider the matter of Malayan 673 Union and should at the earliest opportunity send out a mission composed of people who would enjoy the confidence and respect of Malayans as a whole. I warn the House that feelings are running very deeply. Unrest and distress which never existed before have been created recently. I appeal to the Government to change their methods and approach the question again in a more enlightened way.
§ 1.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
The proposal the House is debating is, briefly, to amalgamate the Federated and un-Federated Malay States with a portion of the old Straits Settlement Colony which is on the mainland, and form a Malayan Union out of the combined territories. That is a very big constitutional change. I have great sympathy with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) about the haste with which things have been done. I should have liked to see a Commission go to Malaya and go into the whole of this question before anything was done. There has been a war, however, and Malaya has been invaded and, therefore, things could not have been done in the normal way. It has been decided that the Military Government should close down on 31st March. Everyone knows, especially those who have had letters from that theatre of the war, that the troops are most anxious to get out. I think there is no Vote for the payment of the Forces after 31st March. I sympathise with the criticisms that have been made, but we are dealing with an abnormal situation and it has been necessary for the Government to act promptly. The question is, should we on 31st March go back on to the old constitution and start on the old lines? In my opinion this is quite impossible. Things have altered radically in Malaya since the days before the war. The old constitution and set-up simply cannot be worked now. We must at once initiate a new system, owing to the effect of the war and the situation created in Malaya.
I am extremely jealous of the good name of Britain in dealing with dependent people. I think I was the first Member of this House who asked questions about Sarawak, about the legitimacy of the proceedings and the justice of the matter. I also asked questions 674 about the proceedings relating to Malaya. The other day I asked if the Sultans had given their full and free consent to the change in the constitution. I am certain that the Sultans have been consulted and have agreed voluntarily to the changes proposed. I know Sir Harold MacMichael very well. He knows the Moslem peoples and what is involved in interfering with the rule of Moslem rulers. He knows all about the Moslem religion and how it transcends the ordinary points of religion and gets down to matters of law, as my hon. Friend opposite, I am sure, is well aware. I am certain that Sir Harold MacMichael would not have contemplated for a moment taking part in any underhand method of getting the signatures of the Malayan Sultans. I made inquiries apart from written Questions and answers in this House. I know as a fact that Sir Harold MacMichael found that the Sultans trusted him, as they trusted all the British officials who were out there. They wanted to sign these documents in many cases straight away without knowing what they were signing. Sir Harold had to explain to them the significance of the documents and asked them time after time to wait a day or two and think it over before putting their signatures down. There has been no underhand dealing with them, in my opinion.
The hon. Member for Hornsey mentioned cases where there were no State Councils—they had disappeared during the war—but he does not suggest what should have been done in such cases. Were we to wait and start to make fresh State Councils before the Treaty could be signed? The way the thing was done was quite just and legal, and there were no intimidation or threats of any kind. The hon. Member for Hornsey contends that the people, as a whole, should be consulted. How are we to consult the people as a whole? That would be all right if there were a legislative council or a parliament for the country; but there is no such thing. In fact, the constitution of these Federated and Unfederated Malay States was a system of personal rule. The personal rulers were consulted and they freely gave their consent.
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not want to interrupt, but is not the hon. Member aware of the fact that in every one of 675 these Malay States there was, in fact, a State Council, every large town had its equivalent of a municipality, and every out district had its district officer, its penghulu, or head man? Is he not aware of the fact that there were these sources where public opinion could be ascertained?
§ Mr. Reid
I am very well aware of all those facts, but I do not think municipalities or district officers must necessarily be consulted about constitutional changes. The State Councils should have been consulted in those places where State Councils existed. The hon. Member himself admitted that some of these State Councils had disappeared. In the days before the war the Sultans ruled in a patriarchal sort of fashion and each of them had a resident or an adviser. Some people think that that is a cunning device by which imperialist Britain supplies trained civil servants to run the show for these rulers, and thereby have British rule. Nothing is further from the facts. In the case of Malay, these Sultans generally asked for the civil servants to come in to help them to administer their territories.
There was, as some speakers have already said, in this happy land of Malaya before the war practically no racial animosity. There was complete trust between the British officers, the Sultans and the people. That is perfectly true but, from what I hear, it is not true today. The war has upset things. Already there is a feeling between Malays and Chinese, and, of course, the Indian problem is always likely to break out. There are about 750,000 Indians in Malaya. The position is completely changed. When hon. Members suggest that this new constitutional change may lead to racial animosity which used not to exist in Malaya, I would ask them this question: If we go back to the old system will not that create racial animosity under the new conditions? Are the Indians and Chinese going to tolerate the old system, or is it not absolutely necessary, to preventvery serious racial animosity arising, to introduce a new system by which all three races are put on the basis of equality politically? This whole system, by which there were six or ten legislatures in a small country the size of England, should go and the Act of 1866 should be repealed at once.
A lot of the Debate has not turned on the repeal of the Act of 1866. It has 676 turned on the question of what the new constitutional set up is to be. These dependencies are, strategically and otherwise, of the greatest importance. I venture to suggest, having had experience of many dependencies, not only our own but French, and having lived and worked in them, that our method of dealing with dependencies is the best in the world. Our policy is to follow what we have done in the case of the white Colonies, the old American Colonies. That is gradually to set up self governing units in these dependencies instead of the other system, which is practically to turn these dependencies into British constituencies. That is a disastrous policy which is not pursued by us because it confuses the public life of the dependencies and it confuses our own public life here. Our system, I think, is the best. It is the system we are initiating now in Malaya.
We are setting up the foundations for a future self governing Malaya. I hope in time Singapore Island will be included in it. But we must be candid. We are taking away from the Malayans certain rights and privileges which they possessed under the old system. In the Federated and un-Federated Malay States they had their own rulers even though a lot of their administration was carried out for them by the civil servants. We are taking that away. They had a privileged position, vis-a-vis the Chinese and vis-a-vis the Indians. That simply cannot go on. It will not be tolerated by the Chinese or the Indians, and it will be impossible to keep it going in the long run except by force. In place of the self government which the Malayan enjoyed in the Federated States—because, although it was not democratic government, it was self-government conditioned to a certain extent by the fact that the foreign relations and so on were looked after by the British—our first aim should be to lay the foundation of self government for the whole of the people; not self government for the Malayans only, but self government for all three races in united Malaya.
When the time comes I hope the Secretary of State for the Colonies will not, in setting up a central legislature, resort to the system of having docile nominated members appointed from the one community. He should risk it, let the elections be held and have elected members 677 on that legislature. Above all, I would make the suggestion that in sowing the seeds of self-government in Malaya in future we should begin at the bottom. Too often in the past we have set up a central legislature, and so on, at a time when local government was in a hopelessly backward condition. I suggest that the whole of the country should be covered by local government bodies on which there should be elected members. Those local government bodies should not blindly follow the example of Britain, because local governments like ours will not work in Malaya. We should have the system we wisely adopted in India and Ceylon in the cases of the bigger municipalities, namely, to have each body assisted by a trained executive officer, who would be under the jurisdiction of the councillors but would be able to help them in administration. I know that when the time comes there will be officials who will say that Malaya is not ready for these democratic experiments. I profoundly disagree. It is perfectly true, if we leave it to bureaucratic officials, that they can get on with the job better, they have the knowledge, experience and training, and sometimes they do not want to be hampered by consulting amateurs. Whatever is done by bureaucratic officials, however good their government, they do not carry the people with them. Therefore, it is defective, and above all it does not train the people and the people's representatives to govern themselves, which is the proper policy in the long run.
I come to the question of citizenship. The other day I asked a Question in the House and got an answer which I did not comprehend. I know it is a difficult question when we are dealing with three races composed to a certain extent, as in the case of the Chinese and of the Indians, of recent immigrants. Under those conditions it is very difficult to settle a Malayan citizenship. It is, however, absolutely necessary to lay down the general rule that every bona fide resident must be given Malayan citizenship. I would not attempt to go into it further than that. Obviously it is very complicated and the details will have to be worked out in the Order in Council. I know that since the Sultans signed these documents—and I suggest they are bound by their signatures, because the signatures were not 678 obtained under duress—some of them have begun to make reservations. I do not think we can pay much attention to reservations made after signing documents, the meaning of which was thoroughly explained to them by Sir Harold MacMichael.
What has really happened is that the intelligentsia amongst the Malayans see that they are going to lose their privileged political position, and they naturally object to it. Therefore, they have now started an agitation against the new system. I do not think that will come to anything very serious or that it affects the vast mass of the Malayan people who, like the Sultans, when visited by Sir' Harold MacMichael were perfectly content, in their own interests and in the interests of the country, to adopt the new system. It is for the political, economic and social good of the country, a fact which they well recognise. I strongly support the proposals which have been made by the Government. I am certain they are essential, that they must come in at the present time and cannot be postponed, for the reasons I have given. I am sure they will conduce to the prosperity of, and enhance the education, health and welfare of Malaya. I appreciate that they may cause some racial friction at the moment. but that racial friction which they may cause would be as nothing compared with the racial friction which would ensue if we returned to the old system of rule in Malaya.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Unlike the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammansj and other hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate, I lay claim to no special knowledge, and indeed no extensive general knowledge, of Malaya. It is rather on account of and not in spite of that that I ask leave to intervene in this Debate for a few moments. As the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) hinted, Private Members in this House are, on very many subjects, much in the position of a jury listening to the evidence laid before them by experts, forming their own opinions on it as best they can. That is particularly true of Members who, like myself, neither enjoy the advantages nor suffer the disadvantages of submission to a Party Whip. I think we are required in such cases to bring to the question in hand normal intelligence, 679 or at any rate something approaching normal intelligence, an honest resolve to weigh the evidence as fairly as we can, and a mind free from warping preconceptions. It is in that spirit that I approach the question which is before the House today.
The evidence we have before us is in the form of the three White Papers that have been issued during the recent weeks. The first of them is a statement of policy on the future constitution of the Malayan Union and Singapore. Certainly with the general objectives expressed in that document I am in general agreement. There may be details which need revision, but we should all agree with the contention of the Under-Secretary that it is impossible today to go back to the state of affairs which existed in Malaya before the war. We were at that time under a strong moral obligation—I think indeed something more than a moral obligation— to afford protection to the Sultans of the various States of Malaya and to their populations. Factors which we fully understand and deplore prevented us from fulfilling that undertaking, but that seems to me to constitute a special reason for treating the Sultans and their populations today with more than ordinary consideration. I cannot feel satisfied that such consideration has been shown so far.
The second piece of evidence is the report of Sir Harold MacMichael, to which I will return in a moment, and the third is a summary of the proposed constitutional arrangements. With regard to this third document I intend to say nothing because I am not competent to speak with authority on these proposed arrangements, and many other hon Members with greater knowledge than mine have already spoken or will do so before the Debate concludes. The essential document, the report of Sir Harold MacMichael, is the only one to which I wish to address myself today Let me say at once that except in one respect no one, I imagine, could be better qualified than he for the mission which was entrusted to him. The whole House is familiar with the distinguished public service he has rendered in different parts of Africa, and more recently in Palestine, but he has not, so far as I have been able to discover, any experience of this particular area and the peculiar problems it presents, problems which probably do 680 not arise in similar form in any other area of the world.
There are living in this country many distinguished ex-administrators from Malaya who have full knowledge of the special nature of the circumstances prevailing there and the conditions which have to be dealt with and I should have thought it would have been more reasonable on the part of the Government to have sent out to that country some one who, although perhaps not having the completely unbiassed mind of Sir Harold MacMichael, could make up for that by understanding in the way that no stranger could the peculiar problems to be dealt with. However that may be, Sir Harold MacMichael was invited to go to Malaya. He went and we have had extracts from his instructions read to us today. Like the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) I was impressed by the use of the word "invite." Sir Harold was to go to Malaya and" invite" each Malayan ruler to co-operate in setting up a new constitution which had been discussed and planned by His Majesty's Government.
Now by an "invitation" I understand something which the person to whom it is addressed has the right to accept or decline, and I should be glad to know from the Under-Secretary whether this is the interpretation to be placed on the word in this case. I am very afraid that it is not, and he confirmed my impression by the word he used himself. I was inclined to substitute for the word "invite" the word "induce." The Under-Secretary himself used the word "persuade." This use of the word "persuade" in the interpretation of Sir Harold MacMichael's mission, coupled with the significant— perhaps unintentionally significant— authority given to him to appoint a new ruler if he chose in States where the pre-war ruler was no longer in office—which applies I believe to five States out of the nine—lends a great deal of significance to the use of another word which has been quoted in this Debate—" duress."
I do not want to go over again ground which was covered by the hon. Member for Hornsey but I would like for a moment to deal with the salient case, that of the Sultan of Kedah. Here there was a discussion which Sir Harold MacMichael himself suggests did not go quite as was to be desired. There was a great deal of discussion. The question 681 was put before the Sultan of Kedah. First he made a strong protest, according to Sir Harold, and finally he signed on the ground that he saw no practicable alternative. One can imagine in some of these cases that the conflict of evidence which undoubtedly exists was due to some misunderstanding, some defect on the part of the interpreters. Nothing of that kind should have arisen in the case of the Sultan of Kedah. He was, I believe, educated at Oxford—no doubt through some strange unconsciousness of the superior advantages available in another place. At that seat of learning if he acquired nothing else he would have acquired an effective familiarity with the English language.
There can be no question therefore of the Sultan being under any misapprehension about what Sir Harold MacMichael was proposing to him. He signed with manifest reluctance after long discussions, and, as has been said already, his own version is that he was presented with a virtual ultimatum with a time limit and had it intimated to him that if he did not sign someone else would be appointed to sign in his place. I trust that the Under-Secretary 'will meet that charge more fully in his reply than he did in an answer to a Question from me a day or two ago. It is a rather serious charge; it creates a very unhappy impression and obviously effects a great deterioration in the general atmosphere resulting from the discussions between Sir Harold MacMichael and the various rulers of the Malay States.
The hon Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) told the House just now that an abnormal situation existed with which we have to deal. The trouble is that the situation has been made very much more abnormal by the discussions which have taken place with the various rulers. As a Private Member, I have, as I have said, simply attempted to judge as honestly as I can the evidence before me in the shape of these White Papers. I can only say that bringing to that task a mind necessarily free from preconceptions because it was almost entirely free from knowledge, I do feel that these documents make a most unsavoury impression. The question is, What is to be done in the present circumstances? I should like to join in the appeal which other Members 682 on both sides of the House have made for some delay in this matter. Obviously the situation today is entirely unsatisfactory. It may be true that, having given their signatures, the Sultans can be legally held to them, but that will not create a situation on which prosperity and harmony and good understanding are to be built.
It is perfectly clear from the news which reaches us from Malaya that not only the rules themselves but their peoples are looking with a spirit of much bitterness to what has happened and with some apprehension as to what is going to happen. I cannot suggest precisely what transitional arrangements could or should be made pending the arrival of the new Governor-General. I have profound faith in the former Member of this House who is to go out as Governor-General and handle this difficult problem, but I cannot help feeling that there should be some way of calling a halt, of stopping this rather precipitate action and intimating to the Sultans that nothing final and irrevocable has yet been done, leaving it to the new Governor-General to take what steps he can to correct an obviously difficult and unhappy situation, which promises nothing but disharmony, misunderstanding and even hostility between us and these loyal and able rulers in the future.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) said that as a completely impartial gentleman with no personal interest and, as he admitted, no very great knowledge of local conditions, he was qualified to speak with added force. The appointment of Sir Harold MacMichael and his carrying out of the job for which he was nominated was on exactly the same basis. Sir Harold has had first class administrative experience in the rest of the Empire but no definite local knowledge that qualified him to carry out his difficult task in Malaya. I think one thing must be said straight away. This Debate will be watched closely from every part of the world, not only from Malaya and from Singapore but equally from Chungking and India. The primary duty of everybody who takes part in this Debate must be to reduce rather than to enhance the pressure of racial feeling in Malaya if it exists. When, 683 therefore, champions of one race or one community put forward their theses it is vitally important that this should be done not as an attack on any other community but simply to try, as far as they can, to make clear to the House the reasons for assisting any one community per se.
I must confess that I have an interest in Malaya. The firm for which I work has been for years one of the largest exporters of rubber from that area and has specialised in assisting the Asiatic smallholder who produces and exports 50 per cent. of the country's rubber. I have, therefore, had the opportunity of watching the growth of that great industry. It is most important to realise that Malaya differs from almost any other part of the Empire in that it is a country with a plus economy. Its economic prosperity over many years was quite phenomenal, and therefore, while there are certain racial problems and a good many races co-exist there—in a country like that—they should be capable of solution with time, patience and good will, because the factor usually leading to the maximum of difficulty, namely, an economy of scarcity and want, is not present. Out of the great prosperity of Malaya did arise, however, certain of the factors which showed bad results during the Japanese invasion. Though I wish to pay my tribute to many, both in the Administration and among the people, who undoubtedly showed up well, I think it would be foolish in the extreme to pretend that there was not, during that period, a showing-up of a great many failures of administration, and failures among other communities. If we gloss that over too much, and do not try to learn the lesson to the full and put it into practice now, we shall have paid very dearly and have got nothing for our pains.
I stand as a champion of the Chinese in Malaya. I believe not only that the Chinese community is an economic necessity there, but that it has on many occasions been rather misrepresented. But because I stand as a champion of the Chinese, I am not in any way an opponent of Malayan interests. If there is any feeling at the moment between the communities, and I think it may well have been exaggerated, it is due almost entirely to the present situation in s Malaya—the great shortage of rice, great difficulties of 684 communication, and great uneasiness and doubt as to the future. When all those difficulties have been resolved by the effluxion of time as they will be, and when we return to something like normal —and that process will be more rapid than some people imagine—the reason for that feeling will largely disappear. I feel however that a great danger is being run by putting into operation too soon many of the plans put forward by the Government in these Papers.
After all, there is no civil administration in Malaya today. It is still under military administration. Look what the situation is. S.E.A.C. is in complete military control, and that control may or may not have to be continued according to what happens in Indonesia. The new Governor-General and Civil Administration will arrive fairly soon. At the same time, Lord Killearn and his Commission are there. There are thus three high-powered Government-appointed bodies, all with great authority, working in the same area. That alone would produce great difficulties of administration, without the added one of a complete change of constitution. I would respectfully point out to the Government that if they intend this new scheme to work to the best advantage—and everybody in this House wishes the scheme well—they will achieve their end best by going a little slowly at the present moment.
The question whether the Sultans have signed and then regretted it, or signed and not regretted it, is not of major importance. The most important thing of all is that the local inhabitants should not feel that the new constitution has been forced upon them in any way whats over, but that they should give it the backing of public opinion. It should be known to all of them—which it is not at the present time —and should be appreciated by them. They should have had the opportunity to register objections, some of which must arise, so that when the moment comes to put it into operation, that will happen in an atmosphere of the maximum public good will. One of the speakers opposite let fall a phrase about Sir Harold MacMichael's visits having been known to the Malays. I do not think they were. His visits were so rushed that the average Asiatic in the street probably did not know that he had arrived, or departed, or that anything had happened at all. A far 685 greater amount of propaganda must be undertaken before this Measure can receive the public backing it undoubtedly deserves. Let me turn again to the Chinese problem. Whatever one may think about the Chinese politically, there is not the slightest doubt that they have been the chief developers of wealth in Malaya, and in many other parts of the Far East. They have displayed the same qualities of enterprise and willingness to go out and create wealth that this country displayed during the 16th and 17th centuries. I have had personal experience of them during the last three or four years, and I think I can interpret their mind to some extent, and I believe they are a people extremely-sensitive and understanding of what goes on around them, and of what other people are saying and thinking about them. One of the great tragedies about the fall of Malaya was that the Chinese community felt, to a great extent, that they had not been taken sufficiently into the confidence of the Government and had not been allowed to pay their part properly in the defence of Malaya, so that when the crash came they were inclined to stand on the sidelines rather than participate. That is a mistake which must not be repeated.
There is no doubt that the provisions laid down here are very right in tendency, and will, in due course, lead to better things, but if we are to hear, as we have heard in this Debate, the word "exploit," if it is to be suggested that the Chinese are more loyal to China than they are to Malaya, I think a certain amount of harm may be done to a people who are politically sensitive. The talk has gone about that the Chinese are simply in Malaya to extract money which they then remit home because they are more loyal to China than to Malaya. That was repeated to me very vigorously by a Chinese citizen of Malaya, Mr. Tan Chen Lok, whose family have lived in Malaya for 250 years, and can, therefore, speak of citizenship with probably better ground than most Europeans. The truth of the matter is that Chinese loyalty is primarily to the family and not to the country The remitting of money, which was on a considerable scale, was on the basis of filial piety of a very practical order. There is no doubt that the Chinese sent considerable sums out of Malaya on that basis, but if it is compared with the 686 wealth they created, with the enormous services in pioneering that they carried out, I think this House will realise that their positive contribution was very much greater than anything they may have done in the contrary sense.
The position of the Chinese in Malaya is totally different from that of the Malay, and his function is different. He is, to some extent, a newcomer and he must undoubtedly pay his footing as such. I see no objection to that at all, and there would be no objection among the Chinese community to the thought that they were contributing to the benefit of the Malay, who is not an active producer and whose function in the country is a totally different one. That is no reason for creating animosity between the two races. It never existed before, and on the return of more normal conditions it will not exist again. Let us be very careful to say and do nothing to increase these differences in any way at all. I think this is a bad moment to go full steam ahead with the new constitution. I would ask the Government to reflect a little before pushing ahead with a prefabricated constitution of this nature. If they bang down a prefabricated new constitution the' will leave many problems which have been avoided by waiting a little.
The questions of enfranchisement and immigration deserve attention. Let me take immigration first, from a practical angle. Whatever immigration law is passed I do not believe it can really be effective. Malaya is a country with a very long coast line. If the Chinese or the Indians wish to come in for economic reasons, they will undoubtedly do so in considerable numbers. Even in a country with a short coast line, such as Palestine, and with considerable safeguards, it has not been possible to remove the difficulties of illegitimate entry. During the time of the Stephenson scheme, of rubber restrictions and difference in prices in Malaya and Netherlands East Indies the smuggling of rubber assumed enormous proportions. I think it would be a great mistake if the Government were to try to put into force an immigration policy or a quota policy which, in actual fact, cannot be made effective; because nothing is worse in an Eastern land than to produce a law which cannot be enforced. On the 687 enfranchisement and representational question, it is extremely difficult, to say whether 10 years' residence makes a good citizen or whether it does not make a good citizen. It may make a bad citizen a worse citizen. I do not know whether it would be possible to devise some other means than residence to give a qualification for citizenship. I agree with the Government's main idea that citizenship should be quite irrespective of race, but I should think that something more than mere residence ought to be demanded before very large communities are given the status of citizenship in the British Empire.
There is a question which I should like to ask. In the Report by Sir Harold MacMichael and in the terms of reference nothing is said about consulting the Chinese locally, or of the Government consulting the Chinese interests. They are referred to in other parts of the paper, and their status is undoubtedly a matter of great concern to the Government. But has there been, with the Chinese community, any consultation? If you wish to reduce racial feeling which, I think, must be the primary object at the present moment, you can only do so by creating a feeling amongst the Chinese that they have been taken into consultation. I would suggest a slight alteration, if it is possible, in the new constitution—or possibly the difficulty might be overcome more easily through the Governor-General. Would it not be possible for a representative of the Governor-General or somebody on his staff to be attached to the British Embassy in Chungking or Hankow, or wherever the Chinese Government may be, and for a representative of the Chinese Government to be attached to the Governor-General's staff, so that there would be an official means by which difficulties which might arise could be ventilated at once?
In conclusion, I can only say that, while I hope that the difficulties with the Malay community will be resolved, it ought not to be at the expense of any other community; and that while wishing the Government's scheme well in every way, I cannot help feeling that it is premature and difficulties will be created by its being put into operation too rapidly; His Majesty's Government will be doing themselves, and Malaya, and the Empire a service if they realise that the time is not quite ripe and say that this is not to be 688 put into operation until local conditions are more propitious.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I will not delay the House by repeating arguments that have already been heard. Although I interrupted the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), I recognise that he is known well in Malaya and his opinion is respected, and many people there believe that he has the welfare of Malaya at heart. But I must break down the impression that has been given to this House that this Government jockeyed the Sultans and the Malay people into this position. The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher), said that apparently nothing was known about Sir Harold MacMichael's going there. The "Straits Times" in an editorial on Friday, 19th October, said very clearly:The Malay rulers are not to vanish from the Malay stage. On the contrary, they are to be treated with the dignity and respect that they have been accorded ever since the first British residents went into the hinterland precisely 70 years ago; and while their treaties are to be changed, because times have changed, we may be sure that the spirit of friendship, sympathy and help embodied in those old treaties will not be changed. The Sultans are to continue only in a strictly constitutional sense. Arbitrary personal intervention in the actual administration of a State, such as that practised by the Sultan of Johore before the war. can be tolerated no longer.In other words, a leading paper, a copy of which I picked up in Singapore some weeks ago, a leading paper in Malaya, acknowledges that the time has come for a review of the situation of Malaya.
But I think there was some justification in the criticism by the hon. Member for Hornsey that this had been rather hurried. I did find amongst the Chinese, amongst the Tamils, and amongst the Malays a desire to see this information. I was out there when the White Paper was first published, and I discussed it with the deputy for the British Military Administration in Singapore. I believe it is quite true that this information should have been handed out in Malaya, and that a little longer time might have been given for the opportunity of discussion. Because of that, I felt there might have been some misapprehension in Malaya about our intentions. It is quite easy to criticise us because the timing is bad, but, as was pointed out when we were discussing foreign affairs the other evening, the entire East is on the move, and we had to 689 give some indication—this Government especially—that we intend to deal with our colonial problems on a different basis and in the spirit, I hope, of the Atlantic Charter. Therefore, we were forced to try to give some indication at the present moment that we would do something in regard to the situation.
If I read it correctly, this document need not be regarded as a law of the Medes and Persians. There is the possibility, as suggested in "The Times" the other day, of the extension of the Malay Union right out to Sarawak. We may have a completely different conception about Malaya. It is correct to say that probably no place was better administered among the Colonies of the British Commonwealth. I was amazed, when I first set foot in Malaya, to see how well the country was run from the point of view of transport and social services. It is a country of three great nations—the Malayans, the Indians and the Chinese—all with their great philosophies, and yet these three races are working well together. I do not wish to quote a mass of figures, but the population is composed of three-sevenths Chinese, three-sevenths Malayans, and the remainder Indians, Europeans and the rest. I spoke to leading Chinese politicians and economists, as well as to others, and they all believe that it is possible to fuse the races together. When I lectured to the East and West Club in Singapore, I was delighted to find this new feeling growing up.
There is a demand for adult education on the lines of the Report published by the last Government in regard to mass education for Africa. There is a demand for an informed adult population. I believe that the hon. Member for Hornsey was perfectly correct in emphasising that the educational system was the lynchpin for fusing these people into a Malayan nation. Malaya was our richest colony, but the amount of educational wealth was abysmally small. Only 4.3 percent. of the people are able to enter English speaking schools. It has been stated that English is the language needed to fuse the nation, and I was delighted to find that many Indians, Chinese and Malayans were prepared to accept this language for unity. The educational system must be completely altered. There are excellent reports on the subject pre- 690 pared by men like Sir William McLean and Dr. Cheeseman, Deputy Adviser on Education in Malaya. I hope that the Government will make use of the valuable knowledge contained in these reports to hammer out a new educational system. Dr. Frank Payne well said that the schoolhouse is the millenium of democracy. At the moment there are Indian and Chinese vernacular schools, and English-speaking schools to which a small percentage of Malayans, Indians and Chinese can enter if they pass certain standards. I deprecate the apotheosis in Malaya of the English Cambridge Schools Certificate. We must build up in our Colonies a new approach to education based on the magnificent culture and the aristocratic gentlemanliness of the Malayans and Chinese. Do not let us talk about racial differences, because it is the job of the Government to fuse the people together.
The real reasons for strikes and disturbances are economic factors, not colour and racial differences. In Malaya the price of a two-pound loaf of bread was 14s., and rice had risen by 2,000 per cent. These are the real reasons for strikes and disturbances. I have a report of the British Military Administration Advisory Council, which met on 12th December, 1945. In it, Dr. Chen Su Lan, who was discussing education, said:The question of free education really is merely a question of money. The question may be asked, ' How to get the money?' Is that money available? Yes, it is. The Opium Replacement Fund, now lying in London, which before the war amounted to over 60 million dollars in liquid assets, should now amount to over 70 million dollars with the five years' interest added to it. The League of Nations Opium Inquiry Commission, which came out to Malaya in 1929, was sponsored principally by Great Britain. The Commission recommended that revenue from opium should be spent on education.I want to know what is happening to the Opium Replacement Fund and to the money which is now lying in London. Is the money to be utilised, as the League of Nations intended, to implement a new educational policy? In this shrinking world, when transport is so rapid, and man can throw his voice from Pole to Pole, this placed called Malaya is to be the Clapham Junction of East and West and it is upon this Clapham Junction that the eyes of the world are directed at the present moment.
§ 2.4 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Donner (Basingstoke)
I am glad that the hon. Member who has just sat down paid a tribute to the efficiency of government in Malaya before the war, and referred to the fact that there was little inter-racial tension at that time, a state of affairs which unfortunately is now deterioriating. In the course of this Debate, which may be the chief opportunity accorded to us of discussing these vast issues which affect the future of millions of His Majesty's subjects or persons under his protection, we have listened to a contribution by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) which constituted a serious and powerful indictment against the policy of the Government, and more particularly the handling of this whole matter by the Government. Presently, I shall say something about the implications which necessarily flow from that speech, but I should like to begin by giving expression to some of the profound misgivings which I feel regarding the consequences of some of the recommendations of the White Paper. The object, we are told, is the establishment of a pan-Malayan Union. I welcome that objective as an ultimate aim to be realised as a slow process of growth over the years. Unfortunately the proposals before us do not conduce to that end. Indeed, the method, the manner and the pace of their introduction must lead inevitably to increased racial friction, bloodshed and possibly even to unrest and disturbances on a scale differing little from civil war. I am fortified in that view by the knowledge that men of long administrative experience in Malaya share it. Indeed this grim process has already begun. No less than 50,000 Malays have demonstrated in a single State. The tide of human feeling is already running high.
I believe that the objective which the Government have set before themselves is, in the long run, absolutely right, but I believe that we should obtain it by a process of federation and not by depriving the Malay rulers of their sovereignty, which under the treaties we are bound in honour to respect. It is true that that sovereignty in the protected States has seemed an insubstantial thing, and that very little actual power has been exercised by the rulers outside the sphere of Moslem law and custom, and within the States ultimate reserve power has always lain with the British resident or adviser, 692 as the case may be, and therefore ultimately with the High Commissioner. In point of fact, the importance of the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, whether federated or unfederated, has not lain only in statutory powers, whether exercised or not exercised by them, but in the guarantee and safeguard which that sovereignty has juridically constituted for the whole Malay people. It has been the "sheet anchor" for their safety and happiness and has saved them from uncertainty about their future, their race and their way of life. It has safeguarded for them the reasonable proposition that the Malay States should remain Malay. Put bluntly, it has seemed to them the only safeguard in which they could trust us to protect them against the submergence of their way of life by those immigrant communities whom we British brought into Malaya for our own economic advantage. To take away lightly from a whole people that which it regards as the safeguard of its whole life and happiness is to plunge a whole people into misgiving and uncertainty.
It has been said that the rulers when consulted were accompanied by their advisers and, where statutorily necessary, by their State Councils. But even if that were so, it is clear that the procedure adopted was a summary one. Summary procedures are not suited to the Oriental mind. The misgivings of many people in this country have been allayed by the statement that these agreements with the Malay rulers were conducted" with friendliness and good will." I question that description since we now understand that many a ruler has since protested and that the White Paper has been called "an instrument of surrender," "intolerable "and" an infringement upon Malayan rights "and" an interference with Mohammedan religion "; and the Malays themselves are staging protests and demonstrations.
It would appear that the "agreement" with the rulers has been elicited through some form of misapprehension or misunderstanding. I cannot believe that His Majesty's Government would wish to take advantage of any form of misunderstanding in order to filch away the rights and political security of a whole people. I invite the House to consider the extraordinary situation in which we now find ourselves. Sir Harold MacMichael visited the Malay rulers and was authorised to 693 conclude agreements with them by which each ruler conceded full jurisdiction in his State to His Majesty. Subsequently, we were told that the Sultans had agreed, and had signed on the dotted line. After these signatures were obtained, as the hon. Member for Hornsey pointed out, nearly all of them have protested, and I suggest that one reason why this misunderstanding may have arisen is that Sir Harold MacMichael does not speak Malay and has little or no experience of Malaya. It is essential to realise that the Malay hates to differ, with anybody. His code of manners dictates general compliance, but that does not necessarily imply acceptance of detailed propositions. There is a subtle, vital and significant distinction between the two and I suggest that in this whole matter the Government have paid insufficient regard to Oriental psychology in general and Malayan psychology in particular.
That would be serious enough if it were the whole story. I have here a copy' of the letter from the Sultan of Kedah who complained that he signed under duress. The first part of that letter was read out by the hon. Member for Hornsey this morning. The Sultan went on, after a brief reference to all the violence, horrors and disease they had suffered during the Japanese occupation, to say:Is it dignified on the part of the British Government to have recourse to threats and intimidation in order that its action may have a legal appearance?The Under-Secretary the day before yesterday denied the accuracy of the statements in that letter. We have two contradictory interpretations of what took place. In the Sultan of Kedah's letter we have an authentic account which reveals facts which, on the face of it, are inconsistent with the statements made in the White Paper. The mere contradiction of these facts by the Government will not make that statement less authentic.
I therefore appeal to the Government to do the only straightforward and honourable thing under these circumstances, that is to send out a Royal Commission to Malaya to investigate the situation and make its recommendations. It may be objected that there are procedural difficulties in doing that. But they should not be regarded as conclusive and they can be overcome. I appeal to 694 the Government to do the only fair and honest thing, to send out a Royal Commission to inquire into the facts before deciding on the fate of the Malay people. In that connection I ask the Undersecretary for an assurance that neither the Sultan of Kedah nor any other of these unfortunate Malay rulers who have had no pleasant time under the Japanese occupation will be penalised for trying to put their case before the British people in the way they have. I think that the. Under-Secretary will agree that after all that has happened it would be prudent to give that assurance.
We all desire to see the establishment of a Pan-Malayan Union in Malaya. It is true that the White Paper proposals to that end owe their inception to the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) during his distinguished career at the Colonial Office. But it is now clear t is not the ultimate objective, but certain significant features of the White Paper and the method and manner of their introduction which, taken together, are creating a situation in which the possibility of civil war, or something very like it, is inherent. Some local reactions have already been published in Malaya and others have leaked out. I say to the Government, with all the earnestness at my command, that if they press forward with these proposals without modification they will create a situation in which no European will be able to travel or sleep without an armed guard in Malaya; where no industrial machinery will be safe from sabotage; and where inter-racial friction will grow, where blood will run, and where business will suffer and decay. I appeal to the Government to hold their hand, to consider this situation afresh before it is too late.
It is relevant to remember that four of the Northern Sultans died during the Japanese occupation and that therefore practically half of the rulers with whom these provisional agreements have been made are new and inexperienced rulers. Is it conceivable that this Government or Parliament will attempt to hold inexperienced rulers to their signatures or, in fact, any of these Sultans to their signatures in circumstances where more than one is filled with misgiving, when more than one is protesting and where the whole atmosphere is charged with foreboding where the Government can only press on, if they must press on, regard- 695 less of an increasingly threatening situation and in face of the writing on the wall? I hold no particular brief for the Malay rulers. Like other rulers they no doubt differ in wisdom, character and experience. If today I have spoken at some length about their status and their powers I emphasise that I do so because in their sovereignty is juridically constituted the guarantee and safeguard of the whole Malay people. I ask the Government not to lose sight of that fact. If we alter that position, we are bound to produce Malay misgivings, and, in any event, grave risk to the whole future of the Malay race and their way of life.
I turn to a serious procedural deficiency which ought to be mentioned. The Government have not given Parliament any authentic evidence as to what the Malays' wishes are in this whole matter which is so vital to them. The demonstrations that have taken place in Malaya have all been directed against Government policy. Parliament is surely entitled to know what the Malay people want. I think the Government would be doing the wise, the right, and the magnanimous thing if they sent out a Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the facts of the long-term future of Malaya and its people, and place before Parliament afterwards the results of that specific inquiry together with the proposals formulated by the Government for the future of the country. I want to urge upon the Government this course for reasons which I believe are both relevant and cogent Authoritative speakers in another place have dwelt on the increased bitter tension and dislike now existing between the Malay and Chinese races in the Peninsula. We have had experience of the discontent, boycotts. and bloodshed, which a worsening of such tension can produce in Palestine. In their existing form the present proposals, which I hope will be modified, seem calculated to make of Malaya another and a bloodier Palestine. Chinese immigration, once the change of sovereignty has been effected, will be resented and resisted by the Malays for precisely the same reasons as Jewish immigration is being resisted by the Arabs in Palestine—because they fear their own submergence under the immigrant flood. Hon. Members may think that I am exaggerating but the murders have already begun. May I remind the House 696 that three Malay district officers have already been murdered, and in one place 50 Chinese men, women and children have been massacred? Malaya is not an easy land to police It is a land far larger and far more difficult to police than Palestine. It is a land of mountains and impenetrable jungles, of deep and angry rivers and of impassable swamps. It is a land of people whose quiet, pleasant and attractive manners cover much potential religious fanaticism and much potentiality of vigorous action if and when they are once roused to fury. I foresee an appalling vista of racial clashes and unhappiness coming in Malaya and all unnecessarily— all because of an unnecessary forcing of the pace, all because of inept manner, method and machinery in arriving at an ultimately right objective.
Since the decentralisation policy was introduced in Malaya some 10 years ago we have seen the beginnings of a happy growth of Pan-Malayan co-operation and Pan-Malayan services. Railways and currency were beginning. Some of us had hoped that the present fluid situation would have been used to facilitate the greatest change of all—the establishment of a Pan-Malayan customs union, including perhaps Singapore, but that also should be a matter of scrutiny by the Royal Commission. Such a union would have led to an ever closer union of the whole peninsula, but on a federal basis, so as not to destroy the great charter of Malay freedom which resides in the treaties. The Government proposals in their present form open up a vista of bloodshed and racial quarrels. They may well retard Malay progress, including Malay self government, they may even retard Chinese and Indian immigration, and may retard the rehabilitation of Malaya's two major industries, rubber and tin, which the world needs so greatly.
I would ask the House to bear in mind all the fundamental realities of the situation, which include the fact that the Chinese are an industrious, subtle, sophisticated. virtually unassimilable element, who alone can work this proposed Western Constitution at the present time. Given time the Malays will be able to provide adequate political representatives whom they will need, but there is evidence that they would find that difficult now. The Malays are not a politically minded people. They would 697 not go to the trouble of voting in any numbers, and, therefore, the representation of the Chinese, both in the States and in the central legislature, would be bound to outweigh their actual numerical strength.
The White Paper speaks of establishingultimate self-government within the British Empire.It is easy enough to speak thus in general terms, but surely some of the major facts should not be overlooked. Leaving aside altogether the special problem of the activities and aspirations of the young Chinese Communists in Malaya, who have tasted blood as guerrillas and who have no more respect for the Malay rulers than for the British Crown, surely no British Government can ignore the fact that while the older established minority of Chinese remain loyal to the Crown, the majority of the Chinese—whether we like it or not —look to China, regard it as their home, and regard it as the country to which they owe their loyalty and their allegiance. Though there is no mention of it in the White Paper, any proposal which in the matter of decades necessarily envisages the political domination of Malaya by the Chinese must endanger the present assured position of the Malays, must endanger the political connection between this country and Malaya, and deserves at the very least the close scrutiny of a Royal Commission of the status and capacity of the Simon Commission. I believe that if we do not send out such a Royal Commission to Malaya the view which has found currency both in Malaya and in China may well materialise, and in a foreseeable period of time—as the hon. Member for Hornsey said this morning—we will find Malaya becoming the 19th province of China.
May I briefly mention one or two points which re-enforce the suggestion that the future of the whole area should be the subject of a Royal Commission? There is the need to safeguard the Malay position by securing powers for the Governor of the Malay Union to control immigration, and the need to safeguard that issue further by requiring the limitation of citizenship to such immigrants as have one parent with the residential qualification for citizenship. Malay opinion has already begun to formulate major objections to the White Paper schemes. They object to the introduction 698 of the King's jurisdiction through the Foreign Jurisdiction Act into the Malay States. They object to the introduction of equal citizenship for all races in Malaya, and to the position of the British Governor of the Malayan Union as Chairman of a Central Advisory Council of the Malay rulers; in other words, of a Moslem Council deciding Moslem religious questions. When I read this proposal I was quite frankly astonished. To require a British Governor to do any such thing is invidious. To require him to fill such a position is to place a British Governor who would normally be an infidel in the position of being Chairman of a Moslem Council which decides Moslem religious questions. I understand from the Under-Secretary's speech that that particular proposal has now been abandoned.
Such interference in religion as suggested in the White Paper represents a startling departure from the settled policy of the whole of the British Empire. Every schoolboy knows that what would seem to us to be a perfectly trifling matter connected with the greasing of cartridges was instrumental in leading to the horrors and bloodshed of the Indian Mutiny. If the British Empire has ever learned any lesson it is surely that unnecessary interference with a people's religion is the sure and certain way to serious trouble. Therefore, the suggestion in the White Paper to make a British Governor chairman of such a council which has to deal primarily with matters of Mohammedan law and custom which our wiser predecessors guaranteed to leave within the exclusive competence of these Moslem rulers, was a suggestion which I am glad to see the Government have now decided to abandon.
Further I would say that the repercussions of what we intend to do and are doing in Malaya may be felt far beyond the boundaries of Malaya. They are likely to be as unexpected as they may prove to be unfortunate. In so far as the Government tamper with religion —and each ruler is Caliph in his own State—we may look for hostile reactions in the predominantly Moslem parts of British India—in so far as the Government tamper with the status and sovereignty of the Malay rulers themselves, they may look for repercussions as far away as Southern Arabia. Let me quote two sentences from a dissertation 699 by Mr. Harold Ingrams, a distinguished civil servant who has done so much magnificent service in the Hadhramaut where he created order out of chaos:This treaty "—he refers to the Treaty with the Qu'aiti-State of Shihr and Mukall—"was based on those entered into with the rulers of the Malay States, and when Sir Bernard Reilly signed the treaty on Friday, August 13, 1937, he addressed to the Sultan a Note referring to the treaties with the Malay rulers. This Note explained first of all that it was by no means the intention of His Majesty's Government to reduce the powers of the Sultan to insignificance, and made it clear that the treaty would be worked in the same way as similar treaties with Malay rulers.What we do in Malaya will not pass unnoticed in Southern Arabia. Hon. Members who have taken an interest in that part of the world will know how many are the ties which connect the Hadhramaut and Malaya. It would indeed be a sad consequence if any of the superb work done in the Hadhramaut were under-mined by mistrust and suspicion due to the methods pursued by His Majesty's Government in Malaya.
In conclusion, I say to His Majesty's Government, "Why in the name of God must you go so fast on this perilous venture?" I ask them to hold their hand and send out a Royal Commission in order to enable Parliament to judge, not on the basis of secret investigations carried out by the Colonial Office, but on the same fair and open basis as that on which we treated with India when we sent out the Simon Commission. I ask the Government to take that course. At the worst it will allay misunderstandings and provide an opportunity for the people of Malaya to give expression to their pent up feelings. At the best it may prevent a great mistake, great un-happiness, and set forward the political future of Malaya on a happier course.
§ 2.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
We all regret the reason for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, and we congratulate my hon. Friend on deputising for him so persuasively. I cannot claim, like some hon. Members who have spoken today, a lifelong acquaintance with the East, or with Malaya in particular, nor have I been there so recently as my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). But it did so happen that I was in Malaya at a 700 peculiarly interesting moment last September, the moment of liberation. It was extremely encouraging to see the tremendous welcome which the Malayan people gave to our liberating forces under the Supreme Allied Commander. It was like the liberation of Belgium and France all over again. The villagers came running out, carrying baskets of fruit for our troops and kissing their hands. No doubt the reason for that, which surprised some of those who remembered only the military disaster, was the Malayan memory of the quality of the prewar British administration, to which my hon. Friend paid tribute in opening this Debate.
Unfortunately, the situation has undoubtedly deteriorated since last September. The good will is evaporating. That is largely due, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leek said, to economic stress and the food shortage. But, despite the assurance of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr T. Reid), to whose views on any Colonial matter all of us on this side of the House must give considerable weight, I do not believe that the White Paper policy, as it has been presented, will do anything to restore that good will. Indeed, I believe that it may inflame resentment. May I remind the House that this policy is to a very large extent, part of the Labour Government's heritage from the Coalition Government? This scheme was prepared during the war years. Two things follow from that. First, when it was being prepared there was no consultation with Malays in Malaya, although my hon. Friend assured us that some Malayan civil servants. presumably in Whitehall, had been consulted. Nor was there any consultation with the Chinese; I agree that they also should have beer consulted when a scheme of this magnitude was being prepared. The second fact which follows from the preparation of this scheme during the war years by the Coalition Government was that, necessarily, no account could be taken of developments in Malaya during and since the Japanese occupation, and there, as elsewhere, war has been the locomotive of history. Nor could any account be taken of developments in Britain, where, last July, the British people returned to power a party which, historically and essentially, is anti-Imperialist.
It may well be, and I am prepared to admit, that this scheme for Malayan union will ultimately benefit the Malayan 701 people. It is tidy, and that makes for comfortable administration; but tidiness can be rather soulless. It does justice to the Chinese and Indians, and I agree that justice should be done. But it is not so much the content of the scheme, as the manner in which it is presented, that is objected to. The very language of it reeks of patronage. The references to self-government are even vaguer than anything Queen Victoria said about India in 1858. The whole attitude seems to be, "It is good for you, so you have to take it." This is the paternalism of the heavy father; it is not Socialism. Look at page 3 of White Paper 6724. If hon. Members will look at the top of page 3—it is the language on which I am commenting— there is a paragraph headed:His Majesty to possess jurisdiction in Malay States.And it says:The British Crown must provide the common link which will draw together the communities of Malaya.…There are too many premature "musts" in this White Paper. Can the Malays be blamed if they regard such language as tantamount to the language of annexation? And look again on the back page of the same White Paper, where the directions which were given to Sir Harold MacMichael are again quoted. The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) started to read out those directions, and my hon. Friend the Member for Leek, invited him to go on reading further. If he had, I believe, he would have strengthened his case, because the directions to Sir Harold MacMichael say:You will visit Malaya … and invite each Malay Ruler's co-operation in the establishment of an … organisation of Malaya which has been approved by His Majesty's Government and communicated to youLater the directions say:You are authorised … to conclude with each ruler … a formal Agreement by which he will cede full jurisdiction to His Majesty in his State.How it can be argued that there was really full and free consultation and that language of that kind does not constitute a fait accompli, I cannot imagine. The whole idea of the instructions seems to be "Sign—or else …"
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon defended Sir Harold MacMichael and said there could not have been anything 702 underhand in his actions. I entirely agree. Sir Harold is, of course, a public servant of the highest integrity, and nobody suggests that there was anything underhand in his actions. But I do suggest that the instructions communicated to and through him were too high-handed.
A positive fault in the scheme is the making of citizenship automatic after the 10-year period. I suggest that the Government should consider this again, to see whether they should not make it necessary for people who desire naturalisation to apply for it, in a way comparable with the arrangements in this country. 1 say that because, although 10 years' domicile may seem a reasonably long time, none the less, I believe it is true that after periods even as long as 20, 30 or more years, many Chinese immigrants have returned from Malay to their own homeland. It is true that the Chinese, particularly, have a very strong and loyal attachment to their own homeland. In passing, I might remind my hon. Friend that in the first two years of the Chinese war against Japan, it was the Chinese in Malaya, Indonesia and the South Pacific who subscribed about one-third of the total Chinese war chest for the conduct of that war. They had retained this loyalty. I am not criticising them for it. But I do suggest that they should not, automatically, become citizens of the Union after 10 years.
Some critics of the scheme have compared what may happen in Malaya to the condition of affairs in Palestine. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred blood-curdlingly to Palestine. I think there is a certain danger in too facile parallels of this kind, and I do not believe that the situation in Malaya is, or will be, really comparable with that in Palestine. For one thing, both of these substantial immigrant bodies—the Chinese and the Indians—have got their own large homelands in Asia. That, of course, does not apply to the Jewish immigrants in Palestine, and it is one example of the difference between the two situations. It is also undoubtedly true, as the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) said, that the different races have lived together in perfect harmony in Malaya in the past, and we hope they will do so again. It is the acute economic crisis and the shortage of food which have aggravated these inter-racial feelings. I 703 do not think too much ought to be made of that.
The matter could really have been dealt with differently. In the archives of the Colonial Office my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend could have found, not only this scheme, which was, as I say, largely a legacy from their predecessors, but also an extremely thorough and well-informed Memorandum submitted to the Colonial Office by the Malay Society in London on 25th April, 1944 I wonder whether sufficient account was taken of that Memorandum. I have a copy of it which I will be glad to lend to my hon. Friend if, by any chance, the Colonial Office have lost their copy. It is, in some ways, quite a prophetic document. It foresees what was going to happen at the end of the Japanese occupation and on the liberation of Indonesia—at a time, early in 1944, when most members of the British public had never heard the word "Indonesia" mentioned. It says that there is a legitimate fear on the part of the Malays of being "lost in their own country among immigrants of different races, creeds and cultural backgrounds." It also says—and this is a very important point which has, of course, not even been hinted at in the White Paper:Finally, we wish to mention that the ultimate goal after which the Malays in Malaya and Indonesia are striving is for a federation of all Malay lands in South-East Asia in the future. We feel, in this connection that, after this war, British Malaya and Indonesia should have closer relations than have hitherto prevailed. In political outlook, the Malays in Malaya have come more and more under the influence of their brothers in Sumatra and Java.That, I may say, is the ultimate, constructive solution which will, in itself, safeguard the Malays in Malaya from any feeling that they are being swamped by Chinese or Indian immigrants.
There is nothing in the White Paper about economic policy and nothing about these future aspirations with regard to the possibility of a regional federation for the whole of Indonesia. Although it is difficult to speak with certainty, from this distance, of the really representative character of some of the nationalist and political bodies which have sprung up, I do hope that my hon. Friend will be able to tell us that some further consultations will be held. It is worth noticing that the Pan-Malay Congress has just held a four-day congress at Kuala Lumpur, and I 704 have no doubt my hon. Friend will be aware of the resolutions passed by that Congress. Surely, it is possible either for the Governor-General or for a commission to go out there, and to have some real consultation with the, approximately, representative political bodies.
One other point is that during the Japanese occupation, many of the Malays were trained for guerilla resistance. There has been a great deal of publicity for the Chinese Communist guerillas, and some of them did very gallant work; but it is no fault of the Malayan resistance movement that it was not more fully called into action against the Japanese, and that the war suddenly collapsed as the result of the atomic bomb. They feel that, if they were good enough to be trained in guerilla resistance, to fight against the Japanese, they should be, to some extent, consulted in the future arrangements of their country.
I do not want to go back to the status quo, and I am not particularly worried about the Sultans as such, although I realise that they are the religious leaders of their people. The political arrangements of these independent States were backward—or, as my hon. Friend put it, "stagnant"—before the war, and during the Japanese occupation some of the Sultans did have rather dubious records. We must have a forward policy, but it must not be merely imposed. There must be freer consultation than there has been hitherto. I believe that in the long run we are doing the right thing for Malaya, but we are doing it in the wrong way. We cannot talk to colonial or subject or backward peoples, especially the awakening peoples of the East, in the voice of a Whitehall uncle. This scheme has been put across so high-handedly, unimaginatively, and smugly that, in the present circumstances, and as it stands, I am sorry to say that I cannot support it.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I will detain the House for only a few minutes at this stage in the Debate, but I would like to say, at the outset, that I think it a very happy illustration of the strength of Parliamentary institutions when this House is legislating for another people 10,000 miles from Westminster who are not represented directly in this House, that they should have the advantage of the advice, guidance and knowledge of 705 an hon. Member who has an intimate experience of that country and who speaks with full sympathy for the inhabitants. To that extent we are indebted to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), even though we cannot accept to the full the arguments he put forward. I have not the slightest doubt in my mind, with some knowledge of Asia and of the countries which have a special interest in Malaya, that the Union proposed is right and proper, and in the best interests of that country. I do not think sufficient weight has been given to the fact that the problem of Malaya does not stand alone in South-East Asia. There are other tremendous issues arising concerning Sarawak, Borneo and the countries to the South under other jurisdictions, and in approaching these, Malaya must speak with a single, united and corporate voice.
I reject the argument that the broad outlines of this scheme should not be settled now. I think the argument that has been advanced, that the question of fashioning a new administration must be dealt with at some distant date and not now, is totally untenable. If this new administration is accepted in principle it should be formulated in principle forthwith instead of later when the country has made greater progress in recovering from the devastating effects and disruptions of the Japanese invasion. Now, in framing the new administration, can we withhold from those who have made their homes in the country, and who have contributed so materially to its economic development, who showed such strong loyalty to this country during the Japanese invasion, a distinct and definite voice in its administration? If there are any who doubt that, I would ask them to cast their minds back 45 years and remember what was the attitude of this Parliament and of this people in comparable circumstances in another part of the world. At the same time, there is no doubt whatever that these proposals have caused widespread uneasiness, unrest and disturbance not only in Malaya but among others who have intimate experience and knowledge of the administration of the country; it is, therefore, incumbent on the Government and on the Colonial Office, while pursuing this major policy, to see that uneasiness and appre- 706 hension are allayed to the maximum possible extent.
When we talk about the apprehension of the Sultans of Malaya there is one thought which goes through my mind. When I think of the rapidity with which Sir Harold MacMichael concluded these agreements, knowing something of Asiatic methods I think he must either be a negotiator of transcendental merit or else he used arguments which are not usually employed in dealing with Asiatic rulers. Nor am I surprised that some of them, if not most of them, have resiled from their engagements. I would ask the House to remember that the Sultans of Malaya, like rulers in other parts of Asia, may have shortcomings, but nevertheless they have their roots deep down in its history. They are racy of the soil and in Malaya they are the custodians of the Islamic faith and of the Malayan way of life. Let nobody underrate the strength and fervour of the Islamic faith either in Malaya or in the other great countries which stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic West. I think the Government in the White Paper have underrated this force. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary has wisely indicated that the Governor will no longer preside over the Council of Sultans in dealing with matters of the Islamic faith and Malayan culture. Looking at the White Paper it seems to have been deliberately calculated to reduce rather than to develop the authority of the corporate voice of the Sultans in their own land. I would ask the Government to give an assurance that the Council of Sultans will be a really strong and dignified body, representing not only all Islamic thought and culture, but also of the corporate interest of the Sultans in Malaya, and that they will have the right to initiate proposals affecting their own interests and those of their people as well as to discuss matters put forward by the Government.
What is the keynote of the Malayan Union? What must be its foundation? It must be the franchise. Again looking through this White Paper, it seems to me that the question of franchise has had the minimum amount of attention and has been handled with a carelessness which is totally incomprehensible. The scheme bristles with inconsistencies, ambiguities and impossibilities, and to that extent I am rather depressed by the thought that 707 totally inadequate attention has been paid to what must be the most important requirement in any constitutional and administrative scheme—the franchise. I ask the hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that this matter will be reconsidered and that the franchise as regards the immigrant population, whether Chinese or Indian, shall be based on domicile, on undivided loyalty, and also on an educational test. These are to my mind absolutely essential to the establishment of a stable Union. I warn him in the most emphatic terms that if this question of the franchise is not handled with the full appreciation of these circumstances, he may be creating in Malaya a China irredenta which will recoil like a boomerang on his successors in office.
While, therefore, I agree in principle that the Malayan Union should be accepted and think it should be accepted as a definite policy now, I urge that the new Governor-General should go out with instructions in working out this policy based on the utmost fluidity; that he should not be hampered by cast iron instructions; that at every stage he should work in full consultation with the people of Malaya without exception; and that throughout there should be maintained the fullest responsibility of the hereditary rulers of the land. In this way only shall we ensure that unity which is his desire, the desire of this House, and of all people through South-Eastern Asia.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton)
There are moments when one feels one ought not to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, especially when we have had so many good speeches, particularly the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). I will not have time to go into many of the points which I wanted to raise, but, as they have been so thoroughly dealt with by the hon. Member for Hornsey, there is no need for me to mention them other than to say how much I agree with him.
I would, however, make a particular plea to the Colonial Office to postpone, as long as possible, the Third Reading of this Bill. I feel it is absolutely essential that the people of Malaya should be given a chance to think a lot more about the implications of what is to happen to them in the future. I was out there before 708 the war, and I feel I should say at least a few words, in view of the trouble which was taken at that time by Colonial Office officials and others to show me the conditions and tell me of the problems of that country. I am inclined to feel that many, of our troubles started from the days when it was decided that Colonial Office officials need not remain for almost the whole of their career at one place but should be shot about from one area in the Colonial Empire to another. The net result was that, in the old days, we had people of the standing of Clifford and Caldecott who knew Malaya inside out, and all its problems. They dealt sympathetically with them, and the Malays, who are a thoroughly friendly people, a trusting people, liked to know their rulers, and to be enocuraged Then Sir Shenton Thomas went out from Africa and his arrival did not necessarily mean great sympathy on behalf of the Malayans towards us. They did not altogether understand him.
Now we have Sir Harold MacMichael going out on this fantastically organised tour. It reminds me of the election tour of the former Prime Minister, who was welcomed throughout the General Election tour, but evidently a lot of people thought twice and changed their minds. [Laughter.] Hon. Members on the other side of the House may laugh but they must realise that the same thing is happening perhaps in this tour in Malaya. Sir Harold MacMichael rushes out and sees people in a tremendous hurry. They do not really want to offend him but, at the same time, they have second thoughts, and now are beginning to show them.
Two or three points will have to be much more seriously considered. There is the question of the Chinese. The Undersecretary spoke about the position of the Chinese as a whole throughout the Federated Malay States and said that in the Federated States there are only 26 per cent. of Malayans. We should not forget that in Kedah and Perlis the population is 67 per cent. Malayan and in Kelantan 90 percent. and Trengganu 90 per cent. Malayan. In those areas it will be a very difficult position if we are going to allow the Chinese to move into them and remain as citizens, the same as the normal inhabitants. Where are we to stop in taking areas and their population? Why should we not take Java and 709 Sumatra? Why should the Chinese be the favoured people? Why should they be getting the advantage in other parts of the country because they have this large majority in some States? I am inclined to think that one day we are going to see a large Malayan Empire including the Dutch Malayans and we do not wish to see the Chinese rushing in, in the meantime. After all, there are many Malayans from Java and Sumatra now moving into Malaya. The Chinese must not be lumped together as a whole. Many are very friendly and loyal to us—but nothing like the lot. Some of them have gone back to China, and left the British Empire completely. I have come across a Malay Chinese who had reason to be in the Legislative Assembly and who finally returned to China and settled in Amoy. We should try to make some kind of proviso whereby only those who are born in Malaya with one or both parents who were in Malaya before, should be allowed to become citizens of this new country.
We are pressed for time today in discussing a subject which really ought to be discussed over quite a long period. It means the complete change of a whole nation's constitution, a whole area of countries to be remodelled which for literally generations have looked to us to guide them and have always moved slowly. We are now rushing in with something which is unjustified, which no Malayan has asked for and doing something which I never understood the Socialist Party stood for, in days gone by.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
We have had a good Debate on what is a matter of very great importance for many millions of people who look to us for guidance and rule. Hon. Members on all sides have spoken with some particular knowledge of or connection with the subject. I only wish to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) with which I did not entirely agree, but which did set out the case most fully and effectively from his point of view I think the whole House must regret the absence of the Secretary of State and the reason for it, and wish the right hon. Gentleman a speedy recovery. I am sure the Under-Secretary will understand me when I say that in the ordinary division of work of the 710 Colonial Office this matter would have been in the province of the Secretary of State and not in the province of the Under-Secretary. The Secretary of State himself will have had his hand upon all these previous negotiations. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary in his opening remarks said that the main principles of this scheme were approved by the former Government—
§ Mr. Stanley
Provisionally approved by the former Government. That is quite true. I should not have dared to say so myself, because I have taken very much to heart an article I saw some time ago by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Garry Allighan), who is one of the select band who earn a Socialist income from the capitalist Press. He wrote in the "Daily Mail," in a eulogy of the present Secretary of State, to the effect that the only time the right hon. Gentleman was embarrassed was when he had to carry out policies left him by his predecessors. So, I should have hesitated to add to his embarrassments at this time if it were not for the fact that the hon. Gentleman said that these policies had been approved. The Government to which I belonged did approve the main principles, and I still stand by them. In my belief, they are indispensable for the future of Malaya, not only for the Chinese in Malaya, not only for the Indians in Malaya but, also, perhaps, in particular, for the Malayans in Malaya. I should like to join in tributes paid from all parts of the House and from the Under-Secretary to the part played by Malayans not only in the war, but also in the prewar administration of Malaya. There was a time when that administration and the loyalties of the inhabitants of Malaya to the Crown, and to the Empire, were called widely into question. Few of us who had any knowledge believed those criticisms to be justified. I think everyone will agree that, since the re-occupation and now that we have fuller knowledge, those criticisms have been finally and fully dispelled.
I want to analyse briefly what are, to my mind, the fundamentals of the problems which face us in Malaya. I think that is necessary because if we can meet them we can compromise, amend and 711 alter the actual methods in which solutions are arrived at and the actual machinery which we employ. The first aspect of this problem is Malaya as a multi-national State. It is a problem which faces us all over the Colonial Empire, but perhaps in Malaya more vividly and more immediately than elsewhere. Of course, problems of multi-nationalism or bi-nationalism in a territory become more urgent, and more obvious, as soon as one begins to advance that territory towards self-government. So long as there is an old Crown Colony root with the British administration there to hold the balance between one community and another, the problem largely lies dormant.
As soon as they begin to advance to self-government there is the possibility of domination by one racial majority over another racial minority. Immediately these problems arise. It is quite true, as has been pointed out by so many hon. Members, that Malaya was originally a Malayan country, that it is the traditional home of the Malays, and that the Chinese and Indians who have come there have come there in larger numbers, at any rate, in recent years and largely at our invitation. Whatever the history is, the fact remains that we cannot possibly expect large numbers of Chinese and Indians to live for ever as Stateless visitors in the country in which they may have chosen, at our invitation, to make their homes and the homes of their children.
We have seen attempts to maintain a political isolation of that kind in the past in other parts of the world. They have always broken down They will always break down. Therefore, to have attempted to maintain in exclusion all Indians and Chinese from the new political orientation, the new political rights which are going to be granted to people in Malay, is bound inevitably to lead to an explosion. That explosion would be just as damaging to the future and hopes of the Malays as it would be to the Indians and Chinese. I do think one of the defects of much of the correspondence which we have seen carried on in the Press by people of great authority with long knowledge of Malaya, is that one might read through many of these letters, if one knew nothing about the problem oneself, without ever realising that there was such a thing in Malaya as a Chinese or Indian.
712 We cannot look at this problem entirely from the outlook of one community, however great the sympathy we have for that community, or however great the obligations which we owe it. Incidentally, speaking of much of that correspondence, there is one thing from which I should like to dissociate myself. We see many references to our so-called failure to do our duty in Malaya, suggestions that we let them down, that we did not carry out our trust, and that we are unable to fulfil our pledges. I refuse to join in this wallowing in mashochistic self-abasement. I believe that this country, in the war, in the face of tremendous odds, did its duty and did it nobly. I believe that instead of emphasising to the Malays that we failed to do our duty, we should rather emphasise the tremendous sacrifices and sufferings through which this country went and despite which there was never any weakening in the determination of this country to restore the liberties of Malaya. In the end, at the cost of much blood and treasure, we have in fact been successful.
In saying, therefore, that the first problem in Malaya is the multi-national one, which does necessitate the bringing in of Chinese and Indians, it does not mean to say that we do not owe a particular debt to that community and civilisation who were the original owners of the land and which, quite frankly, in an advance towards a Western economic status and a Western industrialised State, will, unless they are protected, almost inevitably go to the wall. The hon. Member pointed out that their philosophy of life, their whole outlook on industry and economics, was different from that of the Chinese or the Indians; but, though different, it certainly is not necessarily worse. It is always true that if one bangs a brass box against a porcelain figure, it will be the porcelain figure that breaks. It is not always to the good of the world that porcelain figures should be broken. In solving this problem we have to give a fair deal to the Chinese and the Indians. At the same time we have a special responsibility to see that Malayan peoples and Malayan civilisation do not go to the wall.
The second aspect of the problem is the multiplicity of political entities. In this comparatively small area with a comparatively small population, we have had in 713 the past, as has been pointed out, 12 separate political entities. There are the nine Malay States and the three divisions of the Straits Settlements. No one can think that that separation, however we try to get over it by various devices, really leads to rapid and efficient government. Malaya, after all, has to be enabled in the future to hold its place in a modern world, in a world which is moving, in peace just as in war, much more rapidly than it did in the past. Governments all over the world have to be much more capable of rapid action. I do not believe that the restoration of the status quo in Malaya could ever enable the problems of modern times effectively to be met. Indeed, it was a widespread criticism at the time of the fall of Malaya that in the period before the Japanese invasion, the cumbersome form of machinery had made it very difficult to deal with problems of civil defence with the same speed that had been possible under a more centralised machinery here.
The first object therefore is some form of common citizenship. The second is some form of central machinery. Thirdly, we are pledged in Malaya, as we are pledged all over the Colonial Empire, to advance in every territory the peoples to self-government. However long it may take—and that will differ with the circumstances of the peoples—we are pledged that we should be there to help the people along the road to governing themselves. That does mean a certain alteration in the machinery which existed before the war. Inevitably, it must mean some alteration in the status of the Sultans who, before the war, were to a large extent autocratic rulers. Somehow or other, if self-government is to come, they must change, as sovereigns have changed elsewhere in the world, from the autocratic to the constitutional type. Therefore, in the new machinery there has to be some alteration of their position.
Those are the three main things that we have got to meet under any new Constitution in Malaya. I believe that the main lines of this White Paper proposal are the best ways of meeting these problems. In fact, I believe they are the only way. Therefore, I stand by the fundamentals of those proposals. I stand by a form of common citizenship to which can be admitted those Chinese and those 714 Indians who really and sincerely mean to make Malaya their home and the home of their children. I stand by a central Government which should be capable of effective and rapid action over Malaya as a whole, while as I shall show later, I think, wide power should be given to local Governments. I stand by an alteration in the status of Sultans which, while preserving the whole of the traditional prestige and respect with which they are endowed, should at the same time enable advances to be made in self government and in the more democratic form of rule.
In saying that I agree with the main principles, I have certain criticisms that I want to make on the details of the scheme now put forward. First, with regard to the Sultans, I cannot believe that it would not have been possible, even with the desiderata that I have put forward, and with which I agree, to give the Sultans a far more responsible position than they are given under the White Paper.
Quite frankly, 1 think it was going out of the way to humiliate the Sultans to say that this Council of Sultans should not be able to initiate any discussions without the consent of the Governor. I cannot see why not. If they are to be given some measure of their traditional authority, surely they should be entitled to have discussions between themselves and put what they want to the Governor-General without a veto from anyone. Similarly, 1 objected, as everyone did, to the Council of Sultans, when dealing with religious matters. having the Governor-General in the chair. That obviously would have been quite wrong, and I am glad the hon. Gentleman has now withdrawn it. I cannot myself see why the Sultan should not continue to-be the president or she chairman of the local council in his State, rather than that position should be filled by the European resident. It seems to me, it would give him a really effective part in the government of his State. We had to deal with something of the same difficulty in trying to fit the Emirs of Northern Nigeria into what, we hope, is the beginning of a more democratic Constitution in Northern Nigeria. There, it was found possible to give these Emirs a really practical share in the ruling of the country in future, without, I think, infringing the possibility of democratic advance.
715 With regard to citizenship, I cannot believe—although it is not very easy to understand from the White Paper exactly what has been or will be laid down by these Orders in Council—these rules are really so strictly drawn as to ensure that only those foreigners—Chinese or Indians, whoever they may be—who really want to make their homes in Malaya are going to become Malayan citizens. In a case of this kind, I entirely agree that it is wrong to have automatic citizenship. It is wrong that because a man happens to have spent 10 years in the country, intending to leave at the end of 15 years, he should automatically get his citizenship at the end of 10 years although in five years he is going back to China, or India, or wherever he came from. I think the onus should be put upon people to apply for it, and in applying to show that they really want to make Malaya their home.
I now come to the most important criticism of all, namely, that in this White Paper there is nothing to show that those who take up the obligations and the rights of Malayan citizenship are required to divest themselves of all other allegiance, or of all other rights and all other obligations. It is absolutely essential that people who want to be citizens of this new Union should become so with a single mind, owing their allegiance only to that Union, and they should not have in the backs of their minds an allegiance to a home which they left, and an allegiance to the State to which they may, perhaps, intend to return. I think it is quite wrong that anyone should be allowed to claim or get this citizenship, unless, at the same time, he makes a solemn declaration that he divests himself of any prior allegiances to other countries.
The question of local government is to me one of the most important points in the whole of this new scheme. What powers are these local Governments going to have? The problems and the fears of the Malayans in many of the States may be very largely allayed, if the local Governments, which will be almost entirely Malayan in some of these States, are really shown to have sufficient powers. The trouble about the White Paper, and the trouble, therefore, about the presentation to the Malayans at the moment, is that there is nothing to show what the powers of the local Government are going to be. For matters of convenience in constitutional change, it is decided that 716 all powers shall, first of all, be taken by the central Government and then, at some subsequent time, it shall be decided how much is to be handed back to the local councils. I quite understand that before coming to a decision there have to be discussions out there. However, before any Malayan can be expected to agree to these proposals, I think it is essential and right that he should know what are the respective powers of the local councils—on which in many cases they may hope to be predominant—and of the central Government.
There is nothing in this White Paper for the Malayan with regard to the point at which he will look first of all, namely, the racial safeguards. What are the racial safeguards that are to be ensured in this new Constitution? No composition of the new legislature is given. There is nothing to show that perhaps there is some way of ensuring that Malayans are going to have at any rate such a proportion of representation as to prevent their being submerged. There is nothing, I think, to show that the Governor-General is to have special reserved powers to ensure that there is no discrimination against one particular race. There again, I think that, before we can claim the final assent of these people, they are entitled to know decisions of that kind.
I pass from these criticisms—not of the main scheme but of some of the features of the solution—to the methods which have been adopted. A great deal has been said on that matter, mostly critical of the Government's action, and I do not want to elaborate it. I only want to say, first of all, with other hon. Members who have spoken that I know Sir Harold MacMichael. I have a great admiration for him, and a great respect for the work he has done for the Empire. I am quite certain he, personally, would never have lent himself to the sorts of things which are alleged against him Equally, I am prepared to believe in the sincerity and the honesty of those Sultans who have protested, in very detailed terms, about their treatment. I do not think that one can say here, that there is such a conflict of evidence that it means one side or the other is not telling the truth. I am quite sure that, in the circumstances of this visit, in view of the fact that the Japanese occupation had only just ceased and military occupation was still in force, Sir 717 Harold MacMichael had the dual role of negotiating and also being either the approver of the existing Sultans, or the confirmer of the newly appointed ones.
I next come to what I can only regard as the quite indecent speed at which this was done. There is plenty of room for misunderstanding and suspicion. Innocent remarks made by Sir Harold MacMichael against that background, may have borne a wholly different meaning to his listeners. What I regard as important is the fact—which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not deny, and to which I think every speaker has agreed—that however it has arisen, whether it is due to the method or the manner, there is today a great and growing feeling among the Malayans against these proposals. If this Constitution is to work, if we are going to find a satisfactory and lasting solution for Malaya in the future, somehow or other those suspicions have got to be dispelled. As things stand at the moment, I cannot regard the present feeling of the Malayans as a sound basis on which to build a really lasting new machine.
With that in view, and only with that in view, I have some suggestions to make to the hon. Gentleman. I hope he will take them as coming from one who stands by the principles of the proposals to which he was a party, who believes the fundamentals of those proposals to be essential for the well-being of Malaya and for the wellbeing of Malayans, and who has in mind, therefore, only a desire to make them effective and acceptable. In the first place, I would not sweep these proposals away. I would not withdraw these main fundamentals. Everyone believes, as I do, that in the long ran they are indispensable. I would ease off, giving the fullest opportunity and the longest time possible for discussion and explanation, and show the greatest readiness to amend all the machinery which leads up to the solutions which in the end we must have.
It seems to me that the Government have a simple course before them. It will be seen that the Orders in Council fall into two parts in the terms of the White Papers themselves. Some powers have to be taken at once in order that the transfer of power from the military to the civilian authorities may be made effective. Others, even under the White 718 Papers, have not to be brought into force until after an interval of perhaps six months—although the Orders themselves are to be made at once—so that they can have no urgency and no relation to the transfer of power from the military. It is not easy to discover from this summary of the Orders which are needed at once and which could very well be postponed. It seems to me, however, that at any rate all those which deal with citizenship, the setting up of sultans' councils, local government, and so on are not to be brought into operation immediately and that therefore the Government could quite well postpone them. I would recommend that the Government should bring into effect, at once, just those parts of the Orders in Council which are necessary for the civilian power to take over, and that all the rest should be postponed.
The Governor-General is a man for whom we have the greatest respect, and he has had wide experience. No one can say that he is going out as a servant of the Colonial Office merely to put over their policy without argument or representation. I would not send out a Royal Commission but I am quite prepared to rely upon the inquiries of the respected gentlemen who are going out there soon. I do feel however that they should be given an interval of say six months. They should go out, knowing what are the fundamentals the Government have to obtain, and when they get there, should find out what are the real objections in Malaya and how far those objections can be met with Amendments which the Government, from their point of view, can perfectly well meet. They should be instructed to report back to the Secretary of State within that six months as to what Amendments are necessary to make the present scheme acceptable to the Malays and to the other inhabitants of Malaya. This would give a chance of a full and final acceptance.
I beg the hon. Gentleman to listen to that plea in the spirit in which it is made. I believe a delay of that kind, coupled with a determination to meet the main problems, can bring no harm to the Government's pledge and to the essential changes that have to be made in Malay. At the same time it might make a real difference as to the final acceptance of this proposal by the Malays, to whom we owe such a great obligation. Six 719 months might make all the difference between building this new edifice on a foundation of sand or a foundation of rock. I ask the hon. Gentleman, in view of the Debate today—which has been wholly non-party in character, but in which different points of view have been expressed from all sides of the House— and in view of the apprehension expressed, to grant to the House and to Malaya that interval.
We on this side of the House will not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. We wish the hon. Gentleman to have full time to consider the result of this Debate, and we hope therefore that he will not press on with the next stages because we sincerely hope that when those stages are reached he will be able to tell us that it is possible to take the power he needs for the immediate assumption of authority by the civil power in Malaya, but to delay the rest. It is one thing for our representatives to go out to Malaya with the orders already framed in their pockets, and quite another if they arrive there with nothing committed to paper, discuss the question with the people on the spot, and then make the orders afterwards. The psychological approach is entirely different. I hope that when a further stage is reached the hon. Gentleman will be able to give us those assurances, because I must warn him that unless he can do so we shall have to oppose a Measure which we think may have grave and lasting consequences in Malaya if proceeded with in its present form and at the present rate.
§ 3.31 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
If I may reply, by permission of the House, I will begin by thanking the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) for his extremely practical and helpful speech. The Debate has, I think, brought out the difficulties of the problem which we have been considering, and there has been in many quarters of the House a suggestion that in some respects the Government should think again in regard to details of its policy. At the same time, I think there has been general agreement that reform and change must come, that very quickly a broader base of citizenship must be built up in the Malay Peninsula, and further that there should be some more centralised form of government established there.
720 We have been conscious for a long time that a policy such as this would arouse very considerable feeling on the part of those people who have been privileged in that part of the world, because it was not likely that the Malays who had been in this special position would accept without a great deal of protest the policy which has been hammered out. I would like to remind the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) that when this policy was being discussed by the Government, and before that by the Departments concerned, the fullest consideration was given to the points of view presented by people of very considerable experience in that part of the world, and by people who could claim to speak with some very real knowledge of the problems. There was also a study of the great mass of literature which has been issued on the questions relating to Malaya. As I said earlier in the Debate today, there has been no general challenge of the principles of policy which this country would like to see adopted in Malaya, bat there are one or two minor points with which I would like to deal before I come to the practical suggestions which the right hon. Member for West Bristol has just put to the House.
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), in his most interesting and indignant speech, made reference to the manner in which the House was being treated in regard to this question. I would say that no one has been more anxious than the Government that the House should be possessed of the fullest information about their policy, and on this occasion no less than three White Papers have been issued and a great deal of other information has been made available to hon. Members in replies to questions which have been put to the Secretary of State from time to time.
I would also remind him that even the Debate today is being conducted under rather unusual conditions, because in the Government's anxiety for the House to have the fullest information, they have done an unprecedented thing, and have published a precis of the Orders in Council in order that the House should know what kind of Government was intended to replace the Constitution which will be abolished by the Bill now before the House. The submission, in this form, of a White Paper containing a precis of the Orders in Council is a very unusual thing, 721 but 1 think it has been of enormous help to the House in reaching some conclusion in regard to the policy which the Government themselves would like to see adopted.
Some criticism was made to the effect that the Government had narrowed somewhat the scope of the Debate by dealing only with the constitutional aspects of Malaya, and it was said that at no time had the Government made their intentions known in regard to the economic and social development of the country. I want to repeat quite emphatically that in the first statement of policy made in this House in October the Secretary of State clearly indicated the broad lines of the policy he was hoping to see pursued in that part of the world. He made it clear that under these constitutional changes no one must rely upon past privilege or regard Malaya simply as a source of material wealth. He added:While it is to the advantage of all the world and not only Malaya that the production of her mineral and agricultural resources should be restored and developed by industry and research, it is right that the Malayan people should be assured of their full share in the rewards of their industry and should be able to feel the country's wealth reflected in their own standards of life."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1946; Vol. 414, c. 256.]That is the general social and economic line which His Majesty's Government intend to take. Therefore, if we have not talked about the food situation in Malaya as the hon. Member for Hornsey suggested, it is not that we are unmindful of the very grave food problem there, it is that today we are dealing with a constitutional issue of a very much more restricted character. Again, a complaint was made with regard to the Government's view of the urgency of this problem. I have listened to the discussion and at times I have felt that there was an air of unreality about some of the observations which were being made. There has been insufficient appreciation of the background of Asia at the present time, of the world forces that are now seeking expression in that area, the enormous changes which have come over the various countries, the new influences that have been at work, the nationalism, the demand for freedom and political rights by people who hitherto have not enjoyed these things. It would be impossible for Great Britain to agree that we should go back 722 to the old order or that now, having announced our policy, we should turn our back upon it and introduce a long delay in implementing it. Such a course, I suggest, would create a considerable amount of misunderstanding in the world outside.
Therefore, while we regard this problem as one of great urgency, when we instructed Sir Harold MacMichael we did try to get reasonable time for the discussions with the Sultans in regard to the transfer of jurisdiction. No time pressure was imposed by Sir Harold MacMichael on the Sultans. He gave them ample opportunity for consultation with their own people and it was at their wish that the Councils and others were called in and consulted. It is unfair to say that the Government were behind Sir Harold, pressing these things on at indecent speed, when all the time in the individual negotiations the utmost freedom was permitted, so that the Sultans and their Councils could understand all the implications of the policy and fully realise what it was His Majesty's Government would like to see adopted.
The hon. Member for Hornsey asked me whether certain information was available to the Sultans at the time. The whole policy had already been announced both in this House and in Malaya. A White Paper had been issued, and Sir Harold MacMichael also had with him a copy of the statement which is published in the Appendix to his Report which again sets out the Government's policy in regard to citizenship. When the hon. Member for Hornsey suggests that no European adviser was available, it is only fair to say that Sir Harold was accompanied by one of our most distinguished and able colonial officers, who had the completest confidence of the Sultans. They knew him, and he was at their disposal for the elucidation of many of the problems which confronted them when they were dealing with this policy with their Councils.
§ Mr. Gammans
Will the hon. Gentleman make it quite clear whether the Sultans were informed at the time that they were to be virtually superseded? Will he make it clear that the terms, which have only just been issued in a White Paper this week in this country, were in fact conveyed to them, and that they knew that equal citizenship was to 723 be enjoyed by people who were not to be asked to swear an oath of loyalty to them or to the King?
Mr. Creech Jones
I am not prepared to say that the complete details in regard to citizenship had been worked out, but the broad principle was propounded, and I think the Sultans clearly understood what was implied in the declaration of policy which had been issued by the Government both here and in Malaya.
A great deal of play has been made of the letters which have now come from the Sultans protesting that their signatures were obtained under some kind of duress. The letters and protests have been received by the Government and have been studied, but I submit that there is a clear difference of view. The Sultans have thought again, but when their signatures were given they had the fullest opportunity to understand precisely what they were doing, in regard to the transfer of jurisdiction and in regard to the kind of broad-based citizenship which the British Government were anxious to see established. Charges have been hurled about in this Chamber as to the manner in which Sir Harold MacMichael conducted his task. I have tried to the best of my ability to find some substance in these charges, but I must confess that so far I cannot find any substance in many of the points which have been made, presumably against the Government, that we were trying in indecent haste to force decisions out of the Sultans by methods which were, to say the least, reprehensible. All the evidence I have been able to obtain shows that the talks were conducted in a friendly and frank manner, and that there was no uncertainty in the minds of the Sultans as to what the Government were trying to obtain.
The suggestion has also been made that there was an absence of consultation with the peoples behind the Sultans. It is quite true that, as our Treaty obligations were to the Sultans, it was to the Sultans we went in regard to the transfer of jurisdiction, but it was also obvious that before decisions of that kind could be made the Sultans themselves would have to observe their' own constitutional procedure and indeed, in most cases, so far as I am able to learn, the recognised procedure in the State was observed. We are not dealing here with democratic States. We are dealing, as the right hon.
724 Member for West Bristol said a moment ago, with autocracy to a very large extent, and accordingly the power reposed in the Sultan and sometimes through him in his Council of State is the constitutional means whereby a transfer can be effected and that constitutional means were used as a rule.
The hon. Member for Hornsey asked if there was free negotiation of the Treaties. As I said in my opening statement, the facts are that the Sultans were made aware of what His Majesty's Government wanted done. His Majesty's Government did want to set up a central authority in the peninsula. The Government were terribly conscious of the change that had come over the world and of the necessity for laying the foundations of future social and political progress towards self-government. It was realised that this transfer of authority must come, and, accordingly, Sir Harold MacMichael did state precisely and definitely what it was that the British Government desired. To suggest, then, as one hon. Member did, that the Sultans were coerced in secret is really just nonsense. The question of the recognition of the Sultans and those who had been acting as regents was not used as an argument to secure the signatures of the Sultans. These matters were quite different. Obviously, if the signature had to be obtained to a Treaty, then the person giving that signature must necessarily be the Sultan himself. Accordingly, the two provinces were kept separate and were not interwoven, in the sense that one decision was not completely dependent on the other.
A large number of small points were raised, the first of which was in regard to the status of Penang. It is undoubtedly true there has been some little difficulty in regard to Penang as a free port during the period of military operation, but there is no desire under the civil administration for the status of that port to be changed. The hon. and gallant Member for Basingstoke (Squadron-Leader Donner) expressed the hope that those Sultans who had not been so willing to come into the Union and had made objections to it would not be penalised in the future. It must be obvious, I think, that the British Government would not be influenced in this way to bring trouble upon a person, who, because of fidelity to conscience and integrity of mind, expressed 725 opposition to their policy. The Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) made reference to the position of the Sultans' Council. It will, I hope, be able to maintain some dignity and authority in the field of religion, and on secular matters, of course, it will be consulted from time to time on the initiative of the Governor, and it will be within the competence of the Sultans themselves, if they raise a matter and provided the Governor agrees, for such matters to be dealt with. One has to be extraordinarily careful if one is building up a central authority and building up a new form of central Government that one does not get a dualism in respect of the authority and the responsibility of the various bodies. I would assure the right hon. Member for West Bristol that his point in regard to the Sultans enjoying initiative in bringing forward secular matters to the notice of the Council will be carefully considered.
I need scarcely answer the point made in regard to the sending out of a Royal Commission. No special purpose, I think, could be served, and I feel that when I have finished what I am about to say it will be obvious to the House that the occasion would scarcely warrant it. Those Members who have studied the last White Paper will appreciate that there are many matters which have been left over for subsequent discussion by the Governor with local interests in Malaya—that is to say, that the Order in Council which will be issued after the passing of this Bill will be primarily concerned with the general framework of the new Constitution, but in regard to the composition of the Settlement Council, the State Council and the Legislative Council there will be the fullest consultation with local opinion, and local interests as well as with all sections of the community by the Governor, who will be specially charged with the responsibility of having those consultations and making representations to the Secretary of State in His Majesty's Government.
Further, in regard to Singapore the same thing will arise, and we wish both for Malaya and Singapore that for the time being advisory committees broadly based will be in operation advising the Governor, while he himself is conducting inquiries as to the kind of Constitution which is most suited in all circumstances 726 for Singapore and the Malay Union. Let me also say here in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol that we are with him in our concern about getting a sound basis of genuine local government established in the peninsula. It is of importance, too, that the relationship of the central authority to the local authority should be properly defined and properly worked out in the light of consultation and after the fullest discussion with the representatives of Malayans and Chinese and other parties involved. So I think he may take it that on this issue the whole local government structure will be subject to the fullest examination and already we have taken the advice of a number of competent persons on this very problem and of persons who, also, are competent in regard to British local government to examine this problem, advise the Government and make recommendations. In other ways, too, there are other matters which are left open in the Order in Council and which are concerned with the general structure and constitution which will be applied.
§ Mr. Gammans
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would answer me one question which he has not dealt with. How can he reconcile the statement made by Lord Addison that Malayan Union citizenship must include, first of all, loyalty to the British Crown and the statement in the White Paper that it need do nothing of the sort?
Mr. Creech Jones
I am coming to the important problem of citizenship. During the discussion a large number of important points were made in regard to the qualifications which are necessary for the granting of naturalisation and citizenship generally and many criticisms were made of the proposals in the White Paper itself. The question of the Oath of Allegiance was raised and many other difficulties expressed as to the exact meaning of certain of. the terms used in the White Paper. I want to say that before an Order in Council is made all the suggestions, criticisms and proposals which have been offered will receive the closest attention and consideration of the Government.
§ Mr. Stanley
Is not the hon. Member going to answer my plea? Is he not going to make any reply to the plea that the Order should not be made until after consultation?
Mr. Creech Jones
I was making first, the point that all matters which have been raised today will be most carefully considered. I then wished to go further and say that the Government will give the closest attention to the plea which was made by the right hon. Gentleman. As I understand it, he suggested that if misapprehensions are to be cleared up, and if local opinion is to be conciliated, and people are better to understand the policy of the Government, there would be wisdom in delaying the Order in Council for a short period until the consultations took place. I can give him that assurance. There will be some delay in order that these consultations shall take place, and the fullest opportunities will be taken to make known the policy in Malaya, and for study of the objections of Malays and other sections of the community.
The Government cannot abandon this basic principle of common citizenship. There can be no whittling down of that principle. We cannot conceive of any forward advance unless that principle is acknowledged. There has to be some heart in the peninsula, some creation of unity of purpose, and some basis for democratic government established. I assure the House, in the light of the criticisms made in regard to the Orders in Council, that these will be considered, and that, so far as this Order relating to citizenship is concerned, it will not be issued for a while until these consultations have been made possible. The House should be under no illusion that the British Government must push on with this policy. We believe it to be right, and in the best interest of Malaya. We want Malayan cooperation, and we believe, in their interest, that this policy alone can further general prosperity and social happiness.
§ Mr. Teeling
Will the hon. Member say whether there has to be allegiance to the King, or to the Union?
Mr. Creech Jones
I have tried to answer that by saying that all points raised in the Debate will be considered. As the right hon. Member for West Bristol said, all these questions can be answered in a statement by the Government during the Committee stage.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Thursday next.—[Mr. Mathers.]