HC Deb 12 March 1947 vol 434 cc1308-9
15. Mr. Walter Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the outbreak of unrest and lawlessness in the province of Kedah; and to what extent this outbreak is to be attributed to the low scale of rations, particularly rice, prevailing in Malaya.

16. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the disorders in Kedah, Malaya.

Mr. Creech Jones

The labour situation in South Kedah has been unsettled for several weeks, but the Governor tells me that it is improving. The wearing of uniforms and the drilling of groups of Indian labourers for the purpose, among other things, of intimidating labour on the estates has been a feature of the agitation in this area for some time. On 28th February the police came into conflict with a uniformed group numbering about 50o near Sungei Patani. There was rioting and 12 arrests were made and convictions followed. Police reinforcements were sent to the area affected. There were further incidents on 3rd March, as a result of which 63 persons were arrested. Sixty-one were convicted. One Tamil died of injuries received during the resistance to the police but there were no other fatal casualties and all the injured are progressing favourably. No disturbances have been reported since.

European women and children on the estates involved were advised by the police to leave temporarily. Shortage of rice has undoubtedly exercised an unsettling influence on all labour in Malaya, but I am advised that it was not an immediate cause of these disturbances. With my approval, the Governor has introduced legislation prohibiting the wearing of uniforms and illegal drilling, in order to assist in the prevention of similar occurrences in the future.

Mr. Fletcher

Has the right hon. Gentleman been able to ascertain what was the origin of this uprising, which is serious and fairly widespread in character, and could he say when he thinks it will he safe for women and children to return to their menfolk, since this division of families in such an area, is most undesirable?

Mr. Creech Jones

This is a temporary operation at the instance of the police, and I have called for a report concerning the background of the dispute so that we may be able to take requisite steps to prevent recurrences.

Mr. Gammans

Can the Minister say what are these uniforms which people are wearing, and whether this business is Communist-inspired or from what source does it come?

Mr. Creech Jones

I prefer to wait until I have further information.

Mr. Eden

When the right hon. Gentleman has received the report on this matter will he be good enough to make it available to the House?

Mr. Creech Jones

Certainly, Sir.

Dr. Haden Guest

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is discrimination in wage rates against the Indians in the plantations in Malaya, and will he call for a comprehensive report from the trade union adviser on this matter so that the House may have an opportunity of learning the economic background of this dispute?

Mr. Creech Jones

I hope to receive a report from the trade union adviser, and I will make it available to the House.