HC Deb 12 December 1950 vol 482 cc979-81
Mr. Churchill (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make any statement on the riots at Singapore.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)

During yesterday's hearing before the Supreme Court in Singapore of the appeal by the Malay foster-mother of Bertha Hertogh against the ruling of the High Court, which had refused to grant a stay of execution on the decision returning this 13-year old girl to her Dutch parents, there was a demonstration by Muslims which developed into a riot. The riot was confined to a limited area and appears to have been directed against Europeans and Eurasians. In spite of the efforts of the police and troops to restore order, I regret to have to report that provisional casualty figures during yesterday amounted to five killed and at least 100 injured. I am sure the House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy with the relatives of those who have been killed.

The Governor has informed me today that disturbances are still continuing but that the situation is now somewhat quieter. A general curfew has been imposed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and in certain areas a day-time curfew has been imposed. Although a number of cars have been attacked there has been no serious damage to property. Leaders of the Muslim community are co-operating with the Government in trying to restore order.

The Supreme Court have today rejected the appeal and Bertha Hertogh has now left the Colony.

Mr. Gammans

May I ask the Secretary of State whether there is any reason to believe that there is Communist influence behind these riots?

Mr. Griffiths

There is no evidence that the disturbances have been inspired by Communists.

Mr. W. Fletcher

May I ask the Minister two questions? Firstly, in view of the fact that this incident does not partake of the nature of an ordinary riot or civil commotion, but is much more widespread in effect and paralyses the port and the town, will he now consider introducing the necessary insurance legislation from the Government point of view so that the flow through the port of rubber and tin, which are essential for munitions, may continue? Secondly, as this partakes to a considerable extent of a religious movement, will he make quite certain that in the Federation itself it is not allowed to spread?

Mr. Griffiths

The question of insurance is a far more general aspect and is being considered by the Federation Government. On the religious aspect, I am glad to say that leaders of the Muslim community are co-operating with the Government to restore order.