HC Deb 07 May 1952 vol 500 c388
Mr. S. S. Awbery (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the severing of the heads of bandits in Malaya?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

Yes, Sir. The incident which gave rise to the photographs, which have appeared in the "Daily Worker," occurred in April, 1951, when a jungle patrol was ambushed by bandits. The officer and corporal were killed and two other members of the patrol were badly wounded. One bandit was shot dead. After the bandits had retired a tribesman, not a Royal Marine, who had acted as a tracker, decapitated the body. The head was brought in for identification.

The photograph which was published was not authorised and should not have been taken. Instructions are being given by the High Commissioner that bodies should not be decapitated for identification, which should be secured by photographs and fingerprints.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that nearly all hon. Members on this side of the House desire to see Malaya achieve nationhood as quickly as possible, but we are also agreed that the methods suggested in the photograph are neither desirable for the promotion of that nationhood nor will help towards its accomplishment, and will he give definite instructions that such methods will not in the future be adopted for jungle warfare?

Mr. Lyttelton

In my answer I have already explained that definite instructions have been given that decapitation is not to take place. I am afraid I shall be in some difficulty in explaining what happened in April, 1951.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does the Colonial Secretary say that this was a genuine photograph, and is he definitely convinced that it is not a fake?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, Sir, it is a genuine photograph.