HC Deb 23 January 1964 vol 687 cc1275-7
Mr. Brockway (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make a statement on the present negotiations between Malaysia and Indonesia for a cease-fire on the frontiers of Sarawak and Sabah and when British troops are expected to be withdrawn.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

Through the mediation of Mr. Kennedy, the Presidents of Indonesia and the Philippines and the Prime Minister of Malaysia have agreed to hold a meeting to improve relations between their countries. This meeting will be preceded by a meeting at Foreign Minister level. In addition, there is to be a prior meeting between the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the President of the Philippines.

As a preliminary to these meetings. President Sukarno has issued a cease-fire order to all his forces. However, the Indonesian Government have explained that it will take about a week for this order to reach those forces which are at present operating across the border in Malaysia.

Since the expression "cease-fire" has been used, it should be emphasised that the Malaysian and British forces have been engaged in a purely defensive rôle and have fired only to repel invaders. Therefore, in present circumstances the question of the withdrawal of British troops does not arise.

Her Majesty's Government warmly welcome the steps which have been announced and they trust that these will lead to the restoration of normal relations between Malaysia and her two neighbours.

Mr. Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the degree to which the House will welcome this announcement and of our appreciation of the great services which Mr. Robert Kennedy has carried out in arranging this preliminary settlement? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government will give the fullest support to the proposals, made by the three Ministers concerned, that the Manila conference should be resumed so that there may be a consideration of the development of a wider confederation for all these areas?

Mr. Sandys

I have said that we welcome the announcement that there is to be a meeting between the three heads of Government. I think that we must see how they get on.

Mr. B. Harrison

Will my right hon. Friend try to impress on Mr. Kennedy when he is here the need for a guarantee by the American Government of any agreement that is made that full support must be given by the American Government to Malaysia and that we will not have any apparent equivocation by the American Government backing up other countries in the area?

Mr. Sandys

I do not want to anticipate the talks that we are to have with Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we all welcome the announcement that has been made? Is he further aware that we welcome the fact that he has made it clear—as some announcements have not made it clear—that this is a cease-fire by Indonesia and that Malaysia, whose territory was attacked, is not being asked, and should not be put in the position of saying so, to agree to a cease-fire? I repeat that we very much welcome the fact that this has been made clear.

Mr. Sandys

I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has said what he has.

Mr. Fell

While the House welcomes the fact that British troops will be kept there for the time being, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not agree that we must have more than words from President Sukarno in the form of an agreement before we shall find it possible to withdraw British troops?

Mr. Sandys

Yes, Sir. We shall want to see some deeds as well as words.

Mr. Wigg

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that British troops in that area will not be placed in the position of being unable to return the fire if fired at?

Mr. Sandys

I do not think that any Government has ever put British troops in any part of the world and not allowed them to defend themselves or discharge their duties.