HL Deb 15 November 1956 vol 200 cc328-68

3.7 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the situation in Sarawak with particular reference to the new constitutional arrangements being made by Her Majesty's Government and to economic, social and educational considerations; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, Sarawak, is a new Colony and, unlike most of them, for whose origin historical and perhaps sometimes half-legendary characters were responsible, owes its origin to all of us who are here present to-day, for the Parliament and people of Great Britain in this age accepted from His Highness The Rajah the cession of the Territory to His Majesty The King. The Colony came into existence on July 1, 1946, and we on this side think that it is desirable, after ten years, to have a progress report and an account by Her Majesty's Government of their stewardship.

The State of Sarawak was born in 1841 when James Brooke was rewarded for his services in bringing about a settlement of a then current civil war by being installed as Rajah of a small part of the total area which later was to be the State of Sarawak. This area was extended by Rajah Brooke, often with the help of the Royal Navy, whose ships performed, in the words of the Annual Report for 1955: Almost incredible feats of navigation and endurance.

The second and the third Rajahs continued the good work, and in 1941, as a centenary gesture, the third Rajah, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, enacted a new Constitution abrogating his absolute power and setting the people off on the long and dusty road to self-government. This process was interrupted by the Japanese invasion and occupation, when in every way conditions deteriorated. The country was in a miserable state when Australian forces entered Kuching on September 11, 1945. Thereafter, for seven months, Sarawak was administered by a British military administration until, on April 15, 1946, the Rajah resumed the administration of the State. He had decided that the time had come to cede the country to the British Crown, and negotiations had been entered into between the Rajah and the Secretary of State for the Colonies for this purpose.

In the spring of 1946, Sir David Gammans and I were asked by my noble friend, now the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, on behalf of the then Government, with the agreement of the Rajah, to visit Sarawak for the purpose of confirming by independent inquiry that the Rajah's proposal for the cession of the territory to His Majesty was, broadly speaking, acceptable to the native communities. May I pause here to say that my noble friend Lord Hall was very anxious to be here to-day but has asked me to express to your Lordships his regret that, owing to a previous engagement (I believe in South Wales) he is unable to be present. The invitation was accepted, and we left for Sarawak: but our task would have been made quite impossible of performance had we not been materially assisted by the noble Earl, Lord Mount-batten of Burma, who put at our disposal the minesweeper flotilla leader H.M.S. "Pickle." The forerunner of the "Pickle" in the Royal Navy was the ship that brought back the body of Lord Nelson after Trafalgar.

We visited the chief centres of population and heard the views of the various communities. They came from far and wide; they came down the river in canoes. sometimes journeying for two or three weeks, and were highly interested in the inquiry. All gave evidence with great freedom. I remember that on one occasion some of the Dyaks asked us: "Does the King intend to live in Kuching?" We said, No; we did not think he would live in Kuching. They then asked: "Has the King any sons?" Again we replied "No." The King, we said, had no sons. They asked us whether the King had a brother. We said: Yes; the King had a brother, but we did not think that he would be likely to live in Kuching. They said that this was an important question to them because hitherto, in order to react the Ruler, they could go by canoe, and perhaps get a lift a boat to Kuching, the cost being, say, six dollars. What they asked, would be the cost of going to London? We told them that it would be rather more than six dollars but that there would surely be a King's representative in Kuching. There would be in Kuching a Governor, representing the King and Parliament, to whom they could go, still for an approximate expense of six dollars, and to whom they could put their problems.

We reported in May, 1946, to His Majesty's Government that there was sufficient acquiescence or favourable opinion in the country to justify the matter going before the Council Negri. We strongly urged that there should be no postponement. We were present at the debate in the Council Negri on May 16 and 17, when the Cession Bill was passed. By an Order in Council, Sarawak became a British Colony on July 1, 1946.

Time passed and years later—in 1952, to be exact—a move was made by the present Government to amend the Constitution, and a Memorandum to this effect was prepared. The Memorandum was translated into various languages and published. In addition, a Constitutional Commission was formed and it took the views of the people. Finally, a resolution asking for the grant of a new Constitution was moved in the Council Negri on September 7, 1955, by an unofficial Member, and was passed unanimously.

It was assumed in Sarawak that a draft of the new Constitution would be published for discussion by Her Majesty's Government, but to the surprise and consternation of the people there they were informed that no such draft could be published, as this would be a departure from normal practice and the creation of a precedent which might affect other colonial territories. The Sarawak Tribune on July 20 commented on this announcement as follows—I quote: It may not be expedient. in the view of Her Majesty's Government at this stage to embark on a major chat-4e of its policy, but in the particular case or Sarawak, where so much good will has already been established in the preparation of the Constitution, at least the Council Negri, if not the general public, should be provided with the opportunity to consider the final text of the Constitutional instruments before enactment especially if major changes are contemplated on the original draft.

On August 6 the Sarawak Tribune said: If the publication of the text of a proposed Constitution before enactment means a departure from tradition but is conducive to successful results without dissension and hatred in the aftermath, then by all means depart from that tradition.

Mr. Anthony Brooke, who was once in line of succession to the Throne, also criticised the Government on this score in a number of letters to various papers in this country and in Sarawak. On July 17 this year I asked a Question in this House, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, replied on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. In a supplementary, I asked whether inquiry was made by the Government from the various bodies of opinion before the new Constitution was formulated. In reply, Lord Lloyd said that the proposals had been fully discussed and had had a favourable reception. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 198, col. 1064]: They certainly were unanimously supported by the Council Negri.

Mr. Anthony Brooke has alleged that the interchange between Lord Lloyd and myself misled the House and misled the country and, in a letter to the Manchester-Guardian on July 25, he said so, pointing out that the people of Sarawak were in the dark as to the details of all the provisions of the new Constitution other than those for increased unofficial representation. The Manchester Guardian had, in fact, on July 18, supported Mr. Anthony Brooke in this contention—at least, it said that Lord Lloyd had not met Mr. Brooke's point. According to Mr. Brooke, there had been no real consultation with the people except over one question—namely, the question of an increase in unofficial representation.

A lengthy amendment to the preamble, setting out the history of the constitutional position in Sarawak and embodying nine cardinal principles, was prepared for the Council Negri meeting, but, of course, the resolution relating to it was never called, because the Constitution was not put up for debate. Accordingly, the resolution was withdrawn. In fact, in spite of pressure, there was no publication of the details of the new Constitution, and no opportunity was given to discuss the amending resolution, although it was put down by the same Members who had proposed and seconded the original resolution in September, 1955. In withdrawing the amendment, the unofficial Member said, after expressing a feeling of considerable disappointment: I would like to have these views forwarded to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, because they are not merely my own but are shared by my unofficial colleagues and by the leaders of the communities in Sarawak.

He went on to say that, nevertheless, he moved to convey the Council's thanks to the Queen for a real advance towards the goal of self-government.

Whilst also welcoming this advance, I feel that there are several criticisms which I ought to voice in this House. In the first place, as I have said, the new Constitution dealt with a large number of points upon which the people of Sarawak were not consulted. In the second place, there is no direct election to the Council Negri, the State Council: its members are nominees of locally elected councils. Thirdly—and this makes it even worse in a sense—local councils are not able to nominate anyone they would like but every council have to nominate one of their own number. Fourthly, there is some legal doubt whether the Crown had any power to make a new Constitution by Order in Council—a question on which I do not think I am capable of expressing an opinion. It is said that there was a Constitution in existence before cession and that once the Crown had accepted the cession and adopted the Constitution, it had no power to amend it afterwards by Order in Council. Should there be any amendment, it can be made only either by the British Parliament or by the Council in Sarawak. As I say, that is a constitutional point on which I do not feel able to express an opinion, but no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will give us the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on this question, which is a vital one.

Your Lordships will remember that I said I told some of the Dyaks that the Governor who had gone to Sarawak to live at Kuching would be representative of the Sovereign and the people of this country, and Parliament. I think we may say that we have been singularly fortunate in the Governors we have had. Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, who, on the recommendation of my noble friend Lord Attlee, was the first Governor, was a first-class man. Then there was the short and tragic period of Mr. Stewart. Now we have Sir Anthony Abell, of whom I hear the highest praise on all sides. Without question, he is a uniting force in Sarawak. All communities respect and like him, and I am very glad that the noble Lord opposite and his right honourable friend have advised Her Majesty to appoint him for a third term.

It is most important, when a Colony gets a man who satisfies and suits it, that it should keep him. For heaven's sake! do not move him on, just because it is "Buggins' turn" and there is another Colony to which he has a right by seniority. It all comes from the wretched system of classifying Colonies in four classes. In any case the system is absolutely meaningless, because a fourth-class Colony often has the greatest problems which need the attention of a far more important man than a first-class Colony. At all events, in this case I am very glad that the Secretary of State has seen fit to extend the term of Sir Anthony Abell.

There is one little point on which the people of Sarawak have some criticism, and I have been asked to mention it. It is not an important point, but it is the sort of irritating thing that arises in Colony of this sort and which call easily be put right. I have here a copy of the Sarawak Government Gazette Extraordinary for October 26, whch seems to combine the purposes of our London Gazette with Hansard In that publication Dr. Sockalingam, an unofficial Member, asked the Government some questions, one of which was an important question relating to the Commonwealth Development Corporation. The questions are set out in full in the Gazette but the answers are not set out at all. All it says is: The Financial Secretary addressed the Council in reply to Question No. 2.

We should think it very odd in this House if, when we asked a question, it was reported only that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, addressed the House in reply to Question No, so-and-so. That is a point which I think should be cleared up. It is not particularly important, but it gives an air of secrecy in an expanding and, I hope, an ever more truly democratic Parliament which we can avoid quite easily. Perhaps the noble Lord will look into that point.

Now I turn to the economic condition of the country. Owing to the Japanese occupation, the country was in poor shape when taken over in 1946, but at that time it was fairly clear what was required. If I may, I would now quote AA hat I. said in another place on July 9, 1946, because I have been interested in Sarawak for many years [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 425, col. 314]; I stress the importance of the first Governor who goes out being what I might call of the 'jungley' type; in other words, river-borne and not chair-borne. He should carry out the Brooke tradition of personal relationship with these people, and at the same time develop the country in a way which they were not in a position to do. I would say furthermore, that the whole of the government there must be river-borne. There are no roads, so it is essential that not only the district officers, but the services like health and education should be taken to the people on the banks of the river. Development must be slow…

To be just to the Colonial Office, they soon had a number of floting health centres operating on the river taking health services to the people and for that I give them full marks. I think that eighteen of these centres are now operating up and down the rivers. At the beginning, the Colonial Office took Sarawak very seriously, and at first a flood of officials and experts inundated Sarawak—so much so, that I would say that it was rather overdone; but it was a fault in the right direction. Sarawak, I may say, is a country roughly the size of England, with a population of 600,000, of which 35 per cent. are Dyaks, 27 per cent. Chinese, 18 per cent. Malayans, with many other tribes making up the remainder. There are fewer than 500 miles of roads, and of these roads two-thirds are earth. Therefore, communications arc by water and now, to a small extent, by air.

I wish now to refer to two recent publications. The first is the Sarawak Colonial Report for 1955 and the Dater is the issue of the New Commonwealth for October 1, 1956, which contains an interesting article by Mr. Guy Arnold on the economic needs of Sarawak. The composite picture presented by these two publications is not particularly happy, certainly not so happy as we should wish. Oil is running out, and although more than £1 million was spent on oil prospecting during 1955, no significant finds were made. The country's rice production, its major agricultural enterprise, is still unable to meet local demands. In 1955, 31,000 tons had to be imported. In the same year, the sago exports declined to 9,000 tons. It is said that the yield is not high and that methods of extracting the flour are sometimes primitive and the quality poor.

As to rubber, the return on exports rose by 70 per cent. last year, but the Report goes on: … most of the rubber trees are old seedling rubber in very poor condition and must be regarded as a wasting asset.

Pepper exports also rose, but (says the Report): serious disease continues to take its toll in certain areas.

In regard to copra, it is said, Many of the palms are old and in very poor condition. Some copra is exported, but quality is usually very low.

Little has been done in the growing of coffee, and although the prospects for pineapples are good, they have not yet started to grow them on a large scale. Cattle are not faring very well, owing to the problem of pasturage, which is almost constantly wet, and even a Hereford bull brought into the Colony has not as yet sired any calves. Bauxite and coal are thought to be in considerable quantities but have not, as yet, been exploited. Indeed, Sarawak's natural resources are limited. It has a rich timber industry, and it has oilfields and other minerals. While oil is the biggest industry, it employs only 10,000 people.

Agriculture is the main hope. The Department of Agriculture estimates that agriculture in Sarawak should and could employ 2½ million people if the methods they advocate were widely adopted, particularly the use of fertilisers, a limited amount of machinery and pest control, with a mixed system of farm and group farming units. That is a great claim, but it is the claim that they make. But up to now, the long-house system and the traditions of the people have not responded as well as they might to these new developments. There is obviously much that remains to be done in regard to agriculture.

Here I should like to mention the matter of communications—that is to say, roads, air and radio—which really affects all problems, social, economic, constitutional and political. It is vital to any sort of development of Sarawak, and the Development Plan 1955–56 is spending 54 per cent. of a total of 100 million dollars on roads, air and radio. Undoubtedly, a great deal in opening up the country is possible by air communications, and it is satisfactory to note that more and more air strips are being made. Sarawak Missionaries are ahead in this matter, and in the northern part of the country, with an Auster landing on strips, they have demonstrated to the villagers the possibility of transport by air. The article in the New Commonwealth, to which I referred, ends as follows: Sarawak is not a big Colony, nor is it sufficiently wealthy to attract much attention. Politically it is quiet and, despite its mixture of races, happy and contented. But if it is to remain so, its development must be pushed forward before its problems become too acute. Its future depends upon communications. Air travel will make possible the opening up of the interior and the development of its vast areas of uninhabited country. If these are to be developed sufficiently quickly and extensively to ensure the effective expansion of this country it must have the maximum help from the United Kingdom. It would be a pity if its very loyalty and the absence of political unrest were to cause its neglect.

I commend this exhortation by the New Commonwealth to the attention of the noble Lord

I now turn for a moment to the social situation. Just lately the Sarawak Gazette (this is not to be confused with the publication called the Sarawak Government Gazette, because, athough a small country, Sarawak has two gazettes) has been publishing an interesting series of articles by Mr. Tom Harrisson. I think many noble Lords will know Mr. Tom Harris-son as the founder of mass observation in this country. But he is also an anthropologist of note—perhaps I should say primarily an anthropologist of note—and he is now the curator of the museum at Kuching. There is an interesting story about the museum which has nothing to do with this debate, but I might as well tell it. It is that the museum, which is a most interesting one and has a lot of important articles, would have been completely destroyed by the Japanese when they came in were it not that the Japanese military officer in charge of Kuching was a graduate of the University of Cambridge. I think that that, if nothing else, is one indication of the value of a university education, and those who were graduates of Cambridge can, I think, pat themselves on the back for the work of their university's erstwhile alumnus.

The Sarawak Gazette is not a hidebound publication. Unlike ours, it is full of chatty articles, sayings of the month and even bits of social gossip, such as the "Engagements to be married" of European officers. Mr. Harrisson's articles dealt with the people in the interior. He wrote on May 31 of this year that the "future" of inland Borneo in our Western sense has been long delayed, and, whether one likes it or not, it is no longer practicable to treat the interior as a sort of human Whipsnade. Since 1945 the changed régimes in all four Borneo territories have led to a situation where some of the people furthest inland, so long cut off from the world, are becoming among the "most progressive" and most anxious for a new way of life. He then goes on to say that to a remarkable extent leadership over a large part of Sarawak in matters onside law and so on, has lately passed out of the hands of the Government … into the hands of the Missions.

He complains that Government officers of experience are available only occasionally, usually in a hurry; and he asks to what degree is it desirable that the social and customary structure of native life be rapidly altered by individual missionaries or groups, and to what extent is it desirable that different sects should compete over the same ground. We, in this rather over-governed country, possibly would not complain about the absence of senior Government officers; but in a country like Sarawak, where there are few agents of Government, it is a much more serious criticism.

Mr. Harrisson recounted the experience of arriving al a long house (I should explain that a long house in Sarawak is where the people live: they do not live in a village comprising a number of houses, bat the whole village lives in one house, which is divided up, each family occupying one room, and the verandah is the common village meeting place) to find it divided into four groups, all sitting on the verandah as oppositions, three conducting Christian services—in opposition to one another, of course—and the fourth conducting a traditional pagan drinking party. That certainly does not seem to be a good way of handling Christian missions. There is no question of the value of missionaries, nor would one want to impede their efforts. Certainly I should not want to do so; I have a great admiration for missions and missionaries. However, it may be that in Sarawak their activities need a certain amount of coordination. If what Mr. Harrisson says is true, one certainly cannot have that sort of practice of competing missions, all on one verandah of a long house, without grave harm being done to the Christian effort.

On June 30 Mr. Harrisson returned to the charge and again complained of the almost insignificant direct and every-day influence exercised by senior Government officers lately in the interior areas, except over matters of law, order and migration, and asked if the Government was the helpless spectator, the disinterested onlooker, the defeated trier or the about-to-act long-term planner.

Mr. Harrisson says that he does not know, but if the Government does care, there is a great deal to be done for the delightful people of whom he speaks. These are serious criticisms. As I have said, we are responsible, and I think we should have an answer to this question from the Government.

In an article in the Sarawak Gazette on August 31 last Mr. Harrisson quotes Mr. Hugh Hickling, who was an acting Attorney-General in Sarawak. Mr. Hickling wrote in the Museum Journal: Here in Sarawak we do not yet know enough of the minds of our Law Communities, This may not disclose a defect in our law, but it certainly illustrates a defect in our administration of justice and one which we seek to remedy, not by the research which is necessary to arrive at an understanding of justice, but by more and more Statute and Case Law; for we are reluctant to recognise custom and the native mind as an equally proper and valid source of law. Our Statutes are applied with all the rigid logic of an ancient Western legal system … our reforms have begun with the administration not of justice, but of law, not at the bottom of the judicial system with the training of magistrates in inferior court; but at the top with the establishment on English lines of a unified judiciary for Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo; not with a comprehensive literature on Adat Law bur; with a revised edition of the Statute Law and the increasing complexities of an ever increasing number of ordinances, rules, regulations and bye-laws.

These are serious criticisms by people who know the country very well, and, going through a publication like the Sarawak Government Gazette Extraordinary, it certainly looks as if there is a whole cataract of laws and ordinances and "what have you," being poured out on these people year by year. It may be that there has been a little too much paper work at the centre and not enough direct contact with the people, especially in the interior, by Government officers.

Finally, I wish to say a word about education. In the Sarawak Gazette on June 30, there was what would be a leading article in more profane papers, but in the Gazette you can hardly call it a leading article. It said—and this is pretty strong language for a Government or semi-Government periodical— Education is to some extent a disruptive influence. It opens eyes to wider horizons and brings strivings for other, sometimes better, things. In Sarawak disruptive possibilities are immense and can lead to intense unhappiness for many people. We must broaden education while we expand it and present the needs of land and manual skills as more than second best.

The article goes on to say: In Sarawak the products of the age have been allowed free access, machinery of all kinds, including thousands of outboard motors, sewing machines, bicycles and so on. Still these products come, and radio sets are added again by the thousands. Nothing has been done to ensure that these products remain assets. A potential for good rather than dissected bits and pieces, a junk heap.

The article comments that this country is primarily agricultural with secondary light industries; the majority of people, as elsewhere, must earn a living by the labour of their hands.

Constitutionally, economically, socially and educationally, there are obviously big problems in Sarawak. I do not for one moment expect the Government to have solved them in the time at their disposal, or even to have gone any long way to solving them. What we are really concerned with to-day is whether the Government are tackling these problems in the right way, and whether they have had an investigation and an inquiry and, by the results of such an investigation and inquiry, have prepared a plan which will meet, or attempt to meet, the problems to which I have referred. I commend the thoughts which have been expressed by various people whose words I have quoted, who have exceptionally good knowledge of the country, to the Government, and I trust that the noble Lord will give us a satisfactory reply. I beg to move for Papers.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, on the comprehensive survey he has given us of this Colony. There is only one aspect upon which he has touched that I should like to underline. So far as I can gather, after the request from the Council Negri, in September, 1955, for a new Constitution, considerable efforts were made to draft a suitable Constitution. Then it seems that a misunderstanding arose, in that it was assumed by the Members of the Council Negri who had sponsored the request for a new Constitution that, when drafted, it would be submitted for discussion and approval by the Council. In fact, the details of the new Constitution were not published until it was enacted on August 3, 1956.

It is not surprising that this method of procedure has caused some disappointment. In my view there is some reason for the complaint, for Mr. Grimond wrote to the Minister on July 31, 1956, conveying to him the feeling which had been passed to him from a number of persons in Sarawak. The Minister replied to him on August 13, 1956, and his representations were brushed aside as of no importance.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but this was a private correspondence between Mr. Grimond and myself. I must say that it is quite untrue to say that his remarks were brushed aside as of no importance. I gave him a full explanation, and I must protest against the noble Lord's interpretation, which is quite untrue.


I am sorry if the Minister thinks that that is not a fair representation, but the reply did include the assurance that there had been no request for the publication of Constitutional instruments before enactment. This, in itself, seems to me rather a curious statement for the Minister to make. Whether or not there had been any request for the publication of these instruments before enactment, it seems to me that it was a natural thing that there should be publication and discussion before they were enacted.

Nor can I feel that the Minister's reply was quite borne out by the facts, for Mr. Khoo Peng Loong had tabled a Motion on July 19, 1956, and on September 13. 1956, when he moved to withdraw his resolution, he said, using the words which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has already quoted: I beg to withdraw this Resolution as the new Constitution Order in Council has already been promulgated. At the time I gave notice of that Resolution I was not aware that the new Constitution would be enacted without further reference to this Council. He expressed disappointment, particularly, at the manner in which the nine cardinal Principles of the former Constitution, which they cherished, had been relegated to a Schedule as if they were merely past history. He felt that, despite the advances of the new Constitution, it lacked the spirit of the old. He concluded, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has already said. with these words: I would like to have these views recorded and forwarded to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, because they are rot merely my own but arc shared by my unofficial colleagues and by the leaders of the communities in Sarawak. Good will is valuable, and it is always to be deplored if any good will is dissipated when it could be consolidated by a little more care and consideration on the part of the officials, who I am sure were trying to do their best for this Colony.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, one of my excuses for intervening in this debate is that in earlier days I had considerable knowledge of this part of the world, and considerable personal experience of the spirit in which the Brooke family managed Sarawak. I think one must try to understand the background of the situation before being too readily critical about the progress or lack of progress to-day. Perhaps I may say that twenty-odd years ago, I was Governor of North l3orneo, a colonial civil servant lent to the last of the charter companies as their Governor, and I had considerable dealings with, and was a personal friend of, the Rajah of Sarawak, who was next door to me. Indeed, I remember writing to him on one occasion and saying, "I write to you as an anomaly writing to an anachronism," because I belonged to the last of the charter companies and he was probably the last absolute monarch left in the world at that time.

I think one should try to understand the outlook of the Brooke régime and the immense services which it rendered to the people of Sarawak. It is quite true that in the light of our knowledge to-day—and perhaps far-seeing people might have seen it then—it is not possible for an indefinite period to safeguard a people from the disruption and the upset of the life to which they have been accustomed which is caused by the impact of what is known as Western civilisation. But the Brooke family believed—and, indeed, on a short-term view I think they were right—that it was rendering a great service to those people to prevent the sudden inrush, shall we say, of European enterprise and so forth. to give the people time to adjust themselves to the modern work. Of course the fact that they refused to build roads, and to deal in all those modern developments which go with the exploitation (I use that word in a good sense, not in a bad one) of an undeveloped country, did, from one point of view, hold the people back; but the people were happy. Now is not the occasion to go into what should be the policy of government and what constitutes the happiness of people, but undoubtedly the people of Sarawak benefited from the attitude taken by the Brooke family their lives were happy and it suited them for the time. It is that personal touch, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred, which is apt to be absent from modern administration.

In Sarawak as I knew it the Government was not a soulless thing. It was the person of the Rajah. He was known to all his people and was easily accessible to his people. That background is one which one must remember if one is tempted to criticise what the British Government have been able to effect in the very brief period since they took over Sarawak as a Colony. I think it shows something of the wisdom of the last of the Rajahs that he saw that the time had come when it was no longer possible to build this barrier and to insulate his people from the impact of Western influences, in the shape of material civilisation; and he thought that the best people to tackle that were the British Government, with their world-wide experience of circumstances of that kind. So the Colony was handed over.

But when it is said that there are only 500 miles of roads in Sarawak to-day, one must try to remember that it was part of the policy of the then Government, and very much to the benefit of their people that, until the British Government took over, there should be nothing but bridle-paths—and, as we have heard, the normal method of transit was by river boats. It was not a bad thing. We all know that ultimately you cannot insulate a people and that, if you keep them too long in this kind of Whipsnade, you leave them defenceless when those barriers are ultimately breached, so that the result is worse, although you did not intend it to be, than if you had allowed their life to be influenced.

But, as noble Lords on the other side of this House are so apt to do—I am not questioning their sincerity at all; I am questioning their knowledge of practical administration—if you press on to an undeveloped people a pace which they cannot digest, then you are disrupting their life and, in fact, doing them the worst disservice that could possibly be done. For instance, take agriculture. I know that Sarawak is too dependent on, say, rubber, or one or two crops; and it is easy to say that the Government must press on with scientific agriculture and with diversification of crops. The British Government and the Colonial Office, with all their advisory services have immense experience in this extremely difficult task, and they have experience from all over the world that, if you do press on too quickly with that kind of thing, you disrupt the social life of the people whom you are trying to benefit, because so much of social life is bound up with their agricultural traditions, with the practice of life as it is really lived by the people.

So, although one desires to see people fit themselves for life in the twentieth century, we should remember that, if we really wish to cater for the happiness of people there is a certain pace which cannot be exceeded without disaster. I noted one or two things which have been said—for instance, Mr. Harrisson, the anthropologist, was quoted. I have the greatest respect for these scientific experts, but they have the narrow view of the expert; they are not administrators. They are giving one an anthropological view. It seems to me incongruous for noble Lords on the opposite Benches, to start with a praise of the officers in charge of a Colony, as they so often do, and then proceed to criticise every one of the acts of the administration, the obvious inference being that the administration is quite inefficient. One cannot have it both ways.

We had in Sarawak the singular fortune to have as the first Governor, one of the best Colonial Governors, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke; and now we have as Governor one of the best officers in the Colonial Service, Sir Anthony Abell—both of them, may I say, ex-Nigerian officers. As for the present Governor, I speak with considerable personal experience, because he was one of the picked officers under my administration in Nigeria. I feel a sense of absurdity when we sit here and criticise in detail the administration, for instance, of Sarawak and there is an extremely able officer who has devoted his life to this work. Surely we are entitled—it is our duty—to examine policy; but the executive performance, the application of that policy, is a matter about which few of us are qualified to criticise the man in charge. I appreciate the nostalgia of the past which attracts, shall I say, the anthropologist; but there, again, it is inconsistent to miss things which belong to the old way of life and at the same time to criticise a Government for not forcing on the pace of change.


The noble Lord has completely misunderstood Mr. Harris-son's point. What Mr. Harrisson was saying is that a flood of memoranda and orders, and so on, keeps coming down from the top, but that the people in the interior do not see personally the Government officers. He says that they have little personal contact with the Government officers; all they get are these bits of paper—they do not see the men on the ground. I do not see any nostalgia for the past in that; I should have thought it was a reasonable criticism.


I quite agree with the noble Lord that that is the natural and most regrettable effect of progress in every Colony that I have known—and I have known Colonies all over the world. It was the same with Malaya. When I first went out to the Malay States, the personal touch of the district officer and the assistant district officer right up to the British Resident Minister meant everything. But as life becomes more complex, as the progress for which noble Lords are pressing every day in this House has its natural effect, it ties an officer in the office. All the returns that noble Lords want to inform them in these debates have to be made up by somebody on the spot. All these things mean that an officer loses the personal touch which, in the old days, made him the father of his people. It is no longer possible for the Governor of Sarawak, for instance, however good he is or may be, to mean half as much as Rajah Brooke meant to them. Rajah Brooke was indeed their father. It is a very paternal system of government and it is one which is quite incompatible with the progress which we demand from a Colony to-day. It is no good pressing for more education, for more scientific agriculture, for more progress of all that kind, and, at the same time, wanting to have the same simple old life. Those two things just cannot be sorted out together.

I suggest that the nine points which are quoted in the First Schedule to the Order in Council are magnificent expressions of the true aims and objects of a good Government. But the ways in which those could be applied in the simple conditions of twenty or thirty years ago, in the Rajah's day in Sarawak, are not the same. The same principles may apply, but we have to apply them through the rather more complex methods of our system of to-day; and inevitably it means that the people who live in the Rejang and the other parts of Sarawak will not see so much personally of the man in charge. But how inconsistent it is! Noble Lords opposite insist that the will of the people must be obeyed; that they must have a ballot vote and all the Western paraphernalia of Western education and Western institutions. But those are not compatible with the paternal things which, in another breath, you regret the lack of.

I feel, as I think most people with practical experience feel, that one must learn to put first things first, and the first basis of any progress in any Colons anywhere is economic. It is no use pressing Western political institutions on them. It is no use regretting that people were not elected in the way which is familiar to us—and which took us, incidentally, hundreds of years to evolve, but which is unfamiliar to them and often unacceptable to them. The things they appreciate are a better standard of living, better opportunities and more education. When we have got those things for them, then is the time to consider political progress. In conclusion, I would suggest that it is not, even then, necessarily desirable to inflict upon them all the methods of election and the muddles which we have evolved for ourselves. I should like to see evolved in the different Colonies, whether Sarawak or Malaya or Africa, not a blue print of Europeans but a people who, drawing from the reservoir of their own traditions, have evolved something which can stand up for itself in the twentieth century; something which is not just a copy from ourselves or from anybody else, but is a composite production of the best that we can give them and the best of their own traditions.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, if I may add but a few observations to the extremely comprehensive survey about Sarawak and its problems to which we have listened from my noble Held Lord Ogmore, it is because I think I was the first Minister to visit Sarawak after it became a British Colony, and also because I imagine that I am the only Member of your Lordships' House who, in the last ten years at any rate, has been taken round a long-house by two of its occupants and so saw a Dyak village functioning with a cheerful disregard for "mine and thine" which disillusioned Communists would find far nearer the true gospel than the practices of the Soviet Union. For as my noble friend Lord Ogmore has already told us, other gospels are being preached in the long-house. Surely, that is a tribute to the open-mindedness of the Dyaks, a quality that one hopes that some conscientious Communists may see.

When I was in Sarawak, which was, of course, some time ago, in 1948. I had the chance of talking a great deal with the then Governor, Sir Charles Arden Clarke, who is now Governor of the Gold Coast and one of the most distinguished and outstanding persons in the Colonial Service. I was particularly interested to hear from him both what he regarded as the best part of the inheritance from the Brooke regime and what he thought should be done under British rule to increase and develop that inheritance. In this I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I am delighted to find that my opinion is endorsed by his long experience of the Brookes, who were good and wise rulers. I rather rarely, unfortunately, agree with the noble Lord, and it is all the more welcome to find that on this matter I am entirely at one with him.

I think that Sarawak owes them much for two achievements, of which he mentioned one. The first, and perhaps the more important, was to bring peace and order to the country. This was done by extinguishing the traditional enthusiasm for piracy and head hunting and saving the country from forcible annexation by any of the Colonial Powers. The other thing, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, was that the Brooke regime prevented the entry of white traders and other persons who might well have settled in considerable numbers in Sarawak and have given rise in the course of time to the seeds of race conflict and to the gradual disruption of the tribal organisation of the Dyaks.

But the services of the Brooke family did not end with the transfer of authority in 1946. I think it does considerable credit to their unselfishness and public-spiritedness that since then they have urged their supporters to give loyalty to the new regime, to British rule. The present political stability of Sarawak, which is much more stable now than it was when I was there in 1948, owes a great deal to their willingness to smooth the path for their successors. In my view, the main difficulty of the Brooke regime was lack of money. However nostalgic his longing for the past may be, the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, would, I believe, agree—I think he has already said—that the foundation of all progress in these backward Colonies is economic; and it seems to me, therefore, that the main difficulty of the Brooke regime was lack of money. They were unable to afford what we should regard as an up-to- date system of administration. It could not provide urgently needed schools, village clinics and other social services, or roads and public works essential to open up the country for economic development.

Clearly, the last Rajah was very conscious of these limitations of his own administration. From this it follows that the Dyak population—the vast majority of the inhabitants of the country—remained in a state of social and economic stagnation, in the sense that they did not advance materially; they did not change their condition but remained as they had been for a long time past. It was this poverty and backwardness that prevented progress towards a better material and intellectual standard of living, and, so long as it lasted, offered no possibility of associating the people of the country more closely with their system of government.

British rule, in the short period of time since its inception, is only beginning to break down this age-long poverty and backwardness. It is heartening to see that the Sarawak development plan for the next five years anticipates that £11,600.000 will be spent on economic development and the improvement of social services. I believe that about 25 per cent. of that amount is to be devoted to social services and the remainder to economic development which, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, is a condition for all other forms of development. My noble friend Lord Ogmore pointed out that the economic potentialities of Sarawak are very considerable and substantial and are relatively unexplore6 This programme of development in the five-year plan should be regarded as no more than a foundation for a much more rapid expansion than has hitherto taken place of agriculture, forestry and, 'possibly, mineral development; and I am glad to see, from the noble Lord's acquiescence, that he agrees with me in that statement of opinion.

It is no less heartening to see in this Annual Report of what is happening in Sarawak that democratic local authorities, which were introduced for the first time under British rule, now cover almost half the 'population. For, after all, the success of representative government at the centre, which is what we are aiming at, and the constitutional changes in Sarawak leading up to it, will largely depend on the successful practice of local self-government in the villages. Recent constitutional change is based on indirect election by the new local authorities. We know by experience in this country that democracy starts in the town hall or the village hall. A further advance, to which we all look forward and for which we all hope, towards representative government in Sarawak and ultimately, of course, responsible government, will be made, possible by the lessons learned at the local level by members of local authorities ant those who are entitled to vote for local authorities.

I should like to conclude by asking the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, one important question of which, I am afraid, I have not given him notice, and I shall not be surprised or hurt if he does not reply. It is a question in the minds of many people and one that has long been in the minds of those who have been concerned about the Colonies in relation to the political future of Sarawak. If this matter is still open and no decision has yet been reached by Her Majesty's Government, it might be worth while for me to express a view which I formed after my visit in 1948 and which I then expressed to the Government of that time: that it seems to me that there might be a strong case for the merging of the two Colonies of Sarawak and British North Borneo in a single administrative unit. These Colonies are both small in size and geographically contiguous. The administrative economies which would result from giving them a common Administration with, among other things, only one Governor instead of two, are too obvious to require any emphasis from me.

Apart from the obvious administrative and economic advantages of a single British territory in North Borneo, there is one political advantage which I think would appeal particularly strongly to the inhabitants of both Colonies. As we are all aware, there are, scattered all over the world, many British Colonies which are far too small in size and poor in economic resources to become independent countries, and I believe it would be agreed that Sarawak and North Borneo arc both it this category. But if they were united, they would surely stand a much better chance of ultimate independence, either as a self-governing Commonwealth country or as a unit in a British South-East Asian Federation which would have independent status within the Commonwealth like, for instance, the Federation of British West Indies. I feel sure that this is a consideration which must carry a good deal of weight among local inhabitants in deciding the aim of constitutional advance. I am not for a moment suggesting that any decision should be taken by Her Majesty's Government which would not be in accordance with the wishes of the local inhabitants of both these territories.

I believe that the question of timing is of great importance and difficulty. My recommendation to the then Government eight years ago was that this union should be delayed until at least two conditions were satisfied: first, that British rule in Sarawak should be shown to be firmly in the saddle by proving its acceptability to the whole population over a longish period of time; and, secondly, that North Borneo should have reached a stage in its post-war reconstruction—after the terrible devastation which it suffered during the war—in which it was no longer in deficit and could support itself without receiving grants from the Treasury. I believe that both those conditions are now satisfied, and I am afraid that long further delay will make union much more difficult.

It stands to reason that the pattern of communications—air, road and so on—is bound to develop according to different and contradictory lines if this matter is delayed. An even greater and far more serious difficulty is the risk of the emergence of a kind of narrow nationalism which, if it became really widespread. would prevent any possibility of effective action in the matter of union. I think, therefore, that if the merging of these territories is desirable (and, of course, that is a matter for Her Majesty's Government and the local inhabitants) there is now an opportunity that may not occur later on, and that this matter will become progressively more difficult as time passes. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, for not having given him notice of this extremely important matter, but if he is able to make any comments, then I am sure noble Lords will be delighted and most interested to have them.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, in his very interesting speech, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the valuable report by Mr. Tom Harrisson on social conditions in Sarawak. In the course of that report Mr. Tom Harrisson referred to certain missionary activities. The noble Lord spoke with appreciation of the value, in general, of the missionaries' work, and expressed his desire that such work should, generally speaking, be supported from the civilising, cultural and other points of view. The difficulty in Sarawak, as in certain other territories, is that in recent times there has been a regular—if I may so call it—proliferation of very small sects. which have come in largely from the United States of America and are quite out of touch with, and in some ways antagonistic to, the regular missionary societies and the regular missionary activity of the churches. These societies are very independent and usually connected with the Seventh Day Adventists and other Pentecostal religious societies. They are, in many ways, a great hindrance to the general and, if I may say so, much more important work of the regular churches and the regular missionary societies. And it is found in church circles and by those who have to do with missionary societies in Asia—Eastern Asia in particular—that very considerable and unfortunate problems are raised by the existence of these smaller but highly energetic and enthusiastic bodies.

I understand that in North Borneo an agreement between churches with regard to distribution of areas is very sound and works very well. For example, in North Borneo (and I think in Sarawak, too) there is an agreement between the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church and the authorities of the Church of England—and other churches I have no doubt—about particular areas and the avoidance of competition within those particular areas or around them, and the Governor in that case is always consulted when a new missionary activity is proposed. I have little doubt that a similar condition prevails in Sarawak so far as the older and more established churches and missionary societies are concerned. I should appreciate it very much if the noble Lord could kindly tell me that missionary questions are coming up, and I hope he will not mind my intervening at the end of the debate and saying how much the Church of England, and other churches, I am sure, deplore interference with cultural activities by these smaller, energetic and highly financed bodies from outside the ordinary regime of the Church as a whole.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, so far as I know, this is the first debate on Sarawak that we have had in this House, and I welcome the opportunity which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has given me of telling your Lordships something of the developments which have taken place in this territory. It is a platitude to say that in general it is the aim of Her Majesty's Government to do everything in their power to promote the political and economic advance of the people in the colonial territories and to assist them to stand increasingly upon their own feet, both politically and economically; but whether it is a platitude or not, it is true. And it is as true of Sarawak as it is of all the other territories.

When the territory of Sarawak was ceded to His Majesty's Government in 1946, the country was administered, as your Lordships know, under a Constitution which was enacted by Rajah Brooke in 1941. Under that Constitution the Council Negri consisted of twenty-five members, of whom fourteen were official and eleven were unofficial members appointed by the Governor in Council as representatives of the several peoples dwelling within the Colony and of their various interests. In addition to these twenty-five members, there were a number of standing members. Prior to the cession, however, the Rajah, with the authority and the agreement of His Majesty's Government, publicly announced (the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I think, was concerned in all this and will remember it) that whilst his 1941 Constitution would be continued in the first place, it would be necessary, before long, to introduce other changes, in particular to provide for the Royal Assent to Legislation and for Her Majesty's power of disallowance.

Nevertheless, in order to enable people thoroughly to accustom themselves to the new administration, and to provide the Colonial Government with an opportunity of gaining their complete confidence, this revision of the Constitution was held in abeyance until three or four years ago. By this time a system of local authority councils had been introduced, and it was being extended. and was operating successfully. It was then judged opportune to consider the revision of the central Government institutions. Discussions on this question began in 1952 and continued until 1955—a period of three years altogether. During this period, the proposals for the revision were given widespread publicity throughout the country and were discussed fully, both in the district and the divisional councils, and also in less formal conversations between officers of the Government and representatives of all sections of the population. I should like to say, since I have mentioned officers of the Government, that although the noble Lord suggested that possibly they do not get around enough, in fact they did get around during those three years, and they had many unofficial talks with people all over the country discussing these proposals.

As a result of these consultations, general agreement was reached. Then proposals indicating the main lines of the revision desired were embodied in a resolution, moved and seconded by unofficial members of the Council Negri, which was passed unanimously—as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said—on September 7, 1955. Full reports of that debate were published in English, Chinese and Dyak newspapers immediately after the debate, and subsequently in the verbatim report of the official proceedings of the Council Negri which was available to the public. Here, if I may, I would just pick up another point regarding the Sarawak Gazette which the noble Lord. Lord Ogmore, has mentioned. Those minutes that he read out are only brief minutes of proceedings. In case he did not know of it, I would point out that a verbatim report of the proceedings of the Council Negri is published about two months afterwards. I am not saying that that arrangement is perfect, and will certainly have a look at it again. I think the noble Lord would like to know that the account which he has mentioned is not the only account which the people in Sarawak can get of what goes on.


The only fresh account.


I will accept the noble Lord's amendment. However, the verbatim report of the official proceedings was published and was available to the people. Moreover, an explanation of these proposals was broadcast over Radio Sarawak by the Attorney-General and was subsequently repeated in Chinese, Malay and Dyak. In the absence of any opposition to these proposals, or adverse criticism from any quarter, the draft of the new Constitution was prepared on the basis of the Council Negri resolution of September. 1955. I think I might add that the unofficial members of the Council Negri who spoke to the resolution stated their belief that the proposals would be welcomed by the people of Sarawak, and the Governor of Sarawak and the Secretary of State were satisfied that: hey represented the wishes of the people. After that, the drafting of the Order in Council took place.

As your Lordships will be aware, the Order in Council enacts the new Constitution. This Order in Council was published on August 14, 1956. As published, the Order provided for a Council Negri consisting of twenty-four unofficial members, fourteen ex-officio members, four nominated members and the standing members. The unofficial members were to consist of twenty-one members elected by divisional councils and three members of which, the Kuching Municipal Council, the Sibu Urban District Council and the Miri Urban District Council, when constituted, would each elect one representative from among their members. I am sorry to weary your Lordships with this long recital of facts, but in view of what has been said about this matter, by the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Grantchester, I thought that it was far better that. your Lordships should have the full facts.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has made a number of criticisms of the procedure under which this new Constitution was enacted, and I should like to deal with them. I thank him for giving me notice of the questions he was going to raise. In the first place, he suggested that the people were never properly consulted about the form of the new Constitution. From what I have already said, I hope that the noble Lord will realise that there is no foundation whatsoever for this suggestion. We must all agree that there is not the normal Western system, as we understand it, of adult suffrage in Sarawak. Nevertheless, the local government system represents a very fair way of determining the wishes of the majority of the population.

At the bottom of the local government structure are village councils, whose members are selected by the people in accordance with the normal customs of the various communities. Above these village councils are district and then divisional councils, composed of representatives elected by the lower councils, and it is from these divisional councils that the unofficial members of the new Council Negri will be elected. In discussions which, as I have already said, lasted for three years, all divisional, district and village councils were consulted, and at no time have any petitions or criticisms of these proposals been received by the Government of Sarawak. For my part, I am perfectly satisfied that the new Constitution represents the wishes of the vast majority of the people of the territory.

The noble Lord complained that the draft of the new Constitution was never presented to the Council Negri before the Order in Council was made. It is perfectly true that this was not done; indeed, it would have been against all normal practice. As the noble Lord will appreciate, the presentation of draft instruments to the Council Negri would involve their publication, and it has never been the practice for such documents to be published for public discussion and comment in advance of their consideration by Her Majesty in Council. Nor, indeed, do I believe that the publication of these documents would have served any particularly useful purpose. A Constitution is, after all, a highly technical legal document which most members of the public, like myself, are scarcely qualified to comment upon, and the only result of publishing such a document would almost certainly have been to stimulate endless proposals for minor drafting amendments followed by the republication of the drafts, and so on ad infinitum.


My Lords, then may I ask the noble Lord why the Government are proposing to put in the form of a Bill the Federal Constitution of the West Indies and the Gold Coast? Would it not be better to do it by Order in Council and so avoid public discussion?


My Lords, action is taken in the one case under an Act of Parliament and in the other under the Royal Prerogative. The situation is slightly different. The noble Lord himself has mentioned the people in the interior who, I think, would certainly not be able to understand a constitutional document, and I do not think that any useful purpose would have been served by publishing it in advance.

The real issue here, as I see it, is not so much the language of the Constitution but whether or not the Constitution faithfully implements the resolution passed in the Council Negri as an expression of the wishes of the people of Sarawak. If it does, then I should have thought that the people should be satisfied with the Constitution. If it does not, then clearly Her Majesty's Government would be guilty of a serious breach of faith. On this point I can only assure the noble Lords (and I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, was less than fair with me when he said that I brushed the matter aside, because of course I regard it as a matter of importance; and I made all these points to Mr. Grimond in my letter) that everything possible has been done to make certain that the Constitution does express the wishes of the people of Sarawak.

When the Order in Council was published in August, there were three matters which came to light where the Constitution differed from the wishes of the people. The Constitution provided simply that the unofficial members should be elected by the divisional councils. The wishes of the people were that unofficial members should be elected by the divisional councils from among their own members. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has suggested that this restriction was wrong. I understood him to say that the divisional councils should be allowed to elect anybody they liked. Whether the noble Lord felt that that was right or not, the divisional councils themselves were dissatisfied with that, and what they desired was that the divisional councils should be entitled to elect only one of their own members. That was their wish and intention.


My Lords, that is rather odd, because I have here the transcription of the proceedings of the Council Negri of September 7 when two distinguished members, Dr. Sockalingam and Mr. Ong Kee Hui raised strongly this point, which the noble Lord says the people do not want.


My Lords, I have not the reference and it is difficult for me to answer in detail, but I understand that the majority of divisional councils clearly expressed the view that the unofficial members should be elected only from their own members. Therefore, we made an amendment to the Order in Council to meet that wish. The Constitution provided that anybody over the age of twenty-one might be elected to the Council Negri, but again it transpired that there was strong public feeling that the age limit should be twenty-five. Here again, we made an appropriate amendment to the Order in Council. Finally, at the request of the Council Negri, a further amendment was made disqualifying from election persons convicted of criminal offences, or of offences involving dishonesty, for a period of ten years after the expiration of their sentences, or, where no sentence was imposed, from their conviction. I quote these examples in order to show in what detail and how faithfully we have tried to meet the wishes of the people in drafting the new Constitution.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in a matter which is obviously one for experts, but the noble Lord said that there was strong public feeling that the age of election should be twenty-five. Could he say how this strong feeling was shown, and by whom it was shown?


My Lords, as I have said, the expression of opinion can come only from the various councils which, under the system that exists in Sarawak to-day, are representative all round. I really think that they are broadly representative of the bulk of public feeling. It was the divisional councils, who so far as I know consulted their village councils and who came to the Governor and said that they did not want the age to be twenty-one, but twenty-five. The request certainly did not come from Her Majesty's Government or from the Governor. I would stress that we have done the best we could to make surd that the Constitution is in accordance with the wishes of the people.

The noble Lord also made a point about an amendment to the Constitution put down by Mr. Khoo Peng Loong. Perhaps I misunderstood the noble Lord, but I had the impression that he thought the fact that the Constitution had not been published in draft form in Sarawak had prevented Mr. Khoo from putting down this amendment. In point of fact, it is not so. It would have been perfectly possible for this matter to be debated. What happened was that Mr. Khoo withdrew the motion of his own volition because, when the Order was published, it was observed that the Cardinal Principles were included in the Schedule. Subsequently, it was Mr. Khoo himself who moved a Motion of thanks to Her Majesty for granting the new Constitution.

I do not disguise from your Lordships that Mr. Khoo would have preferred—indeed, he said so—that the Cardinal Principles should have been incorporated in the Preamble itself, rather than in the Schedule. Nevertheless, I do not think that either he or anybody else in the Council Negri felt this to e a matter of overriding importance, particularly after they had heard the explanations of the Attorney-General, who pointed out that the inclusion of the Cardinal Principles in the Schedule, rattier than in the Preamble, was a matter of drafting and in no way derogated from their importance. As I understand it, this explanation was understood and accepted by the unofficial members, and I do not believe that this is any longer a live issue. Incidentally, I may say that the reference to the Cardinal Principles in the Preamble of the Order in Council reproduced verbatim the terms of the announcement regarding the proposed continuation of the 1941 Constitution made by the Rajah shortly before the cession took place.

Then the noble Lord suggested that it might be the case that the Crown had no power to make au Order in Council promulgating a new Constitution at all. This is a highly technical legal issue, and I do not propose to weary your Lordships by going into the niceties of it this afternoon. I can only tell the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that I am advised, not only by the Secretary of State's own legal advisers, but also by the Law Officers of the Crown, that, from a legal point of view, there is no substance whatever in this contention.

Finally, the noble Lord has criticised the fact that there are no direct elections to the Council Negri, and that only members of locally elected councils can be nominated for election. I was not sure whether the noble Lord meant his remarks as a criticism, or whether he was making a general comment; but I take it that he meant them as a criticism, and that he thought it was wrong.


I do not necessarily say it is wrong at this stage. What I do say is that, as there are no direct elections, it is unfortunate to tie the only people who can be elected to the members of the various local councils. A man may wish to be a member of the State Council, but may not necessarily want to stand for election to a local council, and vice versa. I think the Government have made a mistake, and that they should have given a wider freedom of choice to the local councils to elect anybody they please without being restricted to their own members.


The noble Lord is perhaps being a little inconsistent here. On the one hand, he began by rather chiding us and saying that we had not consulted the people adequately; and then when I say that we have consulted the people, and that we have done what they asked, he says that we should not have done what they asked.


I do not agree with the noble Lord. I have produced evidence which shows that the unofficial members have criticised this severely and have asked for a wider choice of selections.


I am afraid that my information differs from that of the noble Lord. It is that the divisional councils, who, after all, represent the mass of public opinion, thought differently. I do not think the noble Lord suggests that we have deliberately gone against the wishes of the people. In any case, that is not the fact. Of course, that is the difficulty in all this business.

As the noble Lord has said, on the question of direct elections, no doubt in due course it might be a desirable thing; but here we are always on the horns of a dilemma, as was pointed out by a number of noble Lords, and particularly by my noble friend, Lord Milverton. As I see it, our task in Sarawak, as in so many territories, is to bring the people along the road to self-government at a gradual pace and in an orderly fashion, and (I should like to emphasise this), I believe, always in consultation with the wishes of the people. That was the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and that is what we have tried to do. At the same time, it is our aim to help them develop their country to the best advantage, so that their prosperity and general standard of life may be improved. That is the difficulty. The noble Lord said that we have not got direct elections; and that is true. On the other hand, if we started introducing that immediately, I think we should be going too fast, and I am sure the noble Lord. Lord Ogmore, would be the first to recognise it.

The difficulty in Sarawak, as in other countries, as the noble Lord recognised, and as others have recognised, too, is that if you develop any country, new ideas and new methods are bound to intrude themselves, and it is impossible to insulate the people in even the more remote areas from these new ideas. For example, the noble Lord referred to the inadequacy of the communications in Sarawak, and suggested that more ought to be done to improve them. I agree that they should be improved, but there is no getting away from the fact that, if they are improved, great parts of the country which were previously inaccessible will be opened up to new influences. And quite apart from that, as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Milverton, the ubiquitous radio and cinema are making themselves increasingly felt all the time.

So it is a difficult job that we are up against. We have to try to hold the balance between the policy of keeping the up-country people wrapped in cotton wool, protected from all outside influence and free only to continue without change in their traditional way of life, and the policy of laissez faire, which would make no attempt to control outside influences. We are trying to hold that balance; and that, incidentally is, why, when considering the form of representation in the new Constitution, we adhered to the traditional methods of selection, which were, as a matter of fact, the methods requested by the people of Sarawak themselves.

At this stage perhaps I might pick up a point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and also by (I see he is not now here) the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chichester, about a series of articles in the Sarawak Gazette regarding the work of missionaries. The noble Lord suggested, on the one hand, that perhaps the Government ought to co-ordinate and control missionary work a little more carefully than they do, and, on the other, that the Government officers were not getting round nearly as much as they should; and he said that the country is being taken over by the missionaries. I think that was the noble Lord's contention. I have not had time to go into this question of the work of the missionaries in as much detail as I should have wished, but a preliminary report I have received from the Governor suggests that, on the whole, the missions are working without bigotry, and primarily through the wisely directed training of carefully chosen local people, and that the good of their work, particularly in raising standards of cleanliness, health and tolerance, without insistence of change or repression of indigenous dress and habit, is doing far more good than ill. The noble Lord gave me notice of this point, and I tried to find out the answer to his preliminary view.

On the question of Government officers, I think that what was said by my noble friend Lord Milverton is very much to the point. We cannot have it both ways. We are piling upon the Government officer in all these territories more and more work connected with improved health services, communications and development, to name but a few things, and we still expect him to get around as frequently as he did before. There are forty-seven Government officers in Sarawak, and if the Governor's example—here again I agree with my noble friend Lord Milverton in thinking that it is no good suggesting that there is a first-class Governor if you go on to say that the whole of his administration is rotten—


Nobody said that.


Perhaps I. exaggerate; but the noble Lord did suggest that Government officers were not getting around as much as they did.


I have never heard such nonsense as to say that because you say a man is a good Governor you are not allowed to criticise anything the Government may say or do. But I am not criticising the Governor personally. I think it is a question for the Government. The position is that there are not enough Government officers in Sarawak. There are only forty-seven for a country of the size of England. That is net the fault of the Governor, but the fault of the Government, who do not provide the money.


I am sorry if the noble Lord thinks it is nonsense. I could say tu quoque, but I will not. I repeat that I do not believe that, with a Governor like Sir Anthony Abell, you will find that the administrative officer sits at his desk more than is necessary. I believe that all organisations get their example from the top, and I know that Sir Anthony. Abell is an energetic Governor. It may be that more could be done, and certainly I do not think that any of us would ever think that we have achieved perfection in any field. Nevertheless, I am reasonably satisfied that the administrative officers are in touch with the situation.

The noble Lord mentioned the law, and I would certainly agree with him that there has been a rapid increase in the codification of Statute Law. That increase is due to the need of regulating the urban communities like Kuching, which has 50,000 people, 3,000 motor cars, 20,000 bicycles and constant commercial and political contact with Singapore and Malaya. Obviously, with growing communities more codified law is needed than in the up-country districts. I should like to assure the noble Lord that the customary law is scrupulously upheld among interior peoples by the administrative officers. Most of these people are quite unaffected by, or, I think, almost unaware of, Statute Law, except through their legislative council representatives, to whom, so far as I can make out, it generally seems bulky and perplexing.

I know that the noble Lord would be the first to agree with me that it would not be merely impossible, but wrong, to try to prevent advance in Sarawak. I can assure him and my noble friend that we are doing everything we can to protect the up-country people from exploitation until such time as they are ready to hold their own with neighbouring territories and to stand up unaided against the forces of the outside world. Although, no doubt, mistakes will be made from time to time, we shall continue to regard this as one of the most important parts of our whole policy for the territory. I do not imagine that I have entirely persuaded the noble Lord that, from the political angle, the right kind of progress is being encouraged in Sarawak, but I hope I may have gone some way to persuade him of that fact.

Now let me turn briefly to the economic aspects of the territory's affairs. Here, again, the noble Lord expressed a certain apprehension. I think he felt that the development was not going on rapidly enough, and that not merely was the economy of the territory stagnating but that it was even in a serious predicament. I think the noble Lord is taking rather too gloomy a view. Let me say straight away that I know of very few colonial territories where more development could not with advantage take place; and, like him, I am an enthusiastic supporter of colonial development in all forms which arc likely to increase the prosperity of the local people. I do not claim that Sarawak is any exception to this rule.

The noble Lord referred to the theme of an article in the New Commonwealth, and I was able, thanks to his having given me notice, to study this article. I think he would agree with me that the main thing is the need for improved communications. As the noble Lord is aware, Sarawak is entirely dependent on river transport and there is a very small mileage of roads. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and other noble Lords. As a matter of fact, none of the Divisions is linked at the moment by road transport. I can assure the noble Lord that this need for improved communications is fully recognised by the Sarawak Government and, as the noble Lord himself pointed out, there is a heavy emphasis in their development plan for just this thing. The Kuching airport has been in operation for four years, and the strip at Sibu is now in operation. Those are the two main developments from the air point of view. It is only a start, but it has started. By far the largest scheme in the whole plan is for the construction of a trunk road from Serian in the 1st Division to Samanggang, which is the capital of the 2nd Division. This would provide through road transport ultimately from Kuching to Samanggang, and after that we hope to extend the road to Sibu. This road is being started early next year, and in addition there is a considerable programme for the construction of secondary and minor roads, and for the improvement of port facilities.

The noble Lord asked for details of various other things of which I took a note. He asked about bauxite. Some prospecting licences—I will not weary the House with all the details now—have been issued, and I understand that preliminary tests have been satisfactory and we hope that mining may begin fairly soon. With regard to oil, the noble Lord is quite correct in saying that the oilfield output is decreasing. Although £4 million has been spent in research and prospecting in North Borneo, there has not been any very satisfactory result; but research is still going on. For the rest, as the noble Lord rightly said, the most important activity in Sarawak is agriculture, and an improvement of agriculture and forestry is planned to coincide with the road development programme. In agriculture, the aim is to diversify the economy away from its present over-dependence on rubber, by trying out new crops such as cocoa and the improvement of existing crops such as sago, which the noble Lord mentioned. There we are trying to improve the quality. At the same time we are assisting the planting and re-planting of high-yielding rubber trees so that we can improve the efficiency of the rubber industry. Then there are schemes for the improvement of padi irrigation.

Although I agree that the Hereford bull does not seem to have had a great success, we are importing selected livestock with a view to improving animal husbandry. We are paying particular attention to pig rearing, and there have been experiments in the mechanisation of agriculture under local conditions. Furthermore, a permanent forest estate is being planned. Therefore, I suggest that although development has not gone as fast as I should like, or the noble Lord would like, things are being done, and I hope that more will be done as the years go by. And, of course, we contribute to Sarawak from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. I daresay that the noble Lord might suggest that more money should be available, and if this were possible nobody would be happier than I. But funds are limited, and every territory has to get its fair share.

To sum up the economic side, I would say this. If you look at it as a whole I do not believe it is as black as it might be. Even if we ignore imports of petroleum from Brunei, which are refined and re-exported, imports were as a whole seven times as high in 1955 as before the war, and exports, excluding petroleum products, were some fourteen times as high as pre-war in value. It is true that some of the rise represents price increases, but it is also true to say that there has been a sizeable increase in the actual volume of trade as well. Rubber production in 1955 was 50 per cent. higher than the 1936–38 average. Timber exports were nearly 100 times their pre-war level. and there has been a relatively greater increase in the exports of sawn timber as opposed to logs. which reflects the growth of the local saw-milling industry.

Finally, Government revenues are in a pretty sound condition. They have reserves equal to about a year-and-a-half's revenue, and thus they are in a strong position to finance an expanding development programme. We shall continue to press on with these plans. Progress has been held up by shortages of staff, labour and, up to a point, by a lack of suitable stone for road building, but there is good reason to believe that the present £.11.7 million development plan for the period 1955–60 will be completed on time.

The noble Lord also made some reference to education and, in particular, to technical education. As he knows, the education system in Sarawak is largely run by voluntary effort—that is, by mission schools, village committee schools and Chinese language schools. In 1955, out of 60.000 school children of all ages, only 2,000-odd were at Government schools. The Woodhead Report on financing education is now being put into practice. Its effect will be to increase grants-in-aid to schools and, in return, to enable the Government to exercise an oversight of the educational system as a whole. Special grants for the building of laboratories and domestic science rooms will help to give the less academically minded student a practical education. Our policy is to develop secondary schools which will cater for all sections of the population whose primary education was in a vernacular language—that is, Dyak, Chinese or Malay. It is proposed that, after the pupils have reached junior secondary standard in English, the schools shall be divided into two streams, of which one course will lead to the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate and the other course will have either a technical or rural bias. The building of three of these schools will start very shortly so that we are not neglecting the technical aspect of education, which I think in Sarawak is very important.

I have detained your Lordships for a considerable period, I fear, and I do not wish to detain you very much longer. I have tried, in the time at my disposal, to give as comprehensive a survey as I can. I hope that I have covered most of the points that were put to me. There is one point with which I have not dealt, and that is the question asked me by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about the political future and the possibility of a merger between Sarawak and British North Borneo. Obviously, this is something which has been thought of. and thought of quite often.

I can tell the noble Earl straight away that the possibility is not being overlooked. But here again, as always, it seems to me, in Colonial affairs, one is on the horns of a dilemma. He says, truly, "if you delay too long, all your roads will he built in the wrong directions. Many things which could have been organised for a merger will not be so organised. You are creating difficulties for yourselves by delay." But I think the noble Earl will be the first to agree with me that this federation or merger must come from the people themselves. I do not believe it is something that could be imposed from without. Therefore, we cannot rush it in advance of the wishes of the local people. I think that. if we did, the noble Earl, with all the experience of the Caribbean Federation that we both have, would he the first to agree with me that we should probably do more harm than good. But we are bearing it in mind. What the noble Earl has said to-night will certainly not be forgotten.

Finally, I should like to say this. It is my belief that Sarawak is making steady progress along the path of political and economic advance. In the past, as has been pointed out by nearly every noble Lord who has spoken, the people of Sarawak have owed much to the patience and parental administration of the Brooke family. Indeed, I think the Brooke family, in the eyes of the Brooke Rajahs, included all the people of Sarawak themselves. They were one large family, and it was from this great family administration that in 1946 we took over.

I should like to pay my personal tribute to-night to what the family of Brooke have done for the people of Sarawak and to say that we, the Government, are not unmindful of the traditions which they left behind them. Sarawak has been no less fortunate in its liberal, far-sighted Governors, who have so ably continued the Brooke tradition. Reference has been made to all of them to-night, and I would merely re-echo, on behalf of the Government, the tributes which have already beee paid. They carried on that tradition, the aim of which was, whilst bringing the people of the country forward, not to rush the matter unduly. We now are trying to bring to the people of the country those advantages of colonial administration and development which, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said, were the Rajah's chief reason for cession—money, funds; and those funds we shall. I hope, be able to produce. I am glad that this debate should have given us the opportunity of showing the people of Sarawak that Parliament here is no less mindful of their prosperity and welfare, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has done a service not only to this House but to the people of Sarawak in putting down this Motion.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, for the effort he has made to answer the various points that have been raised. We always know him here as a Minister who spares no effort to make himself acquainted with the answers. Whether or not we like the answers is another point, but that is not his fault. He does his best to find out what the Government answers are and we are grateful to him. I do not think this is the opportunity to go into a long controversy on various details. But we here, and the people of Sarawak will read with considerable interest the speeches, and particularly, of course, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. I am quite sure that the proceedings in your Lordships' House this afternoon will be widely distributed and circulated, not only in Sarawak but also throughout South-East Asia. I hope that the people of South-East Asia will feel that we here have tried to do our duty towards this new Colony which so long benefited from the association with the Brookes. We, in our turn, are trying to do our best to uphold the tradition which they started and which we hope to carry on. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.