§ 2.45 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on the present disturbances in Singapore]
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD LLOYD)
My Lords, on September 24 the Singapore Government dissolved the Chinese Middle School Students' Union, and ordered the expulsion of some 145 students and two teachers from two Chinese schools. A White Paper published by the Singapore Government (of which I have placed copies in the Library) shows how the Union had become a Communist front organisation engaged in subversive political activities, and demonstrates the extent to which its activities were disrupting the whole Chinese educational system in Singapore. Several thousand students staged a sit-down strike in two schools on October 10 in defiance of the Government, and attempted in daylight sorties to provoke similar action in other schools through picketing and intimidation. On October 24 parents were warned by personal letter, and through the Press and the radio, that they must remove their children from the schools by the evening of the 25th, after which firm steps would be taken to restore discipline.
1119 The students continued to defy both their parents and the Government, and on the morning of October 26 the police cleared them from both schools without incident. Members of certain Communist front trade unions came out on strike and large groups of students and strikers began to collect in the streets. Increasingly large roving gangs began attacks on cars, buildings and police. A curfew was imposed on the Island and troops were called in to assist the police. During the rest of last Friday and again on Saturday there were a series of attacks by roving bands on vehicles and police posts. The police and the military forces, who showed exemplary restraint, were constantly engaged in dispersing large mobs of up to a thousand persons and preventing their reassembly. The police were forced to open fire on a number of occasions. The situation quietened down on Saturday afternoon and Sunday passed without any serious incidents. Since then the situation has been quiet. The Singapore Government have made a large number of arrests both among rioters and those believed to be fomenting the disorders. Thirteen persons are reported to have lost their lives and 122 to have been injured.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I say that we on this side of the House should like to express our sympathy with all those innocent people who have suffered injury in these disturbances? May I, first, ask the noble Lord whether he would agree that the Chief Minister of Singapore has acted with patience and with courage and should be commended? Secondly, may I ask the noble Lord whether charges will be preferred against those adults who have been instigating these misguided schoolchildren to commit these wrongful acts? Thirdly, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware with what feelings of gratification the people of the Federation of Malaya welcome the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to Penang and Kuala Lumpur?
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for what he has said. I am sure that all your Lordships will reecho what he said about the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to Malaya, and we wish that visit 1120 well. I should like to take this opportunity of endorsing what the noble Lord has said about the patience and the restraint, and also the courage, that have been shown by Mr. Lim Yew Hock in a very difficult situation. I feel that all your Lordships would wish that message to go out to him from this House. As regards the point raised by the noble Lord in respect of charges against those concerned in these riots, he will have observed from what I have said that a number of arrests have been made. I must tell your Lordships frankly that the final report on the riots has not reached my right honourable friend and therefore I am not in a position to tell the House exactly what charges will be preferred. I do not even know at this stage exactly who are all the people who have been arrested. I will take note of what the noble Lord has said and later on if it is possible to add anything to what I have said I shall be glad to do so.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell us what is the average age of the children concerned. The word "children" is used in the Answer and I presume, therefore, that they are children. Can he tell us whether any of those are being charged, or whether it is the people who are deemed to be responsible for instigating the children.
My Lords, I think "children" is perhaps in some cases a euphemism. Certainly many of the students are of secondary school age. Some I understand stay on rather longer than that, and you may get in these schools students as old as twenty-one or more. Therefore the range of age is rather large. In reply to the second point, I would say that anybody who has been involved in the rioting, whatever age he may be, is liable to apprehension, and some have undoubtedly been apprehended. I have forgotten what the noble Lord's third point was.
§ LORD SILKIN
I assume that, by and large, the people charged will be those who have instigated the children rather than the children themselves.
I think there are two elements. Anybody who is guilty of rioting lays himself open to arrest. Those 1121 who instigate the riots also lay themselves open to arrest. I am afraid I have not got the full report and cannot tell the noble Lord any more to-day.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I wonder whether. on the assumption that there will be some inquiry into this unfortunate affair, I may ask the noble Lord whether or not there are any indications of inspiration from outside the Colony.
My Lords, at this stage I should not like to go any further or add anything to what I have already said.