HL Deb 22 February 1971 vol 315 cc809-11

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to the Government of Malaysia with a view to securing reprieves for three persons sentenced to death on charges of possessing firearms and ammunition, similar to the representations made to the Government of Spain in respect of Basque Nationalists sentenced to death.]


No, my Lords. The two cases are quite different.


My Lords, while not thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether it is not now becoming clear that international intervention to reprieve death sentences for offences which have political motives is now becoming recognised? Did we not do this in the case of the Jews involved in hijacking in the Soviet Union and in the case of the Basques? Will the noble Lord indicate why this case is not similar to the intervention which Her Majesty's Government made in Spain?


My Lords, I could not accept the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary. As for the reason why it is different in this case, I would point out that all the three persons referred to in the Question have appealed to the Federal High Court of Malaysia. These appeals are likely to be heard in March. I think it would be improper at this stage to make any intervention.


My Lords, I think it would have been helpful if the noble Lord had given that supplementary answer at the beginning and also had indicated to my noble friend that this is an internal matter and that we should leave it with the Government of Malaysia, a Government in which we can have supreme confidence.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that supplementary reply, which I appreciate, may I ask whether he is aware that many of us have a high regard for the new Prime Minister in Malaysia and his Administration and that we do not want to intervene in an unacceptable way? But is he also aware that these three prisoners are all young people in their early twenties and that one of them is a girl of 22? While I am not asking Her Majesty's Government to intervene immediately, would they indicate to the Malaysian Government that it would be in accordance with humanitarian opinion in the world that when their appeals have been heard, reprieves should if necessary be granted?


My Lords, I much appreciate the noble Lord's deep concern in these humanitarian matters: but I think it would be quite wrong for me now to make any comment on anything which is still sub judice in Malaysia. We have a great sympathy with the Government of Malaysia which is a Commonwealth country. They have a well-established judicial system and we have great sympathy with them in dealing with the armed terrorism with which these three people were involved.