HC Deb 16 January 1913 vol 46 cc2286-7W

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Governor of the Straits Settlements has addressed a letter to the Administrator of Sarawak, urging the adjustment of the selling price of opium in that country in accordance with the views of the Colonial Office; whether the price of opium sold in Sarawak for internal consumption is any concern of His Majesty's Government; and whether the treaty of 1888 secures to the Rajah of Sarawak the transaction of the internal affairs of his country without interference from His Majesty's Government?


The Rajah of Sarawak has furnished me with a copy of a letter written by the Governor of the Straits Settlements in his capacity of British Agent for North Borneo and Sarawak to the officer administering the Government of Sarawak, from which it appears that he expressed the hope that the opium farmer might be required to raise his prices to the prices fixed for the neighbouring State of Brunei and the settlement of Labuan. The object of the British Agent was no doubt to secure that opium should not be smuggled from Sarawak into Labuan and Brunei. Such smuggling is likely to take place when the price of opium in Sarawak is considerably lower than in Labuan and Brunei, and the price in Sarawak is, therefore, of considerable importance to the Government of these places. The price has been raised in Labuan and Brunei in pursuance of the policy of restricting the use of opium to which His Majesty's Government are pledged by the Opium Convention, to which the Rajah has also adhered. The agree- ment of 1888 between Her late Majesty's Government and His Highness the Rajah provides that the Government shall have no right to interfere with the internal administration of Sarawak except in certain specified cases. But I am unable to admit that the suggestion put forward by the British Agent in the interest of free intercourse between Sarawak and its neighbours constitutes interference by either His Majesty's Government or the British Agent.