New plea over 1948 Malayan killings

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Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015 by The News Editor

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Relatives of Malaysian rubber plantation workers killed by British troops more than 60 years ago continue their long-running quest today for an official investigation.

The UK’s highest court is hearing the latest round of an action by campaigners fighting for an inquiry into the shootings at Batang Kali, Malaya, in December 1948.

Their challenge before a panel of five Supreme Court justices, headed by president Lord Neuberger, follows last year’s rejection of their case by appeal judges in London.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling followed a previous defeat for relatives at the High Court in September 2012, when they unsuccessfully challenged a government decision not to hold an inquiry.

British troops were conducting operations against communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency when the 24 plantation workers were killed.

After an appeal was dismissed in March last year by Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Fulford, the families involved in the case vowed to carry on their fight.

The Court of Appeal heard that at least three of the soldiers who were on patrol and at least five villagers who were at Batang Kali were still alive.

They were told that oral evidence from living witnesses, including soldiers and the appellants, would be available to an inquiry.

A QC representing relatives said that what happened in 1948 remained a “hugely significant and unresolved instance of human rights abuse”.

Michael Fordham told the court that, despite the passage of time, it was still important and worthwhile for the “truth” of “historic wrongs” to be investigated.

When the case was before the High Court, the Foreign and Defence Secretaries opposed the relatives’ application – arguing that the decision not to hold any inquiry was reached lawfully and that there was no right to an inquiry under the Human Rights Act or common law.

The two judges who heard the case in 2012 concluded that decisions not to set up an inquiry were “not unreasonable”.

Allegations against members of the Scots Guards were described by the court as being “as serious as it is possible to make”.

The appellants in the case, Chong Nyok Keyu, Loh Ah Choi, Lim Kok and Wooi Kum Thai – two of whom were at Batang Kali as children – are supported by the action group Condemning the Batang Kali Massacre, a campaign in Malaysia that encompasses 568 civil society organisations.

Giving the Court of Appeal’s ruling, Lord Justice Maurice Kay said it was alleged that 24 civilians were “executed without any justification, and that the authorities thereafter have either covered up what occurred or have been reluctant to take the necessary steps to enable the truth – whatever it may be – to be revealed”.

He added: “This has never been accepted by the British authorities, who have maintained that the deceased were shot while they were attempting to escape.”

Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015 by The News Editor

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