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When Does Ancient History Begin

The appeal against a High Court decision that there were no legal grounds to order a public, and proper, inquiry in the 1948 massacre in Malaya of ethnic-Chinese rubber plantation workers by the soldiers from Scots Guards does not appear to have attracted a lot of attention. The appeal itself is rather technical and involves Human Rights law. In 2011 the families of the 24 men killed in cold blood at Batang Kali had their day in court when they asked the High Court to order the British Government to hold a proper inquiry into the massacre. The judges refused, but did agree that the evidence pointed to the 24 men being massacred and to a subsequent British cover-up. On Friday I noticed some “wag” demanding an inquiry into the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. I suppose his point is that it’s all ancient history and sleeping dogs should be allowed to lie. But the British Government has just agreed to pay compensation to Kenyans who claim they were tortured by the British in the 1950s during the suppression of the Mau Mau. So, when does ancient history begin? The children of those massacred in Malaya are still alive and the loss of their fathers must have been life changing. If torturing Kenyan terrorist suspects is wrong, so executing almost the entire male population of a village suspected of sympathising with insurgents must also be wrong. By continuing to attempt to hush-up the Batang Kali Massacre, the British Government allows a bloody stain on the reputation of British people to fester and gives ammunition to the country’s detractors. This was no random massacre by some out of control squaddies. The real story would appear to be far more complex than that and the time has arrived to come clean.

See Batang Kali Revisited


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