Hansard of Parliament of the United Kingdom (1963) - Malaysia Bill
HC Deb 19 July 1963 vol 681 cc922-1006
- Order for Second Reading read.
- 11.12 a.m.
The Secretary of State for Common-Wealth Relations and Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Duncan Sandys) I merely rise to inform the House that I have it in Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place Her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
I am sorry that we are taking this important Bill on a Friday when, inevitably, relatively few hon. Members are able to be present, but at this period of the Session—and as hon. Members realise, the Bill could have been taken no earlier—we were not able to make other and more normal arrangements.
The Bill provides for the relinquishment of Her Majesty's sovereignty over North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore so that they can federate with the existing States of Malaya in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement which was signed last week. I do not think that I need trouble the House with a Clause by Clause description of the Bill because the Clauses are, I believe, the usual ones in a Bill of this kind and, in any case, are self-explanatory. But perhaps I might be allowed to give a short history of how all this came about because I think that it does show that a great deal of thought has been taken over quite a long period to prepare the ground and to secure popular consent in the various territories for these proposals. I do not believe that the whole story has ever been set out. We have had statements from time to time, but it might be useful to give the sequence of events.
It is now just over two years since the Government of Malaya proposed an understanding with Singapore, and with the Borneo States, to which the Government of Singapore immediately responded. I think that the whole House agrees that it was a very imaginative idea, and all the territories at once showed a great interest in it. In July, 1961, at a regional meeting in Singapore of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the four countries, a Consultative Committee was set up to exchange views on the form that Malaysia should take. This is yet another example of the very valuable contribution by the C.P.A. and it shows what a constructive rôle this splendid organisation can play.
In October, 1961, the Malayan Parliament endorsed the Malaysia proposal in principle and on 15th November that year the Heads of Agreement between Malaya and Singapore were published. Later that month discussions took place in London between Britain and Malaya, and my right hon. Friend informed the House at that time that agreement had been reached that the creation of a Federation was in the best interests of the people of Malaya and Singapore. He said, too, at the same time that a commission would be set up to ascertain the views of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak. I think it was clear to everybody that this was the best and quickest way to independence for those two Colonies, and certainly Her Majesty's Government were wholeheartedly in support of the project. But we have learned elsewhere in recent years that it is best nowadays to ascertain the wishes of the people before one embarks on the federation of territories.
The right hon. Member for Middles rough, East (Mr. Bottomley), the hon. Member for (Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) have all recently been to Malaysia themselves, and I hope that I am not putting words into their mouths when I say that they would probably agree that there is now widespread and general support in these countries for the new Federation.
Mr. Fisher No doubt the hon. Member for Eton and Slough will make a speech on this subject, and I shall be interested to listen to it, because I thought quite genuinely that as a result of his visit he had been persuaded that support was very general throughout the territories. No doubt we shall hear from him later.
Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West) Will my hon. Friend be good enough to confirm or otherwise that Mr. Narasimhan was sent out by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to these territories and that as a result of the visit he was quite satisfied that there was general support?
Mr. Fisher I am glad to confirm what my hon. Friend said. He was personally satisfied, as my hon. Friend pointed out.
To resume the narrative, in December, 1961, the Singapore Assembly passed a Motion supporting Malaysia in principle, and in January, 1962, the British and Malayan Governments appointed the Cobbold Commission, which visited North Borneo and Sarawak between February and April, 1962, and in the process interviewed over 4,000 people. The Commission's findings were unanimous in favour of the Federation and they estimated that two-thirds of the people of these two Colonies supported the federal idea provided that safeguards could be devised to meet their special conditions. I think that we have succeeded in meeting that point since then.
Further talks were held in London between the British and Malayan Governments in July last year, and it was then agreed to establish Malaysia by 31st August this year and meanwhile to set up an Inter-Governmental Committee under the chairmanship of my noble Friend the Minister of State, to work out the detailed arrangements and the appropriate safeguards, to which I have referred, for North Borneo and Sarawak. The first meeting of that Inter-Governmental Committee was held in Jesselton on 30th August, 1962, and it held its last plenary meeting on 20th December in Kuala Lumpur. Its unanimous Report was published on 27th February this year and in March the Legislative Councils in Sarawak and in North Borneo adopted nemine contradicente the recommendations of the Inter-Governmental Committee, which meant that the way was clear for the inclusion of these two territories in Malaysia.
Elections this year in both Colonies have resulted in what I can rightly describe as walk-over victories for the pro-Malaysian parties. In Sarawak, these parties together hold 24 out of the 36 seats. There are seven independent members, who are divided about fifty-fifty on the proposals, and the only party which has any hesitation about Malaysia is the Sarawak United People's Party, which holds only five seats out of the total of 36. In North Borneo, similarly, of the 125 district council candidates elected, we know of none who are anti-Malaysia. It is by and from these people that the Legislative Council is chosen.
At the end of the year, discussions were resumed between Malaya and Singapore to work out the detailed terms, and agreement was reached quite quickly except on a few matters. The most difficult of these, as is practically always the case, was finance, especially the apportionment of Federal revenues collected in Singapore. During the discussions, it became clear that agreement on the financial issues was not likely to be achieved without agreement on a common market for Malaysia.
Those financial problems affected the whole economic life of Malaya and Singapore. It was, therefore, probably not surprising that at the final talks recently in London, a great deal of time, patience and understanding was needed to resolve them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind my saying in front of him that even though he is never afraid of long hours and hard work, it looked at one time as if the whole concept of Malaysia might be in jeopardy at the recent London talks. I am glad to say, however, and I can say it because I did not take part in those talks, that everyone was determined to reach agreement and, as the House knows, agreement was finally achieved.
I am sorry that the Sultan of Brunei felt unable to sign. We have long taken the view that Brunei should decide this matter for herself. We thought that it was in her best interests to join and we still think so. Indeed, for our part, the door is still open for Brunei's accession if she wishes to join later, and I hope very much that she will.
I hope at least that the House will agree that Malaysia in principle is an 926 absolute "natural" in every way, politically and economically. Already there are the common languages of Malay and, I might say, English, too, and a common currency. The separation of Singapore from Malaya makes little sense politically and, I would think, no sense at all economically. North Borneo and Sarawak would clearly not be viable in isolation, or even together for many years to come. I believe that for them federation is the only high road to independence. That is the main reason why we were so keen about it for them; it seemed to be the best way home.
The fact that Malaysia will mean increased economic development is another most important factor and, I expect, had as much effect as anything else in influencing public opinion in favour of federation. Towards this increased development, we are contributing a gift of £10 million and Singapore is providing loans of £17½ million, some of which will be interest-free for at least the first five years. In addition to the economic partnership which Malaysia will certainly provide, there will be, I am sure, as there already is in Malaya, a real racial partnership between these people, and a political partnership, too, by which I mean not merely a replacement of Britain by Malaya as the dominant power. I do not think that it will work out like that at all. I think that it will be a real partnership and not a substitution of Malaya for Britain.
All these factors will, I hope, make Malaysia an area of real stability in a not very stable part of the world. It should have a valuable result in this context and I believe that this stability will be further increased by the extension to the whole of Malaysia of the existing Anglo-Malayan defence agreement. From our point of view—one might as well be frank about these things—this ensures to us the use of the Singapore base, which is very important, and from the Malaysia point of view it ensures our assistance to them in the external defence of the new Federation if that should ever become necessary. It is a two-way traffic.
The details of the aid, both defence and economic, which we are giving to the new Federation were announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend, but as 927 they were given in reply to a Written Question perhaps I might restate what was then said. We have offered a total of about £30 million for defence and development over the three years 1963–65 and an estimated sum of about £13 million after 1965, when there will be a further review of defence aid.
Before I conclude, I should like to pay a special tribute to the good will of the Malayan leaders, who have agreed that the Borneo States, with only 1¼ million people out of a total population of the Federation of 10 million, should have 40 of the 159 seats in the Federal Parliament—that is a beau geste; that they should have as of right, and not merely as grant-in-aid, sufficient funds to maintain and increase their State services; and that even in Federal subjects like education, the policy and system of administration should not be changed without the consent of the State Governments. Malaya has been very forthcoming in all these matters.
Substantial safeguards have been achieved for religion and although Islam will be the religion of the Federation, there will be no State religion in the Borneo States and no law can be enacted restricting the propagation of other religious doctrines among Muslims—by missionary work, for example—without a two-thirds majority of the State assemblies. I do not think it likely that that would ever be achieved, because the Muslims number only about one-third in those territories. The actual figures of Muslims are 38 per cent. in North Borneo and 23 per cent. in Sarawak. My expectation, therefore, is that there would be little likelihood of that two-thirds majority being achieved.
Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton) With the possibility of wholesale conversions that take place to any religion, and in the case of Sarawak, say, among the Dyaks to Islam, is there not a real possibility that there might be the two-thirds, who could then impose upon the people of Sarawak the same unfortunate restrictions as are being imposed upon the people of Malaya?
Mr. Fisher Theoretically, there is that possibility. In practice, however, I should have thought that there was not much likelihood of it. I am conscious of the fact that the hon. Member knows that part of the world very well, whereas I, unfortunately, have never been there, and so I do not enter into an argument with him on the practical considerations, because for all I know I may be on difficult ground. However, in theory, certainly it could be done, but in practice I am advised that it is very unlikely to happen because of the relatively small number of Muslims in the two countries.
Mr. Brockway Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is already happening in Malaya, in areas of which the propaganda of Christian teaching is now prohibited? Will he make representations about this before the Malaysia scheme goes through?
Mr. Fisher I do not think that we are in a position to make representations to Malaya about these things. I would have thought it very late in the day to make representations to anyone. These matters have now been agreed. I do not like to seem to be facing the House with a fait accompli, but they have been agreed by the parties concerned, and I think that it would be unwise for me to respond to the hon. Gentleman's invitation. This was merely an example—perhaps I was ill-advised to give it—of the way in which Malaya has been, I shall not say generous because I think that has an unfortunate connotation, but forthcoming, in her attitude to the other territories.
There was a further example to which I was coming in respect of immigration. This again is normally an entirely federal subject, but the States have been given protection against the unrestricted movement of people from other parts of the Federation, and except in specified circumstances, entry into the Borneo territories will require the approval of the State concerned. In all these ways we have had a very co-operative attitude from Malaya.
I should perhaps say, as I mentioned the high representation of the Borneo territories, that Singapore will have proportionately a much weaker representation in the Federal Parliament, with only 15 seats for a population of 1.7 million. But she will, in return, retain a good deal of local autonomy.
That is all that I want to say except that one knows that federations are never easy to form and never easy to work, especially in the initial stages. This one has been no exception, as the House knows, in its formation which, of course, presented many predictable difficulties, and I expect that it will be no exception in its early stages. I am sure that it will have its teething troubles, like any other nation of federated territories. But I am always an optimist and I am particularly so in this case. I know that my right hon. Friend, who knows much more about this Federation than I do, is optimistic too, because we believe now that there really is a great enthusiasm for Malaysia among the people concerned. I am advised that this is very much the atmosphere which has been gaining momentum all the time.
May I say that the leaders of the countries, which are to unite on 31st August, have shown a very high level of statesmanship throughout the past two years, and I am persuaded that they will continue to do so. We in this House certainly—I know that in this respect I speak for the whole House—wish them well in their task of creating this new independent nation in the Commonwealth, and I am quite confident that hon. Members will give the Federation a good start by giving this Bill an unopposed passage through the House of Commons today.
- 11.24 a.m.
Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick) The Under-Secretary of State has given us a characteristically modest and disarming speech, has shown his usual mastery of his subject and great frankness, and we are very grateful to him. We are grateful to him, too, for setting out so clearly the history which ought to be put on the record and which is not in dispute. What he said about the rôle of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is worthy of emphasis. It is interesting that this is no longer a sort of United Kingdom dominated body. In fact, the C.P.A. in this connection was representing the Parliaments of that part of the world, and the capacity of the C.P.A. to produce relationships between members without their all passing through the United Kingdom is very important and significant for the character of the developing Commonwealth.
We support the Bill and we will facilitate its passage. Like the hon. Gentleman, I do not intend to go into details about the Measure which seems to me of the standard kind in this sort of situa- 930 tion. I shall take up in the course of my remarks most of the points that he made.
The Labour Party has always advocated the federation of smaller territories wherever that can be voluntarily achieved as being the only way in which very small territories can achieve the genuine and real independence which, of course, we want for them. A few years ago, the Labour Party advocated a federation very much along the present lines in a publication that it issued.
It is never easy to federate. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. No federation is easy to launch and get under way. We have had the example of the West Indies which started with a fair wind and which has come to temporary grief. It is, I believe, not widely enough known how difficult it was for the Canadians, the Australians and others to launch federations and get them going. They took a long time; there were a lot of boss shots. It is an extremely difficult thing to do.
Malaysia will, of course, meet the kind of problem that attends the launching of any Federation. It will be particularly difficult, for a number of special reasons, in this case.
The Federation of Malaysia, in which the rest is being fitted, is a very tight, centralised federation. There is a tremendous concentration of power at the centre. I think that the fitting in of the new States has been fairly and elegantly done. It has been a very good operation. In addition to the normal dissensions, disagreements and jealousies between the units that come together in any Federation, there are in this case racial problems, too.
There was inevitably very hard bargaining. we all knew that at one moment the; discussions here were in some double and we were very glad that they came through. I agree that very great statesmanship has been shown by all the leaders concerned. Singapore has made very many concessions to get this Federation going. It has achieved, on the other hand, a common market, autonomy to a considerable extent, and so on. Malaya has also agreed, in a very statesmanlike way, to overrepresentation of the other smaller units in the Federal Parliament.
The main difficulties arise out of the peculiar political and geographical situation of this Federation. It is happening in South-East Asia which is the most dangerous part of the world at the moment. It is an area of very delicate balance for world peace; a balance which if upset might involve the world in war. It is a point of intersection, too, of Soviet Union relationships both with the West and with China. It is a very difficult and delicate part of the world. China is pushing out the influence both of the Soviet Union and of India and is taking all the advantage it can to press forward. Therefore, this area is extremely delicately and possibly unstably balanced. It is because Malaysia can bring a factor of stability to this area that the formation of this Federation at this time is particularly to be welcomed.
Indeed, one must say that it is because of the dangerous part of the world in which this is happening that a good deal of the local support for federation has been generated and has come out of this very situation. But also, of course, the opposition to it has been generated by the same factors. One has here, I think, to distinguish between genuine, democratic elements in opposition to this, and others. There are genuine, reasonable, democratic elements of opposition to Malaysia—opposition based on legitimate, vested interests, both economic and racial, and the sort of opposition that arises to any federation. No federation has ever been launched without very considerable minority opposition. For these reasons one must consider the legitimate arguments.
There is, above all, the argument based on a certain amount of doubt about the difficulty of ascertaining public opinion about the Federation. This is a matter of real importance, as the Under-Secretary said, for the Federation should not be launched without a reasonable measure of majority support; though I must say that our interests can extend only to the areas for which we have responsibility. It is not our affair to ask whether an already independent country has support within itself. Nevertheless, this is an interesting point to consider. This is not like Central Africa. It is not a United Kingdom imposed Federation. In the main, it is one launched by two independent large entities and our obligation must be restricted to considering the degree of public support in this area for which we have responsibility. Thus we are limited to our proper constitutional interests.
We must consider this matter extremely carefully. I have tried to do so. I have, as well as I am able, studied the elections and the results. They are difficult to interpret in some cases. I have talked closely with several of my hon. and right hon. Friends, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Middles rough, East (Mr. Bottomley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), about their visits. I have considered many other things and there seems no doubt that there exists a consensus of support for the Federation.
Some people say that the Singapore referendum was a "phoney" operation because it gave the voters only the choice between alternative versions of federation. This is an ill-founded charge because, after all, it resulted from a large majority vote in the Assembly in favour of the Federation and, therefore, it was proper that the referendum should have been within the terms of the decision of the Assembly. That, in fact, was carried out.
The Sarawak elections are complex and difficult to understand, but they show that the majority parties are, broadly speaking, supporting the Federation and have a considerable majority. We cannot be certain about Brunei, but it is important to note that it is not joining the Federation at this moment. This is a difficult fact for those who say that this is an operation of neo-colonialism. If it were, Brunei would have joined and that it has not is a powerful factor against the neo-colonialism argument.
As to the the other questions about the desirability of having a referendum beforehand, that this was agreed at the Manila Conference, and so on; I believe that there was a good deal of ambiguity about the conclusions reached there. Moreover, after all, this is an internal matter. I do not know on what grounds Indonesia or the Philippines or the United Kingdom could interfere in what is an internal development. Neo-colonialism can be practised by the very nations that denounce it and one must 933 guard against this, too. The same arguments would seem to apply to those who feel that there should now be a delay. This, too, is a difficult argument to sustain. It would be a form of intervention and it would result in the continuation of colonial rule. One of our major interests is to get rid of our immediate colonial responsibilities in this area and if we delayed we would be continuing it longer than we should, or could.
There is, as well as the democratic and, so to speak, reasonable opposition—to whose arguments one must give careful attention—a prejudiced element in the opposition which is to a considerable extent under Communist influence. I have carefully read a great deal of the literature put out against the Federation, both locally there and in this country, and I have found it suspiciously similar, rather echoing the same words and arguments. A great deal is made about this being an imperialist venture, neo-colonialism and so on. It is surprising and significant to note that this kind of opposition makes no mention whatever of China, Indonesia or their aggressiveness.
That is all the more surprising, because it is very relevant. Malaya has had a long experience of Communist attempts to impose its rule. This is a relevant factor, especially when one considers that no attention is paid in this literature to the views of the Socialist People's Action Party in Singapore. For all these reasons, this kind of argument can simply be ignored.
There is, of course, a continuing and direct United Kingdom interest in the area. As the Under-Secretary said, one must recognise this and that we are dealing with an area which is vital to world peace and the maintenance of the balance of stability. Not only the United Kingdom but the Soviet Union has an interest. We have a common interest in maintaining the balance of stability in this part of the world. This is at the heart of what we are discussing today; that it will be possible to maintain this stability only if the Federation is genuinely independent, if it is quickly put on its own feet and acts in its own interests. It is in the ultimate interests of the United Kingdom that this should happen.
We must, nevertheless, stand ready to help on the basis of equality and independence. We must give what help we can to speed the rate at which Malaysia can become a nation standing on its own feet. It is a good thing, therefore, that the British Government should give their major help in the early years—as far as ones can see on a generous scale, but we may need to look into that later.
We must also, to be frank, be ready to give help in the sphere of defence. This is a Commonwealth obligation. We assist other Commonwealth countries and it may be necessary for us to help to preserve the stability in the area should it be seriously endangered.
Nonetheless, there is one part of this operation about which I have grave doubts. This concerns the Defence Agreement and its form. An attempt to maintain sovereignty in another sovereign country is a mistake. It is always a mistake. One should accept sovereignty absolutely when it arises and is achieved and then rely upon trying to negotiate as between friends. Defence co-operation depends on a continuing readiness to co-operate and it cannot be settled by a treaty or any piece of paper. If one tries to lay down rights which are really against the nature of things—treaty rights preserving sovereignty in another sovereign country—one's purposes are in the end defeated. Any defence agreement must depend on running and continuing defence co-operation, just as we have with the older Commonwealth countries. If this is not done, too much argument is in the end given to one's opponents. One finds continuing arguments in the country concerned and the whole position can become involved and dangerous; and weakness rather than strength follows.
Whereas defence must be a factor in all of this, it is not the prime factor. It is in the interests of all that Malaysia should have good relations with Indonesia. This is vitally necessary for the stability of the area. I regret the breakdown of the Manila Agreement and the sudden switch by Mr. Sukarno of his views. I simply do no believe the charges that The Tunku showed bad faith. I am sure that Malaysia will do all it can to achieve honourable co-operation with Indonesia. I am pleased to hear the news which appears to coming through now that The Tunku is ready to meet Mr. Sukarno personally and to discuss the difficulties. 935 I hope that, in the end, a wider and fuller Federation, including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines may be worked out. This is a matter for these countries: but if it should come about I am sure that we will all welcome it and will wish to help as much as we can.
The Under-Secretary was right when he said that the Federation may fail. There are not only the difficulties of Federation to be faced, but these difficulties are somewhat extenuated by others which are peculiar to the area. We all wish it well. We will do what we can to help, and I agree that this is a real attempt to create racial partnership in a State based on racial partnership. It is not a substitution of Malaya for Britain. The whole thing rests on a real attempt to solve the very difficult racial problems in terms of real partnership. The ultimate success of the Federation will depend upon its success in achieving this end as quickly as it can.
I think there are good reasons to hope that the Federation will be a success. It has risen out of local desires. We have come in to help, but it has arisen out of local desires and it is a local achievement, not a British achievement. It is a local achievement by the people themselves. It rests upon a good basis of Parliamentary democracy, and it has considerable resources of population and wealth at its disposal, and certainly its resources of wealth will be increased as a result of Federation.
I think we simply must welcome the entry of a new nation into the Commonwealth, a large nation which can stand on its own feet. We must hope it will overcome the still formidable difficulties in its way. We must be ourselves ready to help all the time, so long as it is on the basis of equality; to give help economically and by advice—always on the basis of equality.
I think we can today, as we deal with this Bill and as in due course it passes from us, look forward to Malaysia playing a full part alongside the other sovereign member nations of the Commonwealth and acting as a stabilising force in its own and dangerous part of the world, and playing a vigorous, constructive, active part in the United Nations.
- 11.51 a.m.'
Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport) I am very pleased to have the opportunity of following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). I have taken a great interest in this part of the world. I would begin by saying that I hope he will consider Malaya as a federation and not a unitary State, because everybody is very proud of his State in Malaya, proud of being a Johore Malay, proud but for example also proud of being a Malaysian. I think that if he considers how Malaya was originally built up he will see that it is a real Federation and one which has worked well in the past.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of the recent conference and I would quote Mr. Lee Kuan Yew the Prime Minister of Singapore, who said that the Commonwealth and Colonial Secretary with whom he has been negotiating had shown "an absolute dedication and zeal which I would have thought equalled any dedicated Communist that I have had the misfortune to meet." I should also like to quote a speech, which I thought a very admirable one, by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of the Federation, who, giving the picture of the future of Malaysia, said: "Here in Malaya it is one of our blessings that the people of our country live in harmony and peace. … If you should ask me on this great day what is my dearest wish I would say I want to be happy, and I want all the people of Malaya and Malaysia to be as I am happy, and to make this short span of life worth while every moment of existence." I do not want to quote the whole of his speech, which I thought an excellent one, but he went on to say that it had been alleged that Malaysia had aggressive intentions against her neighbours and he said: "Only God knows how far it is from the truth. We have no troops, no arms, and no machines to fight any war. We spend our money on products which will bring better prospects for peace. We plan and we live for peace." The recent conference planned to include Singapore, North Borneo, which will be called Sabah, and Sarawak, so these territories, working together, will have an opportunity of sharing in the prosperity of Malaya. As I understand, it is only the Panas Party, led by Datu Bandaharas, that really objects in 937 Sarawak to the formation of Federation, but that is not, I am afraid, the case with some of the neighbouring countries, as has been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. I should like an assurance about this from my right hon. Friend, when he replies to the debate, on the following point. I think that one of the reasons is that Indonesia fears for the future, for example, considers that the United Kingdom is behind Malaya and, as the ex-colonial Power, will be pulling the strings.
I think they do not understand that, since the Statute of Westminster of 1931, once a territory becomes independent it is completely independent, and as Malaysia is formed it will be completely independent, and this will include Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak. It is, I think, rather difficult for some countries which have not had Commonwealth connections to realise this, and they see in this Malaysian idea taking form, as far as they are concerned, an effort to form another bulwark against them, instead of realising that a strong Malaysia will be of great benefit to them in the future.
It has to be remembered that Indonesia has had her troubles. It is a very large, sprawling area, including over 3,000 islands, but in 1960 they did have the courage to send back a great many Indonesian Chinese to China, although there are still 2 million PKI or Communists there, and it is natural—as the right hon. Gentleman will know, for he has had literature similar to that which I have had—that they are not anxious to see a bulwark of anti-Communism in that area. Although it is vocal it is a small minority, and I hope that in future, in view particularly of the meeting which was held in Manila, we shall get a better understanding between these countries because at that historic meeting it was stated that it also contributed for the first time to the achievement towards unity of purpose and some sense of dedication among the people of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines, and anything we can do to get a better understanding between Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines will be helpful. I am very anxious to see better understanding between those parties. It will be of immense value to them and to the peace and security and prosperity of the peoples in the area.
I had the privilege of attending as an observer the meeting by the C.P.A. referred to by the right hon. Gentleman and by my hon. Friend. I was an observer there when the first discussions took place. They took place and it was said that it was a seed planted by the Prime Minister. This plant grew under the auspices of this Malays-Borneo group when they met in Singapore to discuss common purposes between their countries, and it was through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—and I think we should pay tribute to its members—that tie first working parties were started.
After the conference in Singapore I went both to North Borneo and to Sarawak, and before I left those territories—I was a month there—they had already fixed the first meeting and were going to hold it the week after I left, so no opportunity was lost to take quick action towards further discussion of the federal idea.
I should like to say, having lived in Malaya and been a welfare officer there, and having had the opportunity of visiting palaces in Malaya, staying in long-houses in Sarawak, and visiting many other places, that I did feel that what was important in this case was the fact that the political education of the people had spread rather further than one might have anticipated. I remember one night, having travelled eleven hours by river, that I arrived in a longhouse village. There was only one house in the whole place. I went through all the animist rites of welcome before being allowed to settle down to a meal. Then I had the extraordinary experience of having people questioning me with regard to the political future of their country until 3 a.m. That political interest had got right into this area I think we must pay tribute to the various officers—it was a Malay officer in this case—in the Civil Service who had given those people an understanding of what was happening. That was two years ago, and that is why this type of federation has more chance of being successful.
I should like to recall the history of federation in this area. There were, first of all, the four federated States of Malaya, the five unfed rated States and the two Crown Colonies, Penang and Malacca. This arrangement has been very successful, although there have been five different races involved, but they have all been very well welded together. It is also to be remembered that Malacca and Penang would have a very different background, as Crown Colonies, from the rest of the territory.
One must also remember the early history of Sarawak, and one should pay tribute to Rajah Brooke—in fact, the three Rajahs Brooke—who brought the territory along in perhaps rather a slower way than usual, but it meant that all the people got an understanding of how the territory was being worked. Sometimes it is not a bad thing to go a little slowly and get a general understanding among the various peoples. I hope that the many traditions which have been set by the Rajahs Brooke will not be dropped.
I would particularly pay tribute to the many civil servants—especially as so many of them came from Devon—who were employed by the Rajahs and have given their entire lives to this one Civil Service.
One has to remember the rather difficult, shall we say, career of North Borneo, in its having been a company, the North Borneo Company, which did its best despite, perhaps, not very good finances; and then the interruption of the prosperity of all these territories by the Japanese. The remarkable way in which they have recovered from the Japanese occupation—I happened to go these in 1945—is amazing. We must pay tribute to the hard-working people in those areas, but in North Borneo a considerable amount of money will have to be spent. There is some very good soil there and the C.D.C. has done a good job in Ababca Estate. I feel that if some further help can be obtained, the territory can be as prosperous as the others.
Remembering that under the leadership of the present Prime Minister of Malaya the existing territories have been well federated and that he has been able to make the various races have an understanding of one another, an understanding such as I have rarely found elsewhere. I would point out that we are now going to have another 19 races brought into the Federation. As I said at the beginning, a Johore Malay is very proud of being a Johore Malay. Although these 940 people will all become Malaysians and will, I am sure, be proud of doing so, they are also proud of their own race and characteristics, and I hope that they will be allowed to carry on their own tradition.
I notice that for 10 years after Malaysia Day and thereafter until the State regulations otherwise provide, the English language is to be "an official language", and may be used in the Legislative Assembly for all official purposes of State, and so on. In Singapore there are four official languages. I should like to know whether when it states that the English language shall be "an official language" it is included in the others and whether the people will still be able to speak their own tongue if they wish to, through interpretation, as in Singapore, and in what languages the reports of Parliament and the newspapers will be written in the future. It is very important that people should have full democratic opportunities of understanding what is going on, and it is very difficult if one has to read and speak in a foreign language.
I was very glad to hear that my right hon. Friend has stated that any change in the law made in the Federal Parliament will have to go back to the local territories for confirmation; in other words, that no law can be imposed on a territory against its will. That is extremely important.
There is also the difficult problem of expatriates. I noticed that the Cobbold Committee said in paragraph 231: "We would like to make some observations regarding the position of the present expatriate officials, including technical and professional officers in these territories after Malaysia. We have noted the high regard in which these officers are held and the unanimous expression of views that they should be encouraged to stay until they can be replaced by the local people." The Committee goes on: "We are aware of the dangers that the administrative machinery and the various plans for development would suffer very considerably with the immediate departure of any substantial number of these officers." The Committee also states that it sees no objection to recruiting from overseas.
I would lay specially emphasis on the point that we should try to encourage as many as possible of the expatriate officers to stay. I do not want to be in any way rude or discourteous to Malaya, but I feel that if we have too many civil servants, as I think has happened in Brunei, coming from Malaya and taking over the jobs, it will be a great pity. I hope that the objective and aim of Malaya will be to train the local people, and meanwhile to encourage those who are in the jobs to stay as long as possible and train the local people to take over. There will, no doubt, be some exchange of officers, but I think that Malaya would be open to some criticism and that there might be some fear if too many of the very excellent civil servants from Malaya were sent to the territories, for it might be felt that they would stop the progress of the people within the territories. If expatriates are employed, the local people will know that they will be there, normally, for a short time and will see that there is some future for themselves. I hope that this point will be looked into.
I should like to know when North Borneo is officially going to become Sabah. The Bill says "North Borneo" and "on the formation of the Federation of Malaysia". Does it mean that when we have passed the Bill today, as from today North Borneo will adopt some other name?
One cannot pay tribute to all the people who have taken part in the various discussions and have done very active work in creating the very happy situation that we have at the present time, but I should like to mention one or two persons from both North Borneo and Sarawak. I would mention Mr. Donald Stephens and Datu Mustapha bin Datu Harun and Mr. Khoo Siak Chien. What a good future there was for their country in Malaysia. It is not always easy to go back to one's country—some of them were at the meeting in Singapore—and put over a new idea. I should like to pay tribute to Abag Haji Mustapha, Jugen Anak Baisog, Ling Bang Siew, and Chia Chin Shin, who have played an enormous part not only in the discussions in Kuching but in travelling round the country and ensuring that the people have some real information about the probable future of their country.
When countries—particularly North Borneo and Sarawak—are giving up one form of dependence for what they may think as another form of dependence, it is a very tricky situation. However, these countries now have the assurance from the new Federal Government that they will be able to work on their own individual lines, particularly in regard to immigration, education and religion. I hope that they will co-operate and be helped in furthering the prosperity of their countries.
I have taken a very great interest in that part of the world. I am very fond of the people who live there. If I did not live in Britain I should like to make Malaya my home. For all these reasons, I wish the territories every success in their new venture.
- 12.10 p.m.
Mr. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough) I must begin, as the Under-Secretary began, by expressing regret that this Bill should be taken on a Friday and that all its stages should, in the intention of the Government, be completed today. Whatever our views may be about Malaysia, I do not think that anyone can doubt that this is of momentous consequence.
This proposal concerns the people of four and perhaps five States. It concerns all the territories of that region, from the spreading Indonesian archipelago over the great island of Borneo, which is the third or perhaps the fourth largest island in the world, and stretching away to the Philippines. It concerns, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said, the balance of power in this very critical area of South-East Asia. I do not think that it is any credit upon the Government or upon this Parliament that we should be carrying through the Bill in all its stages in one day—and on a day when so many hon. Members are in their constituencies.
Recently I had the privilege, with two of my colleagues, of visiting the Malaysia territories. I should first like to say than I have never been in a happier team than I was with those two colleagues. Secondly, I want to say how much we appreciate the hospitality of the United Kingdom Governors and the Head of State in Singapore who were our hosts. But, most of all, I want to say how grateful we were to the Prime Minister of Singapore and to the Tunku of Malaya, not only for the generous way in which they received us, but for the extraordinary fairness with which 943 they allowed us to test the opinion of the opponents of their Government as well as of their supporters.
I have known the Prime Minister of Singapore for many year, when he was not quite so popular with the Establishment as he is today. I have known the Tungku when he was engaged in the struggle for the independence of his country. I have the highest regard for both of them. I regard the Prime Minister of Singapore as one of the outstanding dynamic minds in world statesmanship. I remember an occasion when we had a little meal downstairs here at which the late Aneurin Bevan and the Prime Minister of Singapore were present. The rest of us became silent as these two great minds engaged in a discussion. As for the Tunku, he is one of the most humane, generous and kindly persons one has ever met. If today I am expressing an opinion which, in some respects, these two will not agree with, I know that it will not affect the friendship between us and that they will recognise that I am trying to speak as sincerely as I know they are behaving.
I would like to emphasise how very strongly not only my right hon. and hon. Friends, but large numbers of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite believe in the principle of federation. In the world today, in neighbouring states which require to become viable in their economies and in neighbouring states of associated peoples, a free movement towards federation is progressing. But we must be very careful indeed, when we urge federation, that it shall be a spontaneous and natural association of peoples.
The Observer remarked on Sunday that it is a little ironical that we should be creating a Federation today when last week we destroyed one. I am not suggesting that there is a close parallel between the Central African Federation and the proposal of Malaysia. In the case of the Central African Federation, it was a minority race imposing federation upon a great majority of the population. But we have also had the disturbing experience of the West Indian Federation. Most of us supported that, but we find that that also dissolved because the people of the largest island would not accept it. At this moment, the Secretary of State is engaged in negotiations for an East Carib- 944 bean Federation, a much smaller effort than the proposal of Malaysia, but he is finding that he must take the greatest detailed care before the establishment of that Federation. There is one contrast to all this. When federation arises from the spontaneous desire of peoples to become associated, it is a good thing. We are finding that in East Africa today, which is of such tremendous promise.
I shall not speak dogmatically today. It may be that the fears in my mind are wrong. I am only going to say that, before we take a step of this character, we should be certain beyond any per-adventure that a federation proposal has the support of the peoples. I think that we must in the case of Malaysia recognise quite frankly that the motive, the dominant motive, was not of an association of naturally linked peoples. The Under-Secretary of State began his history from two years ago. The idea of Malaysia has in fact been discussed in the territories in an informal way for a longer period, but when it was proposed two years ago the motive for it was strategic.
It is certainly fantastic that Malaya and Singapore should not belong to one State. Singapore, the toe of Malaya, is joined to it by a short causeway. Both in Singapore and Malaya, perhaps more in Singapore, over the years there has been advocacy of the union of the two States. But the Tungku—and one understands his reasons, for he had been passing through years of jungle war with Communism as a real menace—did not desire the union just of Singapore with Malaya, because of the majority Chinese population in Singapore. The motive of the Malaysia scheme was with the thought that if the federation could be extended from Malaya and Singapore to include the peoples of Borneo, the majority Chinese population in Singapore would be balanced. Let us be quite clear that the original intention was not a natural association, but was ideological and strategic.
Even though that may have been the motive, the effect may still be good. I want to say as emphatically as I can that I do not think that there is anyone on this side of the House who wishes to see Communism become dominant over this region. We would not want it because we believe in liberties and democracies and we do not want a totalitarian 945 State there; but we do not want a Communist domination more deeply because it would be likely that China would be the major influence, and the Chinese attitude that world revolution should come by war would make its influence a very great danger. Therefore, while I do not regard the motive as the democratic motive of the natural association of peoples, one does not say that the effect might not be good.
I respond at once to the invitation to indicate the views of the delegation and later myself about the support for federation which we found in these territories. I think that I can say that we broadly agreed about the facts, even though our interpretation of them and our conclusions from them were different.
We took the view that in Malaya and Singapore there was a majority opinion in favour of Malaysia, with strong minorities. We took the view that in Sarawak opinion was undecided. I held that it was probably about 50–50, but some of my colleagues took the view that there was a majority for Malaysia. In Brunei we had little doubt that not only the opinion of the Sultan, but that of the people was against Malaysia. My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) may qualify that by saying that it was bemused and bewildered and not certain. In North Borneo there was no doubt that the majority of those who were politically alert were in favour of Malaysia. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and my right hon. Friend the Member for Middles rough, East (Mr. Bottomley) will agree that that is an accurate picture of the opinion of these peoples. To that broad statement I add that in Malaya itself the opposition parties are opposed to Malaysia, and at the last election, the opposition parties polled 49 per cent. of the total votes. In Singapore there has been the referendum about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick spoke. I take the view that it was a cumbersome referendum and not clear. The very fact that in those circumstances 30 per cent. of the voters returned blank papers indicates that in Singapore as well there is at least a strong minority against federation.
The position in Sarawak as a result of the election is very uncertain. I want to correct a statement which I have made when I said that there was to be a coalition Government of the United People's Party and the Negara Party which was asking for a plebiscite. As I understand it, those two parties have agreed to form a joint front, but they will not necessarily be the government. The position is uncertain. The majority of elected members support Malaysia, but it is quite possible that with the defection of the Negara Party from the Alliance, and with the Independents, whose views are not clear, there may be a majority in favour of a plebiscite taking place through the United Nations before Malaysia is introduced.
I am sorry to say this, but I gathered the very strong opinion that the influence of British officials during the election was quite partially exerted against the United People's Party. I will not go into it" in any detail now, but I have documents and even a poster which was displayed during the election on British authority and which said—"Do not split the vote".
Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East) I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want to mislead. The documents he is about to show were put up long before the elections came about. Quite rightly, he made representations at the time that they ought not to be up when the election took place.
Mr. Brockway I was about to add that, and I would hope that my right hon. Friend would have known that I try to be fair.
Mr. Bottomley Always.
Mr. Brockway With my right hon. Friend, I went to a leading British official who gave us an undertaking that these posters would be withdrawn. I have subsequently had a letter from him saying that the posters had been put up much earlier and that in those circumstances they would not be withdrawn.
I will not enter into that in further detail now, but the attitude revealed by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) of dismissing the United People's Party as a Communist Party leads me to say that there is no British official in the administration in Sarawak who would say that.
Miss Vickers I said that the Panas Party had broken away from the alliance. I did mot mention Communists.
Mr. Brockway I apologise. I misheard. The identification of the United People's Party with Communism is entirely unjustified. If there is any reflection of Communism in it, it is at low branch level. I do not think that any British official would say otherwise.
In North Borneo our impression was that the politically alert favoured Malaysia, but these are the élite. That country is economically underdeveloped. There is not a road which crosses it. It is politically underdeveloped. There cannot be the beginnings of a party having its roots in the people in a territory of that kind. Therefore even in North Borneo I think that there must be some doubts about permanent support for Malaysia.
The next thing that concerns me—and I am sure it will concern the right hon. Gentleman—is the effect of Malaysia on relations with the neighbouring peoples, particularly those of Indonesia and the Philippines. This is an uneasy region, with Indonesia with its 100 million people neutral, and the nearby Philippines pro-West. If there is to be stability in this area, some concord must be found between Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This is why I share the tremendous hope which the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport expressed about the agreements which were recently reached.
When we were in Malaya, the Tunku and the President of Indonesia were exchanging remarks which were not exactly fraternal, but within a few days they met in Tokio in a spirit of concord. This was followed by the Manila Conference of Foreign Ministers, from which one derived tremendous hope. For the first time we had the different territories of this region, not only Malaya, but Indonesia and the Philippines, coming to an agreement that they would seek a wider confederation of that whole area and that they would begin at once to co-ordinate their economies, their transport, and their social activities so as to bring about that confederation. One of my doubts about the way in which we are speeding this Bill through Parliament is the effect it with have on the relationship between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, which began so well at this conference.
The Foreign Ministers made certain recommendations for the subsequently planned summit conference of the heads of State. Indonesia and the Philippines endorsed Malaysia, but they did it on one condition, and I want to read to the House paragraphs 10 and 11 of the Agreement because I consider them to be of tremendous importance.
Paragraph 10 reads: "The Ministers reaffirmed their countries' adherence to the principle of self-determination for the peoples of non-self-governing territories. In this context, Indonesia and the Philippines stated that they would welcome the formation of Malaysia provided the support of the people of the Borneo territories is ascertained by an independent and impartial authority, the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative." Paragraph 11 reads: "The Federation of Malaya expressed appreciation for this attitude of Indonesia and the Philippines and undertook to consult the British Government and the Governments of the Borneo territories with a view to inviting the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative to take the necessary steps in order to ascertain the wishes of the people of their territories." The Times interpreted those decisions as meaning that a referendum had been agreed on, but I do not think that that is the case. But it was agreed—and I discussed this with officials at the Conference—that the intention was that U Thant and the United Nations should ascertain the views of the people before Malaysia was introduced. What has happened about the undertaking given by the Federation of Malaya to consult the British Government and the Governments of the Borneo territories? Has that been done, and, if so, what was the reply?
What concerns me is not merely that Indonesia and the Philippines will feel that they have been let down by pushing Malaysia through so rapidly, but that U Thant and the United Nations may feel that they have been rebuffed. I understand that U Thant has been sounded about this, and has said that it would take him about four months to carry out a plebiscite to obtain the views of the peoples, and yet here we are proposing to set up Malaysia within a little more than a month from now.
I want finally to emphasise the great importance of the Measure that we are now discussing in the context of the whole of South-East Asia. I think that 949 most of us agree now that if Communism is to be confined and is not to spread over South-East Asia, that area should be neutralised. This view has been supported even by America in the case of Laos, and by the other South-East Asian territories. But the fact is not hidden that one of the main purposes of the establishment of Malaysia is the creation in South-East Asia of a bulwark against Communism. This will inevitably change the balance in South-East Asia. It will inevitably make it more difficult to neutralise that great area, to take it out of the cold war, and to prevent it continuing as the danger spot that it is now, a danger which may be intensified if Malaysia is regarded merely as a bulwark against Communism.
For those reasons I believe that it is a mistake to rush this Bill through the House. Let me summarise my case. It is not clear that the overwhelming majority of the people are in favour of federation, which I believe they must be before such a step is taken. It is causing a deterioration in relations with Indonesia and the Philippines, with whom good relations must be established if there is to be peace in that area. I regret very much what must appear to be a rebuff not only to Indonesia and the Philippines, but to the United Nations. I believe that the departure from the principle of neutralisation in this area may be a great danger to peace.
I therefore urge the Government to consider whether it is necesary to press this Bill through to inaugurate Malaysia on 31st August. In this connection I have one point to raise about the terms of the Bill itself. Malaysia is to come into force on the appointed day, but no date is given for that day. The day is to be that on which the Federation is established. It is true that there has been agreement between representatives of the States that that date should be 31st August, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider, in consultation with the Tungku of Malaya, whether, in view of the doubts which have been expressed, in view of the danger of the deterioration of relations with Indonesia and the Philippines, and in view of the fact that U Thant and the United Nations have been asked to make an estimate of the opinion of the people, he will consider delaying the operation of the Federation from 31st August to a later date so that these difficult matters might be settled.
Secondly, I strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman that no decision shall be taken about the date before the summit conference takes place between the heads of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines. If that date is insisted upon it will prejudice those discussions—and the good will of those three Governments and States in this region is absolutely essential to the peace of the territory. I very much hope that U Thant and the United Nations will be able to take plebiscites of the people, so that we can be sure that federation has the support of the majority. I would like to see plebiscites extended to Singapore and Malaya itself.
Finally, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to do everything in his power to encourage the establishment of a wider confederation of this vast area—a confederation which might be stable. It would have the pressure of Indonesia—with its 100 million people—which is neutral, and the pressure of the Philippines, which has been pro-West. Linked with Malaya and the Borneo territories, such a confederation might become a stable influence for peace in this area. I think that this is the road towards stability and peace.
- 12.42 p.m.
Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich) There is one point that I want to deal with arising from the speech of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brock way). I agree with him in deploring the speed with which the Bill has been brought to the House, and also the fact that it should be discussed on a Friday, when so few Members are present, and rushed through all its stages in one day. Nevertheless, things having gone as far as they have, it would be quite impossible, and deplorable, if any other dates were changed as he suggests. The whole framework of this Federation would be very difficult to achieve if any changes in dates were made. For that reason it is quite impractical.
It is one of the traditions of this House that speakers should declare any interest they have in the subject matter that is being discussed. As many hon. Members know—but in case not all of them know—I have some interests in 951 Malaya. My family has had them for over one hundred years. My firm started trading in Singapore in the 1850s. It established itself in Singapore in about 1862 and developed a rubber and merchanting business up-country in subsequent years. I am also interested in North Borneo. It is for this reason that I take such a tremendous interest in this important matter. I have visited Malaya periodically over the last 35 years and I have come to love its charming people and to realise its very great achievements in the past, which have been aided by our co-operation.
This country's official connection with Malaya started about 80 years ago. At that time Malaya was somewhat comparable with the up-country districts in Sarawak and North Borneo today. I have a copy of an interesting letter written by the Sultan of Selangor—the grandfather of the present Sultan-to the Governor of the Straits Settlements in October, 1874, when conditions in Selangor were very difficult. The letter reads: "I inform my friend that I have received my friend's letter brought by Mr. Swettenham and have understood all that if contains. As to the 1,000 dollars, I will pay that sum monthly to Mr. Swettenham and will be much obliged if my friends will enter it into my country's accounts. As to my friend's request that I would enter into an agreement in order that my friend may collect all the taxes of my country, I would be very glad if my friend would set my country to rights and collect all the taxes." The bearer of that letter was a young officer who took part in the Perak expedition in the unsettled times of 1875. Very shortly afterwards he became British resident in Selangor. It is right to say that Mr. Swettenham, who later became Sir Frank Swettenham, contributed more to the early progress and prosperity of Malaya than did any other man. He became Governor in 1901 and stayed until 1904. Then, upon retiring, he lived to an active old age, and died in 1946, having collected his pension for about 45 years, which must be a record.
The history of Malaya shows that it has passed through many vicissitudes, but it has always been a progressive country, with a good soil, and with our help it has made tremendous developments. Just before the war it produced 40 per cent. of the world's tin and rubber. In 1938, with its population of only 5 million, its foreign trade was equal to half of that of India, with her 400 million people. The racial friendship which existed in Malay throughout our period there was most extraordinary, and is a great example to other parts of the world which may be having racial troubles today. The Malays, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Europeans lived in the greatest amity and friendship together, and there was seldom any trouble.
Unfortunately, the country was occupied by the Japanese during the war, and immediately afterwards a very regrettable incident occurred, when Sir Harold MacMichael suddenly asked all the Sultans to pass over their sovereign rights to the British Government. I remember taking part in a debate on 8th March, 1946, when this matter was discussed at great length and Mr. David Gammans—as he then was—gave some very interesting information concerning the way in which the sultans were compelled to sign away their rights in the greatest secrecy without there being any time for consultation. That was a very unfortunate period in our Administration.
We are now considering the creation, of Malaysia. In 1959 I had the pleasure of going on a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation to visit those Borneo territories. A few minutes ago I saw two other hon. Members of that delegation in the Chamber, but I regret to say that they are now absent. At that time we found little demand for political development and certainly none for any idea of joining up with Malaya. It had not been seriously proposed even at that time, but the people of Sarawak and especially of North Borneo were completely happy and contended. The only thing they wished was to remain under the Colonial Office and to carry on as they had done since the war when they were taken over from the chartered company.
The idea of Malaysia has, of course, been put across, I believe, all too quickly. I think there is little doubt that undue propaganda was organised by the Colonial Office to achieve the support of these very uneducated and unpolitical people in all too short a time. I could have wished that this had taken very much longer and had been developed more slowly. It would have been a much greater success. All the same, conditions being what they are today, I believe that Malaysia will be a great success, but this will give added responsibility to those two very able men, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in Kuala Lumpur, and Lee Kuan Yew, in Singapore. They will have to be the fathers and mothers, so to speak, of the underdeveloped and primitive Borneo countries, and they have a great responsibility in taking over these countries at the present time. It would be quite wrong if they tried to treat those countries as equals, because they are not equals in any way.
For that reason it is very important that adequate safeguards should be built into the new Constitution. Many recommendations have been made, but I wonder if the Minister will tell us what power these safeguards will have. After today, when Malaysia is formed, we think we shall know what the safeguards which are to be built in may be, but I am not quite sure to what extent they could be changed by the Federation itself.
In some cases, I am inclined to think that the safeguards are insufficient. For example, I understand that the question of language in North Borneo is to remain much as it is today for the next 10 years, whereas in the case of Singapore the language remains on the same basis in perpetuity. If that is the case, why should not the language question and other similar questions remain the same in North Borneo, in perpetuity, as I understand they do in Singapore?
I feel sure that the Tunku, for whom I have the greatest admiration, will accept the responsibility of looking after these rather backward countries—much as his was, perhaps it is not unfair to say, 80 years ago—and that he will see that their people are treated properly and given every encouragement for development. Having said that, I think we should do everything we can to make Malaysia a success.
It is astonishing to me how little is known in this country about South-East Asia. Our eyes have been focused far too much on Africa, and many people think of Africa as the most important part of the world. I do not agree with that by any means. I think that South-East Asia and, to a lesser extent, India are the really important political focal 954 points of the world and will be for years to come. For that reason, it is of the utmost importance that a federation such as this should be encouraged to establish itself arid that we should help it and support it in order to give stability to what may be, if things go wrong, one of the most difficult parts of the world to cope with in the years to come.
In passing this Bill today, we naturally wish the Federation well. We have helped all the countries involved greatly in the past in various ways. I hope that we shall be able to continue our help. Although they will be politically at arm's length from us in the future, they will still retain our friendship, and I feel that all of us will be only too glad to give any help we can to make this new Malaysia the great success which we hope it will be.
- 12.56 p.m.
Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton) All Members of the House, I am sure, listen with very great interest to any other hon. Member who speaks out of his living experience. Therefore, we are particularly indebted to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) for speaking out of his own experience. I noticed, however, that he appeared to express regret at what has been called the very swift passage of the Bill, and to that extent seemed to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), though I rather think for very different reasons. While my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough desires a referendum to take place in these territories under United Nations auspices, I assume the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich would equally criticise that as he criticises the possibility of the indigenous peoples of the Borneo areas entering into complete political responsibility at an early date. If they are primitive peoples lacking understanding, then, obviously, that would apply equally to a referendum.
Sir J. Barlow I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I should like to make it quite clear that while I regard the Borneo territories as backward politically and in general development compared with Malaya and Singapore, I think that in the present circumstances it is undoubtedly the 955 right thing for them to be part of Malaysia as perhaps they will need every help.
Mr. Sorensen I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I was dealing with the point that if there is any feeling that these territories are backward compared with Malaya and Singapore, then obviously they would be incapable of making a right judgment if a referendum took place. Very much the same kind of criticism was advanced years ago against the necessity of India being completely independent. The argument that I heard then was that among the illiterate people, who formed the great mass of the people of India, there was an incapacity to judge great political issues and that therefore there should be very slow progress towards complete self-government. On the contrary, I think it is good at this time to introduce this Bill, and I support it with the reservation that while I earnestly hope and believe that the Federation will succeed, nevertheless I equally recognise that there may be in the days to come many alterations, modifications and extensions, and even disintegration, unless that necessary measure of good will and inter-racial co-operation can be established and sustained.
I support the Bill because I believe that, on the whole, the majority of the people in the four territories of Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo want Federation, if not with enthusiasm at least with what I may call prudent wisdom. I recognise, of course, attention has been drawn to it already, that there are substantial hostile elements in at least three of the territories. Again, I agree entirely with what was said, I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough, that there are completely democratic elements opposed to the conception of federation. There are others, however, which are not in the same category. Recently, with two of my colleagues I paid a short but entrancing visit to these territories, and I think I discerned the reasons why the Federation is being opposed in many quarters.
First, it is alleged that federation is being imposed against the general popular will. Secondly, that it is simply an adjunct to the cold war. Thirdly, that it 956 is provocative to Indonesia, about which we have heard a little more this morning. And fourthly, that it is basically a neo-colonialist plot. In my judgment, whatever may be said by the opposition that there should be greater delay in the introduction of this Bill and whatever may be said about the alleged imposition of this Measure against the will of the people, my firm conviction is that neither of those arguments is the basic argument. I believe that the basic argument in the minds of many of the opposition groups and communities is that this is a neo-colonialist plot.
In order to illustrate the reasons for my conviction, that this is the belief, sincerely held no doubt, I will just give a few quotations from literature which I and my colleagues acquired during our recent visit. One comes from the resolutions at the Barisan Sosialis mass rally in May— "Malaysia is neo-colonialism. It is a strategic bloc meant to prolong colonial domination and to frustrate the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region." Here is another quotation to illustrate my contention that this argument about neo-colonialism is essentially the paramount argument, the others being subsidiary. The "Plebeian", the bulletin of the Barisan Sosialis, contained this statement: "There is no democracy in Singapore. Singapore today is a police state. The real rulers of Singapore are the special branch of the police and the military big-wigs, whose main function is to oppress the people of Singapore and the whole of South-East Asia"." Here is another quotation: "The Malaysia Plan is a British plot to prolong colonial domination in South-East Asia, It is really a military plan for aggression and is an extension of the working room of S.E.A.T.O." And another: "Malaysia is neo-colonialism. It is a strategic bloc meant to prolong colonial domination and to frustrate the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region." Finally there is this: "In South-East Asia today British Imperialists hope to continue and prolong colonial domination through Malaysia. We must expose them. We must struggle against them. The strength of the masses is invincible. History must advance … Nothing can stop the will of the people." I could give many more such quotations as evidence to support my contention that, whatever may be said about other arguments against federation, this is the strongest of all. So that even were a referendum conceded and as a result of it a substantial majority indicated its support for federation, that would not alter this main argument which opposition parties would continue to advance. It does not depend on whether a majority of the people are for federation or against it. This argument would still be emphasised, as indeed it was when we visited Singapore and other parts of that area.
I am willing to admit that the opposition is quite sincere. But I do not think that carries us very far. For what are they sincere? Hon. Members opposite are desirous of defeating the party on this side of the House at a General Election, and we desire to defeat the party opposite. So that statement carries us nowhere. Communists are sincere. I believe that Chinese communists sincerely desire to expand their influence and to aggress. That merely means that they mean what they say and what they want to do. I believe the opposition in Malaysia wish to frustrate this attempted association of South-East Asian territories in order that thus they can advance the objectives of the Indonesian Communist Party and other parties of the same kind which exist in that part of the world.
We must not forget that only a few years ago the whole of Malaya was racked with what was called Communist terrorism. I was in the area towards the end of that period. I visited many of the compounds and camps and I saw even young girls of 17 or 18 who had been rounded up as collaborators. When I went into the rubber plantations I saw trees to which Indian Tamil rubber tappers had been tied and their throats cut to serve as an example to other rubber tappers of what might happen to them unless they collaborated with the Chinese Communists. I think that 95 per cent. of those who were rounded up were Chinese Communists. We must not forget what happened during that period only a few years ago. I am glad that now it is over. But I should like to know the whereabouts of the sympathisers with the organisations that existed then. The Malay Communist Party is now not allowed to exist. But I am certain that, apart from those who were killed or left the country, there are still some of its supporters in that area who have found other parties through which they can work. It stands to reason that active militants of this kind would not sit still. They would find some vent for their own political convictions, which seems to me to indicate that they must have found other political avenues for the expression of political convictions of the same nature as were expressed during that time of Communist insurgence a few years ago.
I believe that federation is desirable in order to secure a closer association of the four territories and, if possible, with Brunei. I recognise that there is an element of military strategy in this. But is that unreasonable? I remember that when I toured these areas eight years ago I discussed this concept of Malaysia. I am certain that the discussions which then took place were not bound up with the idea of military strategy but with the simple idea that if there were these four or five territories each living their separate lives, it would be desirable for political and economic reasons to bring them into closer association.
I do not deny the military element But what of it? It does not necessarily follow that because these overseas territories wish to secure military protection, they are therefore imperialistic. If they wish, for military protection, to be associated with British protection and the resources we possess, what then? After all, India, which pursues a policy of non-alignment—quite rightly in my opinion—was profoundly grateful for the swift rushing of supplies by us to that country within 48 hours in India's hour" of need when Chinese aggression was threatening to over-run Assam on the one side and did over-run Ladakh on the other. I do not see anything necessarily malign about the fact that, just as this country wishes to find what associations it can in other parts of the world in order to secure better defence, these territories may desire to do exactly the same thing and find that the best way to do so would be by an arrangement with this country.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) that it is highly desirable that such an arrangement should be on the basis of free assent by both parties rather than by some kind of imperialist insistence. I again emphasise that there is in this part of the world a very real fear of pressure, or even worse, from the Chinese People's Republic and even from the Indonesian Republic, although that fear may be unfounded. Let us not forget India in this respect. For years India never expected the kind of successful military expedition into her territory, which took place. That in itself has alarmed many people in the Far East and in South-East Asia. Therefore, in this part of South-East Asia there is a very real fear about the tension and conflict between the two concepts of life there.
On the one hand, India has stood in the past for a concept of free democracy, while beyond the Himalayas the Chinese People's Republic is treading a totalitarian pathway. The repercussions of that are affecting the whole of South-East Asia. There is Indonesia, with 100,000,000 inhabitants and its Communist Party of 2 million we are told, and on the other hand the Federation of perhaps 12 million at the outside, trying to tread that democratic pathway. We have here yet again an arena in which this great basic historical battle of ideas and principles is being fought.
There is not only this fear, but there is also a fear of racial tension and conflict, which is very real—although, happily, there are many heartening signs of interracial friendship transcending comunal homogeneity. Nevertheless, although there are political parties which stress their non-racial or inter-racial policies, there are others in Malaya, such as the Pan-Islamic Party—which is very powerful—whose objective seems to be to secure comprehensive territorial unity in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaya and Borneo under Islamic domination.
So significant is this party that at the last election in Malaya eleven out of the 104 seats in the Malayan Assembly were secured and, more important, it secured 322,000 votes compared with 861,000 cast for the Inter-Communal Alliance, the total over-all voting being 1,600,000. That is a considerable proportion of the total and it represents a purely communal party which, if it had its way, would secure territorial unity of all Malays under Islamic domination and thereby a kind of theocratic State possibly hostile to other communities. Although it is fortunate that there is the alliance in Malaya of the three communal parties, nevertheless it contains three parties, not one. There is the Malayan Chinese Association, the Malayan Indian Congress party and the United Malay National Organisation. I am glad that they have come together in what seems prolonged association and that they have some kind of common policy, but underneath there is still this communal division.
Let us realise that in all the other parties we find the predominance of one or other of these various racial communities. Take, for instance, Sarawak. It is interesting, but rather unfortunate, to find that the parties at the recent elections in Malaya turned out to be very largely racial parties. One party largely represents the Dayaks, another predominantly represents the Malays and another predominantly represents the Chinese. I scrutinised the figures very carefully down to the little local levels. Everywhere I found this very unfortunate fact that the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians respectively on the whole support parties which express their racial character and aspirations.
We must not blind our eyes to the fact that there are these dangers as well as these heartening facts. I extend this observation also to considering for a moment why we have in the Bariasan Sosialis in Singapore and elsewhere such a large number of Chinese who, if not Communist, are affected by Communist propaganda. It is significant that in all the literature and speeches which one has heard, or seen reported, attacking the idea of federation on the ground that it is an imposition, we never have it suggested that there is fear of imposition of Communism on the whole area. I have not seen a particular reference to that. There is a complete absence of criticism of Communism, although there is very much criticism of the concept of federation.
I think the reason for this is that Chinese everywhere are justifiably proud of their ancient civilisation, which goes back longer in history than that of any other country, even of India. They are proud, not only of great cultural achievements of the past, but also of the present social achievements in a revolutionary régime which, although we may criticise it in many ways, has certain great achievements to its credit. Because of that the Chinese in many places, with a deep respect for and affinity with their ancient homeland, are prepared to accept whatever dominates China as being identified with China itself. This is not so in all cases by any means, but it arises because of the influence of China as China. In that way there is very suitable soil in which Communist propaganda can sow seeds.
Mr. Graham Page (Crosby) Surely the hon. Member recognises that there is a very loyal Malayan-Chinese community on which much of the commerce and finance of Malaya depend and that one cannot classify every Chinese person as a Communist?
Mr. Sorensen I thought that, at least implicitly, I made that clear. Of course, the alliance, with a Chinese part in it, is uniting with the Malays and Indians, and one has only to think of the Lee Kwan Yew and the People's Action Party in Singapore, which is largely Chinese, to realise that most Chinese are not Communist. There are 1,700,000 people in Singapore, of whom over 80 per cent, are Chinese, but who are mostly hostile to Communism. We have to balance these things. On the one hand there is the tendency among some Chinese to adopt whatever is Chinese for the time being. If Chiang Kai-shek had been dominating China, perhaps they would have accepted him. There is the tendency to accept Chinese Communism because it is Chinese, but with other Chinese there are different considerations.
It seems that this Federation offers a suitable opportunity for bringing together these various racial elements. That is a very difficult job because we must not underestimate the distinctiveness of these races—the Chinese with their Buddhist and Confucian culture, the Indians and Pakistanis with their respective Muslim or Hindu culture, and the Malays who are very conscious of their Islamic faith and culture. They are quite different in background and history.
I have always held that a good many sociologists and politicians underestimate the importance of these cultural, racial, ethnic and psychological factors. I recognise that economic factors are often formative and conditional, but these other factors are very powerful. There is a case in point that in this part of the world where we find three distinctive communities, who might easily come into conflict and collision, but which fortunately, have shown many signs of friendship and toleration. I hope they will be encouraged to do so still more once the Federation comes into existence.
Here again, may I briefly hold the attention of hon. Members by indicating why there is hostility on the part not only of Malayans in Malaya but also many Chinese to the idea of a complete merger between Singapore and Malaya? When I was out there with my colleagues I found that some parties, although opposed to Federation, nevertheless insisted that what should be done was to effect complete amalgamation between Singapore and Malaya. They said, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough said, "Why should just a mile or so divide this small part of a peninsula from the rest?" We know that this was not always so. This separation came about only a few years ago. But one can understand why there was this resistance on the part of the Malays to the possibility of a complete merger or amalgamation between the two, for the following reason.
In Malaya at the time of the last census in 1960 there were 3,460,000 Malayans, 2,552,000 Chinese, 772,000 Indians and Pakistanis and 122,000 others. In Singapore in 1960 there were 1,253,000 Chinese, 232,000 Malayans, 140,000 Indians and Pakistanis and 29,000 others. Put those figures together and what do we then find? If there were an amalgamation of the two areas we should have Malayans numbering 3,600,000 against 3,800,000 Chinese. Of course, the Indians and Pakistanis would also then total 913,000. Once one looks at those figures one can understand the apprehensions of the Malayans. They say, "This is our land. It is called Malaya. Yet we have the possibility of our land being swamped by those who are not of Malayan stock. We have the Chinese who came many centuries ago, the Indians who came later, as well as the British who came later." There is, of course, some weakness in the argument because even the Malayans are not the aboriginal inhabitants. Just as the Indians are not the aborigines of India, nor indeed are the English the aborigines of this country, so it can be said that Malaya was not originally inhabited by the Malayans but by people some of whom still live in the jungle.
Be that as it may, all countries are more or less composite, and Malaya is a composite country. That is why I repeat that there is encouragement to be found in the fact that the Chinese in the alliance and the Peoples Action Party have agreed, for reasons of prudence, wisdom and foresight, that there shall be not a complete merger but Federation—and a Federation not merely of the two territories but of these other territories as well.
I see nothing sinister about that at all—in fact, quite the reverse. I see only evidence of wisdom and statesmanship, a recognition on the part of a large section of the Chinese themselves that there should be this arrangement by which the natural fears of the Malayans might be in large measure assuaged. That is why the Chinese, the Malayans and the Indians are working together inside the alliance.
I would go further and say that I am very glad there are some parties like the Socialist Front that contend that they rest their organisation not upon any racial or ethnic principle but upon a political principle transcending race. I wish them well. My sympathies are obviously ideologically with them, even though I believe their judgment in this respect is wrong. Further than that, let me say that communalism, though frequently racial, is not always so. Sometimes it can be religious or cultural. But when the three are combined it can be particularly dangerous.
Here I would say in passing that I was glad the Under-Secretary of State dealt with this rather difficult religious question as it affects Christian missions and churches. I quite agree that in the past too many Christians have assumed that Christianity and British Imperialism were synonymous, but it is unfortunate that in Malaya at present, whilst Christian missionaries and Christian ministers can advocate Christianity and can worship freely—there is no doubt about that—it is an offence to convert an Islamic Malay and, indeed, the man concerned and the missionary can be punished. One hopes earnestly, although we have no power in this matter, that the same will not pertain in the other territories, and that 964 even in Malaya itself the Tunku, who is a splendid man in many respects, will allow perfect freedom to all religions, not only to advocate their faith but to convert and proselytise.
Undoubtedly, Federation has been endorsed—perhaps rather imperfectly but nevertheless endorsed—by the several facts which have been mentioned today: the fact that in Malaya the alliance is by far the largest party; the fact that in Singapore 33 out of 51 Assembly men supported Federation when it was debated in the Assembly and the rest only abstrained; the fact that on the question of the referendum, despite very hard propaganda by the Barisan Sosialis and others that those who disagreed with federation should cast blank votes, they secured only 26 per cent. of the total votes; and also the fact that in Sarawak—I forecast this for myself when I was there—there is a substantial majority in favour of federation.
I am not ignoring the contention that even one of the Sarawak pro-Malaysian parties apparently desires a referendum. I am not at all clear, incidentally, as to when this referendum was supposed to be held. I should like some enlightenment on that point. There was this meeting between the Tunku and President Sukarno and the meeting of the Foreign Ministers, and apparently there was some agreement that there should be a referendum, but information on this is obscure.
However, let me make these two points. First, by what right even the Tunku to say what the other territories inside the prospective Federation shall do? Secondly, I ask whether the referendum was supposed to be held this side of 31st August or at some future date? Those two factors are very important and I should like some enlightenment on them. Meanwhile I can only go by these figures, that according to the party votes the alliance, which was strongly pro-federation, received 56,808 votes, or 30 per cent.; the pro-Federation Panas received 28,242 votes or 15 per cent.; and the Independents, who I understand are mostly in favour of Federation, received 55,000 votes or 29.7 per cent.; whilst the Sarawak United People's Party received 45,493 votes representing 24 per cent. This is fairly conclusive evidence that the people of Sarawak, voting in their district councils—the first tier in the three-tier system—returned by a substantial majority those candidates who support federation.
Enough has been said to indicate that there is practically no dissent in North Borneo. As to Brunei, I content myself by saying that it is a pity that the Sultan should withdraw from his previous agreement to enter the Federation, and apparently on a question of precedence. I will accept it, but at the same time I do not forget that Brunei is an extremely wealthy country. It has a per capita income greater than that of this country. I wonder whether, apart from the criticism of the Sultan on the part of many of the 85,000 inhabitants of Brunei, there is not also this consideration that federation may mean to some extent a modification of the wealth which is at present available to him and his subjects?
I hope most earnestly that federation will go forward. I recognise that it is not absolutely certain it will succeed. There is no parallel between this and other Federations such as the West Indies and Central African Federations. We must be rather hesitant about making too close a parallel and analogy. This Federation has arisen, I believe, because it is really felt that the association of these territories—four, and if possible five—is desirable in itself for political and economic reasons. I admit that there has been a strategic factor, but it is only one factor. I believe that another factor is that it is a way by which these different racial communities can at last learn to work together in co-operation.
I therefore plead that we should give it a chance. Do not let us damn it with faint praise or praise it with faint damns. Let us not be too eager to rush into those areas to tell them what to do, for one of the great mistakes which so many people make is to assume that what is familiar and appropriate in our own country is also applicable elsewhere. Every country has differences in context, history and background. Although there are some points of similarity, there are very great differences indeed which should cause us to hesitate before we rush too quickly into interfering or advising other communities.
I am content to say that the people themselves must work out their own salvation. Whether they have a referendum is not for us to decide but for them. How they work out or modify their Federation is a matter for them. All we can do is to say to them, "We set you free: to stand on your own feet and to work out your own salvation. We want to work with you in friendship so that this part of the world can become one more example of how the different races can live togother in amity and concord. But it is for you to decide how you wish to work between yourselves. Because we believe in freedom, democracy and responsibility, we wish you well, and God speed you in the future".
- 1.33 p.m.
Mr. Colin Turner (Woolwich, West) It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), because it is clear that in the visits which he has paid to that part of the world, particularly his last visit, he has very well understood the basic problems which concern the States and perhaps the Federation of Malaysia. I feel that he has absorbed many more of the lessons and understood many more of the problems, and because of that has reached far different and far more right conclusions, than has the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway).
As I think many hon. Members already know, in my capacity as the business, as distinct from the editorial, representative of almost all the newspapers covering the Malaysia Federation, I have had a unique opportunity of representing these papers of all races, languages and political views since 1946 and meeting and discussing with them the problems which we have been debating today. When I had the opportunity of visiting the Borneo territories three years ago, I went around North Borneo with a group of councillors from the Council Negri in Sarawak. They were finding out for the first time what their counterparts in North Borneo felt about the possibilities of Federation.
Everything which we have heard today about the speed of events is very true, but I do not agree with my hon. Friend who suggested that events have gone too fast. In these developing Governments, with the emergence of new nations, events always go far faster than some of us would like, but when the hon. Member for Eton and Slough suggested that it was only for strategic reasons that these countries were coming together, I thought that he was only partly right. Many of these territories have realised in recent months the necessity of coming together for self preservation.
We have heard talk today about Indonesia and the Philippines. Hon. Members who take an interest in South-East Asia will have realised my own interest in the area by the Questions which I have put down from time to time about piracy and similar events. From where did these modern pirates emanate? They emanated from Indonesia and he Philippines. We have had a great defence responsibility in the area of North Borneo for the last two or three years. A tremendous effort has been made by the local Government and Her Majesty's Government to assure the people of North Borneo of adequate protection, and this is a vital issue in the area.
As the hon. Member for Leyton said, the Chinese as a whole, whatever their private political views, thoughts or business, tend to admire the emergent Communist State in China and therefore it does not surprise me in the slightest that the Sarawak United People's Party apparently over the last year has had tremendous support from the people and yet when the ballot was held support was not nearly as great as had appeared to be the case. When the ballot is secret the Chinese are apt to vote another way from the support which they are apparently giving in public.
This is not just a one-sided alliance. I believe that North Borneo has a great deal to teach to the other members of this new Federation. Those hon. Members who have the honour and pleasure of going to North Borneo know only too well what a friendly territory it is. In my view it is the most friendly territory of many which I have visited throughout the Commonwealth. Here there is true racial harmony, despite the advent of party politics. I am assured by many of my friends in that territory that this friendship still exists despite the introduction of party politics, which is always a dangerous thing in any emerging territory.
But why is it that in North Borneo racial harmony has been so good? If hon. Members look back it will be clear to them that this is due to the very careful immigration policy which has been carried out by the North Borneo Government since the war. They have been very particular indeed about the people they allowed into the Colony. Those Chinese who entered the territory did so because they had an essential part to play in the development of the economy. The position in Sarawak, on the other hand, is rather different. This is probably one of the reasons why the Communist influence there has been greater than in North Borneo. I did not agree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough when he said that the Sarawak United People's Party had not been heavily infiltrated by Communism. He said that this infiltration was only at a low level. I can only assume that he has not followed over the months the important members of the Sarawak United People's Party who have been identified with Communist infiltration. The results of the ballot box have been excellent and offer tremendous hope for the future.
The new Federation is an area right in the middle, between Indonesia and the Philippines, with Communist China above. It may be only a small nation of about 9 million people but it will have a tremendous stabilising effect on the whole political and economic situation of South-East Asia. We would all love to see a wider Federation develop in the long run. If it is to develop it must do so upon sound foundations which, I believe, exist in Malaysia.
It would do ill to this concept if one were to suggest now that Indonesia is in an internal state where it could be closely associated with a federation of this type. In Malaysia we will at least have partners who are working in real harmony. This cannot be said of the present state of the Indonesian Republic. The Central Government there are ill able to exert their influence, and until Indonesia is able to put its own house in order it would be dangerous to canvass the thought actively of a large Federation.
We have seen in Sarawak, as a result of what I call the revolt in Brunei earlier this year, many Chinese—who were previously sitting on the fence, supporting the Sarawak United People's Party or tending to look towards Communist China believing that that side would eventually win—suddenly beginning to realise where their bread and butter lay and what would benefit their economic future. The situation in Sarawak changed almost overnight when these people saw the results of the revolt.
Mr. Sorensen Would not the hon. Member agree that there were riots in Djakarta and that a number of Malays destroyed Chinese shops and other property?
Mr. Turner I agree—and that was a useful intervention. These things play a tremendous part, particularly in Chinese politics. It is only in recent years that the Chinese have taken an interest in world politics. In the past they preferred to look after their businesses in their usual efficient way, leaving politics to others. The incident mentioned by the hon. Member was one of the things which contributed to make the Chinese realise that it is important for them to be prepared to play a part in public life and to take some responsibility in their own society if it is to be democratic. The incident in Djakarta and the revolt in Brunei brought many Chinese to realise that unless they were prepared to play an effective part in the life of their territory there would be no future for their businesses in the area.
I turn to North Borneo, or Sabah, as we are to know it. We have heard today about the suggested danger of Islamic influence spreading to North Borneo and Sarawak. I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject but I know that there is a slight difference between the supporters of Islam—the Muslims in North Borneo—and those in Malaya. It is fair to say that the Islamic faith is much more strongly held and practised in certain States in Malaya than it is among the Muslim peoples of North Borneo, to whatever sect they belong.
Religion has been worrying the people of North Borneo. In the talks and correspondence I have had with people of all races in North Borneo, they have been emphatic in pointing out that Islam should not be the State religion of North Borneo. Another thing they, particularly the Chinese, have been concerned with in North Borneo is the use of the English language. Many of my Chinese friends in the area have always felt that their ability to use English counterbalanced the greater economic and business experience of some of their fellow Chinese in Singapore. They have felt that this ability to speak, write and understand English would act as a sort of insurance policy should they come together with the business and economic communities of Singapore, which is the trading centre of the whole area. I have always believed that the English language was the key to the success of not only the Federation of Malaya but the greater Federation of Malaysia. It provides a common link of races, and people fine it of tremendous value in business arid commerce. It is the one thing that will more than help to keep the Chinese closely associated with these territories and tend to keep them from looking, as they naturally desire to do, back to China. I hope that as the Malaysian Government look to the future they will not try, when the 10 years are up, to substitute Malay or some other language as the language of the territory. I hope that if this country leaves anything behind in that part of the world, as I am sure it will, one of the great things we leave will be the almost universal use of the English language.
In my many tours of the area I have never found the slightest difficulty in being able to converse in English wherever I have been, even in some quite remote parts. In fact, wherever one goes in the area, if one is prepared to wait long enough, someone is bound to turn up and be able to converse in English. This is particularly so if one is in a Chinese shop and the owner considers that he is going to sell something. In that case, he will always manage to find someone who can converse in English. This has frequently happened to me and it is a good thing: that it has because my knowledge of Malay leaves much to be desired.
Freedom of religion and a continuance of English as the basic language in that Territory are the two things of fundamental importance to the people of North Borneo. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) pointed out, they are also anxious that the expatriate staff—officers in North Borneo—should be persuaded to remain in as large numbers as possible until more North Borneans have been trained to take their part in the Civil Service of the area.
I appreciate that in the long run Malaysia must interchange with the Civil Services of the three territories—and I am assuming that eventually Brunei will decide to join the Federation. After all, how can Brunei stay out? It is a key economic little State stuck between North Borneo and Sarawak and holding most of the means of communications between those areas. Despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough about the roads not being passable, one can now drive all the way from Brunei to Miri on moderately adequate roads. For this and other reasons, how can one possibly say that this small State of Brunei can remain outside the Federation? It is linked with the refinery at Miri and it is to be hoped that the Sultan will decide to take his part in the Federation. Let us hope that he will make that decision soon.
I do not wish to detain the House. I must comment on the question which has been asked as to whether or not the local civil servants in North Borneo and Sarawak did not influence the people too greatly in favour of Malaysia. I believe that the information services of these two territories have played a magnificent part in getting the people to understand the problems involved. It was not possible for the newspapers or any other form of communication, except those controlled by the Government, to reach the people in the interiors. A shortage of wireless sets and poor communications mean that the newspapers are generally restricted to the main towns and surrounding areas. It was only by the use of the civil servants, the district officers, and the information department machine that it was possible to get any form of understanding to the interior peoples of this idea of Malaysia. Far from criticising them for influencing people one way or the other, I should like to pay my tribute to those people for the magnificent job they did in getting over the idea of Malaysia and then letting the people decide what it was they wanted to support.
These people, particularly in North Borneo, have their feet firmly on the ground, and I see a great democratic future for this country of Sabah and great potential development. It has rich land waiting to be developed and the development that has taken place since 1946 is quite fantastic when we consider the devastated state that North Borneo was in after the Japanese war. There was not a solitary permanent building in existence in North Borneo. To look at it today, and to visit it as I have done about every other year since that time, is to see these developments taking place. The British Government, the commercial interests, and the people of North Borneo themselves have a lot to feel proud of in their co operation between all the three sections during these years. Having paid that tribute to the civil servants in the two Borneo territories—
Mr. Bottomley I think that the hon. Member would be doing a disservice to the civil servants if he said that they were trying to influence Malaysia. What they were doing was urging the importance of registering their votes.
Mr. Turner The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct. They were enabling people to hear something about these proposals. Up to that time, they had no means of understanding anything about politics or voting or doing anything together. I believe that the civil servants did a magnificent job in creating a picture and letting the people decide when they went to the ballot what they wanted to do.
Finally, I should like to pay a very sincere tribute to the great ability, wisdom and understanding of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaya. I think that he has emerged as one of the great statesmen of the Commonwealth, a man who in the years to come will play a tremendous part in peace and the securing of it in South-East Asia. I should also like to pay my tribute to the new—and they are practically all new—leaders of political opinion in Sarawak and North Borneo for the way in which they have shown moderation and understanding of each other's problems. I hope that in the months and years that lie ahead they will all continue to show this understanding of each other's problems, because I believe that if they do this we shall have a great and new emerging nation in the Commonwealth which will play a tremendous part in the years, that lie ahead.
- 1.54 p.m.
Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield) I want to say only a few words because in this admirable debate most of the ground has been covered. Of course, I accept the principle of the Bill. I believe this area to be highly vulnerable, of great strategic importance, and that greater unity in this area will promote the well being of the countries of the area and the welfare of the people of the respective Territories.
I have in the past been associated with some of the changes which have occurred in this part of the world. I was the responsible Minister when we were trying to secure some degree of unity in Malaya, and I must carry some responsibility for the severance of Singapore from Malaya. I agree with the statement made earlier in the debate that probably we were rather ham-handed in the way in which we conducted the MacMichael discussions.
I believe that it was essential if any political progress were to be made in Malaya that Singapore should be cut from it, and also, of course, that we should try to lay a democratic basis of Government in Malaya itself. That was what we were endeavouring to do, although it was exceedingly difficult with the Chinese insurrection in Malaya and also the revolution which was still being worked out in China itself.
I ought to say that when we severed Singapore from Malaya, we wrote into some of the papers that were made public at the time our desire to see at a later date the restoration of Singapore in Malaya. Perhaps, too, it is fair to say that later when the Chartered Company finished its administration in North Borneo and when Rajah Brooke transferred the administration of Sarawak to the British as a Crown colony we felt even then that at some distant date there ought to be federation of at least these four territories. I think that the Secretary of State will find in the papers in the Colonial Office a note by me to this effect, that we looked forward to a time when, now these four territories were under the British Crown, at least some close association could be formed between them. In my period of office, I held discussions with Mr. Malcolm Macdonald for the purpose of ascertaining the best way of achieving this. I say this because one hon. Member spoke of the Federation not being conceived until a couple of years ago and chiefly for strategic reasons. I want to say that in the minds of many of us there was always some idea of a close association of these four territories. Therefore I am more than glad that at last that purpose has been achieved, although it may be that in the latter stages the process has been somewhat hurried.
I rise, however, to say two or three short comments in regard to the proposals which are before us. We are all conscious that there is not unanimity for this great project and that in Singapore, too, there is strong opposition and also, I believe, to some extent, in Sarawak. I hope that the Government will be tolerant and understanding of this opposition. I understand the bargain to be a fairly hard one for Singapore in terms of representation on the governing authority and, possibly, also in some of the economic arrangements which have been made.
My chief concern is that there should be adequate safeguards for Sarawak and North Borneo in the association which is now being formed. These are somewhat primitive, unsophisticated countries and the people who will ultimately be responsible for administering them have had little or no experience of administration of alien native peoples. It will, therefore, be a severe test for the new authority in regard to the policies which are pursued in the Territories from which Britain is withdrawing her administration.
I hope that the safeguards which will be built into the constitution will be real on behalf of those somewhat under-developed peoples and that they can go forward making the equal progress which they possibly would have made had they remained under the British Crown.
The experiment is one of great difficulty because of the number of peoples and races who are involved, but I think that the experiment in Malaya augurs well. To bring together three principal peoples like the Indians, the Chinese and the Malays under a single Government and to maintain harmony when there are so many conflicting pressures and conflicts in the world, is certainly a great achievement by the Malay Government. I hope, therefore, that tolerance and good will will be shown and that there will be understanding of the basic differences which exist amongst the peoples concerned.
I hope, further, that the British Government will not withdraw all their support of a practical character because a new nation or federation is being formed. The technical, financial and military assistance has been of great importance and I hope that a continuation of this technical co-operation, practical aid and financial help will be forthcoming and that as a result of our co-operation we will see the progress which we had hoped to see when some of these schemes of welfare development were inaugurated.
I hope, too, that it will be possible to entice Brunei to come into the Federation. Its strategic position is one of difficulty to itself if it does not join. I hope that the extraordinary wealth and great resources of that country can be utilised in a wider field than merely Brunei itself. Some of the advantages of that wealth could be shared by other parts of Borneo, by Sarawak and North Borneo. I hope that we will use our good offices in that direction.
I hope that with the coming together of this association, the principle of local autonomy will be full recognised. I cannot conceive of how these federations can work unless there is a widely recognised principle of self-government inside the respective provinces and territories. One of the mistakes that was made with Central Africa was to allow one of the three territories there to be in a dominant position in the Federation. As I said in the last debate on Central Africa, the East Africa Federation is coming into being largely because, right from the beginning, the equality of the respective territories was fully recognised as well as the equality of the races.
I hope, therefore, that the central Government of the Federation will be sufficiently tolerant and will give the respective territories as wide as possible an opportunity of self-expression and self-government in the territories and not restrain or restrict them by tedious prohibitions and by assuming too geat an authority over them.
I conclude therefore, not only by approving this final step, but wishing the Federation the best of luck and success in the days to come. I have great faith in some of the leaders, whom I know. I believe that they are tolerant and that they respect the principles of democratic government and I am certain that they will try to implement these principles in this great association which they are creating.
- 2.7 p.m.
Mr. Graham Page (Crosby) in this debate, the House has had the benefit of a wealth of experience from those who have spoken and it would be impertinent of me to try to follow the comments of some of those who know the territories concerned far more intimately than I do.
There is, however, one matter which has not been touched upon. The Bill which is before us contains a Clause which particularly concerns and interests me. I refer to Clause 5, which deals with judicial arrangements. The reason why that Clause interests me is that I practise as a Privy Council appeal agent and since what I would call the Malayan appeal formula, which was found about six years ago, I have been involved in almost every appeal which has come from Malaya to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I have seen how satisfactorily this formula has worked and how satisfactorily appeals from the courts in Malaya have been dealt with by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
As the House will know, in appeals from Colonial Territories the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not a judgment, but is advice to Her Majesty. When Colonies have emerged to independence and have become Commonwealth nations and have gained administrative and legislative independence, it has been difficult for them to stomach judicial dependence in that form, coming to an appeal court which does not give a judgment, but advises Her Majesty on the Order which she should make.
Nevertheless, the Judicial Committee is held in such high regard by the Colonial and Commonwealth countries that I am sure that it would have been the desire of many of them, as they emerged to independence, to retain the services of the Judicial Committee. Some of them have done so and have found it extremely valuable in helping their own courts to take in the native judges, who have proved to be such extremely good judges for their own countries. They have welcomed the guidance and the brilliance of the Judicial Committee as an appeal court. As I say, some of the emerging countries have found this extremely useful. Others have found that it is politically impossible for them to retain the appeal jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee.
Malaya solved the problem. Petitions for leave to appeal from the Malayan courts to the Judicial Committee are petitions not to Her Majesty but to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Head of the State, and he passes the petitions to the Judicial Committee for their advice. In the same way, when the substantive appeal goes to the Judicial Committee from Malaya, the decision is given not as advice to Her Majesty but as advice to the Head of the Malayan State.
Clause 5 of this Bill is testimony to the very satisfactory way in which this has worked over the past five or six years, because under Clause 5 that system is to continue—or at least, we are providing for it to continue if Malaysia so desires, and my information is that Malaysia will desire to continue with that procedure, thereby linking some 19 races, in one form of judicial procedure, to a Commonwealth judiciary. It is a recognition of the Judicial Committee as a Commonwealth court—as the supreme Commonwealth court—and as a help to the judiciary within a Commonwealth nation which is emerging to independence. I say a help, in no way a bully. The Commonwealth courts have always known they could rely upon the Judicial Committee to uphold the prestige of the Commonwealth courts.
I want to stress that, under Clause 5 of this Bill, and as it has been for the past six years, it is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which hears the appeals, not the Privy Council. There is a distinction there—that the Commonwealth courts are asking the advice of the Judicial Committee, not asking the advice of Her Majesty's Privy Council.
But if the Malayan formula which has proved so successful with Malaya over the past years is not universally adopted, how long can we hold this position with Malaya itself? I say "hold this position", because I am sure that all Members of the House would wish to have this important link between Commonwealth nations. It is an active, practical Commonwealth link which we ought to make every effort to maintain. We lost the opportunity of maintaining it with the emerging African nations, but we have it here, in a successful form, with Malaya in the past and with Malaysia in the future. I want just to make quickly three proposals to implement Clause 5 and incidentally to strengthen the Commonwealth ties by doing so.
First, I would ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that a Malayan judge is frequently available to sit in the Judicial Committee. If Malaysia is to send appeals here and keep this Commonwealth link, then we should see that a Malayan judge is sitting from time to time in the Judicial Committee. We had for many years a most valuable Ceylon judge on the Judicial Committee. We have recently had a very eminent New Zealand judge sitting there, and I hope that we can get this principle well recognised, that those countries who retain the appellate jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee should have their own judges sitting on that Committee.
My second proposal is that the Judicial Committee should go on circuit. It should not only sit in the old town hall by Admiralty Arch. Indeed, perhaps hon. and right hon. Members do not know that it sits in an old town hall by Admiralty Arch. It used to sit in Downing Street. But if we are to continue this as a Commonwealth court it should go on circuit throughout the Commonwealth. Air travel is so quick these days that it is almost as quick to move the court out to Kuala Lumpur as to get a Scottish Law Lord down from Edinburgh, and here is an opportunity, with this Bill going through, to say that for the Michael as sittings in 1963 the Judicial Committee will sit in Kuala Lumpur. We should set that precedent, taking the opportunity of this Bill. When Malaya and the other States joining in this Bill have said, "This has worked for the past six years admirably, we are going to continue it," surely we in this House should respond by urging my right hon. Friend to see that arrangements are made for the Judicial Committee to sit in Kuala Lumpur for sittings in the very near future.
Thirdly, we have talked time and again in this House about the Judicial Committee being the supreme court of appeal for the Commonwealth, but we have never been prepared to recognise it as such ourselves. We continue with the House of Lords as our supreme appeal court. Can we really expect enthusiasim for the Judicial Committee from the emerging Commonwealth nations, and, indeed, can we expect Clause 5 of this Bill to last for any length of time, if we ourselves stand aloof from this Commonwealth court? Of course, it is a quite Gilbertian situation when we think that exactly the same members sit in a Committee Room of the other place here as the supreme court of appeal for our judicial system in this country as sit in the old town hall as the Judicial Committee, the supreme court of appeal for the Commonwealth. Surely our right course, if we wish to keep this great and practical Commonwealth link, is to abolish the appellate jurisidiction of the House of Lords and put in its place the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council under a new style, the Commonwealth Court of Appeal, advising the Heads of State of each of the Commonwealth nations.
I would warn my right hon. Friend that this is a matter for him and not for the Law Officers. I have pleaded this case in Adjournment debates and so on over many years. I have made no progress whatever with the Law Officers' Department. It will never be done if my right hon Friend passes it to them, and I very much doubt whether we shall hold Clause 5 of this Bill for any length of time if this is not done now or at any rate soon. This is a major Commonwealth political decision, and this is the opportune time to reform both the House of Lords as an appeal court and the Judicial Committee and to form them into the Commonwealth Appeal Court. Malaya and the new Malaysia have pointed the way to this, and the form under which it can be done, without any loss of prestige whatever to the independent Commonwealth nations, and we should not disregard the wisdom they have shown.
- 2.20 p.m.
Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly) As a layman, I was very interested in the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I was particularly interested in his suggestion that the Judicial Committee of the British Council should go on tour, which would provide a useful link to cement the Commonwealth still further.
I was also very interested in the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who spoke so interestingly about the Commonwealth. I was very interested in his suggestion that the time has come when we ought to consider whether we ought not in some of these matters to put ourselves on the same footing as other countries in the Commonwealth. That would be an application of a principle already embodied in the Statute of Westminster of 1931, which we have not yet carried through.
One of the things that have made this debate so very interesting to us and will make it very valuable to members of the public who care to read the reports of it is that we have had the advantage of listening to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have recently been in the territories discussed and have been able to bring back to us the knowledge which they have gained and the impressions that they have formed there and to advise us about the provisions of this very important Bill. I have been very glad to listen to them and have waited until they have spoken until venturing to catch Mr. Speaker's eye because I thought it was important that the House should be informed of their views.
It is now more than 13 years since I had the very great privilege of first going to Malaya. That was my first visit to any of the territories after I became Secretary of State. I was accompanied by John Strachey, who was then the Secretary of State for War. I hope the House will permit me to say what an enriching experience it was to go with him on a visit to a country so full of problems, economic and political—indeed, all kinds of problems—and to have the advantage of his rich mind and of conversations with him and his help over those matters. It is indeed sad for the House and the country that we have this week lost John Strachey. I would pay my very sincere tribute to his memory and say that my memories of our fellowship for years in this House and, in particular, on my first visit to Malaya will abide with me all my life.
In 1950 it was a very different Malaya and a very different scene. Malaya was then engaged in a life and death struggle, which could easily have gone the other way. I am turning the pages of memory a little. It certainly was touch and go in 1950, and if it had gone the other way we should not today have been discussing this Bill and considering Malaysia.
It was clear to me then, as it was to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) when I discussed these matters with him, that in the future the problem of the relationships between Malaya and Singapore would have to be considered and dealt with and that a wider field would have to be taken into consideration if we were to build out of these territories a nation which could be economically viable and politically stable and provide for its people the opportunity of a rising standard of life.
It was interesting at that time that many of the young Malay students here talked of "a great Malaysia". In those days they thought of a Malaysia which would include Indonesia. I hope the time will come—it is not yet—when that will be considered. They are so close to each other—and their languages are interchangeable—that, looking to the future, I hope very much that the time will come when it will be possible to extend the present area into a wider federation. I certainly express the hope that in the meantime there will be reasonable cooperation and peaceful relationships between the new Malaysia and Indonesia, for that is very important.
This federation is full of interesting problems. It can, indeed, be the opportunity for the building of a nation which can make a wonderful contribution not only to the Commonwealth but also to the world. The races concerned have different backgrounds, traditions and religions, and will want to preserve them, and they have a right to do so. If they can find a way by which they can live and work together in equality and dignity, it will be a wonderful contribution to the solution of one of the world's greatest problems, that of getting not only black and white but people of all races to live together. How dire the consequences if they divide on racial grounds can be seen in the tragedy of British Guiana. Therefore, I hope the federation will be a success.
I believe that we shall give unanimous assent to the Second Reading of this Bill so that Malaysia will come into operation and will shortly become an established nation. It is vitally important that it should succeed. Federations are always risky ventures. Our experience has not been altogether too happy. But this federation is vitally important. I want to deal with only one aspect of the matter, about which not a great deal has been said. The Under-Secretary referred to it, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to devote some attention to it. The subject has come before us only today. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) had a point when he said that we should not discuss this on Friday. It was only this morning in Hansard that we got a statement about the financial arrangements. We: ought to have had it earlier. I speak with the disadvantage that I have been trying to analyse this matter while listening to the debate. It is not fair to the: House; we ought to have been given more opportunity.
I believe that Malaysia, if it is to succeed, must be generously aided by us to help it through the very crucial years that lie ahead. I should like to put one or two points to the Secretary of State about the statement of the aid that we purpose to give. I wonder what he feels will be thought about this when it is seen outside and read in South-East Asia having regard to what has been said here about how this matter may be regarded by other peoples in South-East Asia. Does he think that the balance between defence and civil aid is right? Does he not think there is a danger that it may be said—we had better face this now—that we are perhaps more concerned, judging it merely by this statement, about the strategic considerations involved? I do not say that strategic considerations are not important—I should be the last to say that, remembering Malaya in 1950—but I feel that the civil aid should be on a much more generous scale.
It is the hope of all of us that Malaysia will grow into a strong democratic country with representative institutions, modelled on ours and adapted to their needs. South-East Asia is almost the most crucial junction in the world, and if democracy in Malaysia and all those other countries is to be sustained, I would say what I said in the debate the other day in relation to the great wind of change in the world. The best term I know was that used by President Truman: "The revolution of rising expectations of a higher standard of life". There are rich spots in this new nation, and there are also poor spots, and there are still very great problems. I hope, therefore, that, in wishing the new Federation well and in passing this Bill, we shall all realise how important it is that this venture does succeed.
I hope that the Secretary of State will pay attention to what was said about defence by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick. I think that we are all agreed that this is of great importance. In particular, I hope that we shall give adequate civil aid. We are grateful for what is to be provided under the Bill but I believe that the total amount is inadequate and that the balance between military and civil aid is not what it should be.
I join with my right hon. and hon. Friends in wishing this new nation every possible success. We welcome it to the Commonwealth. It will have great opportunities and the challenge of creating a democratic nation in one of the key points in the world. In wishing it well, I hope that we will support our wishes with tangible aid in order to make the new nation a success.
- 2.31 p.m.
Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East) My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) referred to the tragic death of our colleague John Strachey. We all regret Mr. Strachey's passing, and it is significant, in discussing this Bill, that his last job as a Member of this House was to meet the delegates from Malaysia. I know that he wished this venture well, which is a hope that we all echo today.
My right hon. Friend has put some questions which I am sure the Secretary of State will answer. I want to put one point immediately which I think is a justifiable criticism from this side. We know that the Bill was delayed because it was not possible to agree on the conditions of federation, but I would have thought that we might have been told today about some of the conditions on which the Federation has been established.
My hon. Friends the Members for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) have spoken about the recent visit to Malaysia which the three of us paid. To me it was a wonderful experience. I had two most delightful companions, and it was a privilege to have them with me because of their rich experience and knowledge of colonial questions. Indeed, they were talking about colonial matters in this House before—yes, I think this is true—any others of us at present today were Members of this House.
I thus had the benefit of advice on all aspects, with particular emphasis on the views they hold on various problems. But what was particularly pleasing was to see the way in which both of them were received by the peoples of the territories and how not one Minister but several paid tribute to them both for the help they had given in the past.
We are called upon today to decide a matter of great importance to the peoples of the Borneo Territories, Singapore and Malaya. I have given the question of Malaysia very anxious thought and careful consideration. The formation of this Federation has not been hurried. Those concerned have carefully considered every detail and did not agree until the last hour. Indeed, one of the parties—the State of Brunei—has decided not to join.
We are not only having an extension of Malaya. We are, in fact, creating a new State, and I take it for granted that the other Commonwealth Governments have been consulted and that they will cordially welcome the new State into the Commonwealth. I am sure that the Secretary of State will have something to say about that.
I have said that the establishment of Malaysia was not hurried. Indeed, it goes back further than 1961. In 1958, the Governors of North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei put forward the pros and cons of close association and then, in 1961, Malaysia was initiated by the Governments of Malaya and the United Kingdom.
This move was originally welcomed by all the progressive forces in the five territories concerned. It was felt that such a federation would bring about the earlier ending of British colonial rule in North Borneo and Sarawak. It was also seen as a means of preserving, in independence, the viability of the less developed territories through the creation of a larger unit.
At the outset, even the Communist-inspired parties in the area supported the plan. But when it became clear that federation might become a barrier to Communist expansionist aims in South-East Asia, that support was withdrawn. Since then, the plan for federation has come under attack from Communist sources channelled, in the main through the Indonesian Communist Party. But let us not forget that much of the power and the cunning comes from Peking.
An inquiry into the attitude of the peoples who would be joining the Federation was made by a commission under Lord Cobbold. He went to North Borneo and Sarawak between February and April last year. The Commission, which included the Chief Minister of Penang and the Permanent Secretary of the Malayan Ministry of External Affairs, endorsed the finding that one-third of the population in each territory was strongly in favour of an early realisation of Malaysia without making conditions, another one-third was mainly favourable but asked for conditions and safeguards varying in extent, and the remaining one-third was divided between those who insisted upon independence before federation and those—I was rather glad to note that they were a large number—who still preferred to see British rule continue for many years.
During September, 1962, the legislative assemblies of North Borneo and Sarawak adopted resolutions unanimously welcoming in principle the decision to establish Malaysia by 31st August this year. The terms for the accession of Singapore were worked out by a joint Malaya-Singapore working team whose decisions were set out in a Singapore White Paper.
As has been said, these findings were subsequently endorsed by referendum. There can be no doubt about the majority in favour, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough and others have said, the referendum itself was criticised. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick said, before the advent of the referendum a vote was cast in the Legislative Assembly in favour of Malaysia, with none voting against.
Personally, like my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough, I consider it unfortunate that we have to rush through the legislation as we are doing today. However, we must face the fact that the territories concerned are anxious to start the Federation on the date agreed and it would be wrong for us to try to upset that timetable or go against their wishes. Those who, like myself, think that the House has not had sufficient time to discuss the matter would have been quite happy to have had the Parliamentary Recess put back a little in order to afford more time for the subject. That, of course, would not have been popular with all hon. Members.
But, after all the territories concerned have agreed on federation, it is at this time that a fierce attack has been launched on Malaysia. It comes from a source perhaps not unexpected but, in view of earlier support, it is unfortunate that Dr. Sukarno should be responsible for this attack. He says that the Prime Minister of Malaya said that there was an understanding among the representatives of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaya that Malaysia would not be formed before some kind of United Nations investigation. The Tunku, the Prime Minister of Malaya, does not share this view. It is rather significant that the third party to the talks has not made similar representations, although it is only right to say that it has expressed concern and has said that it thinks that this misunderstanding can be discussed, and I imagine it is hoped settled, at the forthcoming summit conference. The Tunku himself has said that he would be willing for the United Nations to test local opinion if those concerned were willing. This is encouraging and it can only be hoped that as a result of the leaders of these three territories, Malaya, the Philippines and Indonesia, coming together, we might even yet happily find some solution to the problem.
Before leaving London to visit the Malaysian territories in May of this year, I thought that it would be useful to go to Indonesia, and certainly my colleagues and I wanted to do so. After all, we were anxious to get the Indonesian view of Malaysia first-hand. Unfortunately, we were unable to go because we were going by B.O.A.C. aircraft and there was a strike at the time and that aircraft was not allowed to land in Indonesia. The reason for the strike, as put out by the official Indonesian news agency, was that Indonesians were being expelled from North Borneo and that as they were being expelled a British warship, a patrol craft, shelled the ship in which they were being taken and that two children and a woman were killed. I think that I can speak for my hon. Friends and say that we, looked into this very carefully and satisfied ourselves that there was no truth in this allegation.
However, it was clear that we could not go to Jakarta by B.O.A.C., and so we tried to go by Air-India. We were told that this was not possible because of the association between Air-India and B.O.A.C. I said that we might be able to go with the help of the Royal Air Force, but we were told that in those circumstances not only could the plane's safety not be guaranteed, but even our lives and those of the crew might be in danger. It will be readily understood that we were not anxious to go in such conditions. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough is closely connected with and is a personal friend of President Sukarno and I know Dr. Subandrio, and we thought that a personal telegram to them saying that we would like to come might result in their trying to facilitate our visit. Something must have gone wrong, because we did not get a reply.
I feel confident that President Sukarno is prepared to accept Malaysia, but he is under great pressure from a very powerful Communist Party in Indonesia. It is because of this that at times he appears to vacillate and to be unable 988 to make up his mind. I express the hope that he will attend the Manila Conference, to be held shortly, because I think that Malaysia established is something which President Sukarno himself requires and that is a blending together, a confederation, of Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. I am sure that his real fears are not of Malaysia but of Peking.
Chinese expansionist aims might turn the whole area into a virtual satellite of that colossal nation in the north. For myself, and I think that my hon. Friends would share this view, there can be no doubt that the threat in South-East Asia today is from Communist China. I have been to this part of the world before, and many others who have would share with me the view that India has great influence in that part of the world, but that the Chinese have succeeded in weakening it considerably by over-running the Indian frontier last year. This was doubtless one of the objectives of the Chinese strategy in committing aggression against India. Russian and United States influence is about equal. Both countries are respected as the greatest Powers in the world. It is even possible to get benefits from both by playing one off against the other. We British are still liked and respected, but surprise was expressed that we were not able to give more help. I wish that we could do so, but we have to recognise that we do not have the resources to help as much as we would like. I believe that we can help by backing Malaysia and doing as much as possible to make it a success.
As has been said, all federations have weaknesses and it is difficult to see the ultimate result once federation has begun. There is no doubt that the Chinese communities may be drawn towards Peking China, but this would happen anyhow, and in my judgment there is less likelihood of Chauvinism if Malaysia flourishes. The territories forming the federation are more likely to succeed in building up a nation in which all the communities are blended than if they are isolated and weak.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough and my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton made extensive inquiries to find out the attitudes of those concerned towards Federation. I may say, that I played my part, too. In Singapore I met the Government Party, the People's Action Party, and the leaders of the United People's Party, the Singapore People's Alliance and the United Malayan National Organsiation. All of these parties expressed themselves in favour of Malaysia.
We attended a great demonstration organised by the most powerful Opposition party, the Barrisan Sosialis. At the demonstration were the Workers' Party representatives, the Partai Rikyat, and the United Democratic Party. All these at one time have said that they are in favour of Malaysia in principle but, in the case of Singapore in particular, on the basis of entering on equal terms, which they said were not apparent. They also said that there had to be a general election before a final decision could be taken.
We also had the opportunity while meeting the Barrisan Sosialis to meet the leader of the trade union movement associated with this group of parties. All of these are opposed to Malaysia. My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton read extracts from some of the documents. One which is quite inaccurate and misleading is that in which it is said that the real reason for Malaysia is a British military adventure in that part of the world. This is circulated to all the peoples of Asia and as widely as possible among some organisations in this country. This document stands condemned. Far from wanting to engage upon military adventures, the desire of the British people as a whole is to see peace, in that part of the world.
The secretary-general of the other trade union organisation, which claims, I think justifiably, to have the largest trade union membership, told us that his organisation was in favour of Malaysia. We met the representatives of the Press, Chinese, Malayan and English. While I have no doubt that they were mainly pro-Government, it was interesting to hear their views. They said that they were all in favour of Malaysia and were representative of the majority views of their readers.
We went on to Sarawak and met leaders of the political parties there, the Negara Party of Sarawak, the Alliance Party, and the Sarawak United People's Party. I ask the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Turner) not to dismiss the latter party and associates as Communist organisations. This is doing a disservice. Many of these organisations have genuinely progressive men and women in them, and if they were in this House they would join those who sit on these benches. We should do all that we can to strengthen their hold on the party and not let them feel that they are being pushed aside.
I know that there are others in Malaya who share this view and hope to make contact with these progressive-minded people in the hope that in time Malaya might have a form of government similar to the one we hope this country will have in the not too distant future. We also met all kinds of other representatives in the territories, and all were in favour of Malaysia, except the Sarawak United People's Party and the trades unions, who are associated with it, who left us in no doubt; that they were against it.
The interesting thing to date—and I am sure that the Colonial Secretary is much better informed and will be able to say whether this is in fact the case—is that as a result of the elections the parties in favour of Malaysia have succeeded in getting the greatest number of votes. This is reflected in the Council Negri, which is the kind of Government which will run the territories. The Alliance Party, the powerful party which supports Malaysia, has 19 seats, a majority of two over all the other parties concerned, to there can be no doubt that as a result of the elections—and in this case I am sure my hon. Friends will agree with me that the elections were fought pretty fiercely over whether Malaysia was to be established or not—it can be said that in Sarawak the majority favour Malaysia.
In Brunei, the Partai Rikyat, which contested the elections last year, won all the seats except one, and ultimately the holder of that seat thought that it was better to join the majority and he came over. The fact that the Partai Rikyat won so many seats would seem to indicate that most politically alert people in Brunei were against Malaysia. We may be wrong in our judgment on this, but my hon. Friends and I feel that the revolt which took place after the elections was connived at by the Sultan. It is said that the Sultan of Brunei encouraged Azahari to form a party which won the Election. He thought that as a result of the revolt it would set in motion a movement for Sarawak, North Borneo, and Brunei to be joined together once more and for him to be the Sultan of the territories, but when he saw the dangers of the revolt and that he might be deposed instructions were given that it must be suppressed. Having talked to people out there it is interesting to realise that once those who were in the rebellion found that they had not the support of the Sultan and were challenged by the police, they laid down their arms. This, of course, did not apply to the hard core, who carried on, with the result that the Sultan became so alarmed that he asked Her Majesty's Government for troops to help quell the rebellion. Three of us formed this opinion, and I think it would be very unfortunate if we enabled the Sultan to carry on in a situation in which a political party, the Partai Rikyat, is banned.
We met the leaders of the four new political parties. They were in favour of Malaysia, but we could not accept their judgment as a true guide to the opinions of the people in Brunei. We hope that the Sultan of Brunei will not expect us to go on forever holding up his position as an autocratic ruler. It is encouraging to know that the Sultan is coming to this country, I think very shortly, and I ask the Colonial Secretary to impress on him the need for elections to be held in the territory as soon as possible. I hope to tell the Sultan that, in his own interests, it would be much better to go into Malaysia and accept his position as a constitutional monarch and not stand out for this right of autocracy.
We then went on to Malaya and met the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet. They gave us their views as to why they thought Malaysia was absolutely necessary. They said that it was necessary for the peace and security of their part of the world. They felt that it would bring independence to a number of countries—North Borneo, Sarawak, Brunei and Singapore—which were at present under Colonial rule. They said that their discussions with people in the territories concerned had shown clearly that they were desirous of federating with Malaya. We also met leaders and representatives of all the Opposition parties. They were opposed to Malaysia, although not altogether in principle, because they thought that the coming together of the territories was logical, and might be essential. But they said that as at present conceived it was neo-Colonialism, and they did not believe that they would get their full freedom from British control and domination.
As was said by one hon. Gentleman opposite, our visit followed that of a member of the United Nations Secretariat, Mr. Narasimhan who went on a fact-finding mission, following which he said that in his opinion the majority of people whom he met favoured Malaysia.
During the debate today some hon. Members have, quite rightly, said that federations do not always succeed, and they quoted the Central African Federation which we have been in the process of dissolving this week. But I ask them to take note of the successful federations. We commence with the United States in 1787, then Canada in 1867, Switzerland in 1874, Australia in 1901, and then of course we have the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal States of the Soviet Union, and the more recent examples of India, Pakistan and Nigeria As my hon. Friends have said, the Federation of Central Africa was imposed on the majority by a minority group, and it was obvious that it was doomed from the outset. I was pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary this morning acknowledging the Government's mistake in this respect, but the facts have proved themselves by the way in which we dissolved that Federation.
This is not the case with Malaysia, but I should like to strike one note of warning. The People's Action Party in Singapore is a very progressive one. It provides excellent social services for the country, and it is making great social and economic advances. It is making large inroads into school and housing shortages. A flat is built every 45 minutes; a feat which we might try to emulate in this country. They have given great thought to the expansion of Singapore's industrial output. They have introduced equal pay for men and women in the civil services, and they have made many other progressive moves.
The Malayian Government are an alliance of traditionalist Malays and capitalist Chinese. They are a little alarmed at the developments in Singapore. We can only express the hope that Malaya will not prove to be a brake upon this drive by the Singapore Government towards improving the standards of the peoples in the area. Malaysia is being created to contain Communism. We sincerely hope that it will not be the means of frustrating or driving out a Socialist Government. Since British forces will be stationed in this new Federation for a longtime, and will continue to support the powers of Malaysia in relation to Singapore, it is extremely important that Britain's remaining influences should be used to restrain any unwise use by Kuala Lumpur of its federal powers.
Britain has now to take another decision of great importance to millions of people who have been under her rule and protection. We hope that they will be better able to accept independence if they are standing together, strengthening each other politically and economically in the hard world of the twentieth century. The difficulties engendered by a multi-racial society are only too apparent, but we must look forward to the emergence of a Malaysian identity from the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities, who mainly people the territories. A common administration and a common language, corporate action, joint officials, and representatives will help to amalgamate the various races. It is for this reason that we shall watch with anxiety and hope the birth of the Federation.
I, too, join myhon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brock-way) in saying how grateful we are to all those officials and peoples in Malaysia who made us so welcome and provided us with every opportunity of examining on the spot all those things which have helped us to make up our minds. I express my thanks to our own Colonial and Commonwealth civil servants, working here in London, who, whenever I asked for assistance and help of any kind, only too readily gave it to me. We all hope that Malaysia will succeed.
Mr. Harold Davies (Leek) In view of the fact that this is one of the most important pieces of social and economic strategy and political engineering to South-East Asia, I should like to know whether the debate will be completely finished when the Minister has spoken. I know that he wants to get the Bill, and I want him to get it, but on a day like this, when we are discussing a question which is vital to the whole of Asia, I must put my protest on the record. I want the Minister to get the Bill, but I should like to know if there is any way of extending the debate.
- 3.2 p.m.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Duncan Sandys) I join with the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) and the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J.Griffiths) in expressing my sorrow at the death of John Strachey. He took a very active part in all Commonwealth affairs in this House, and in many other matters. We all admired his very clear and original mind, and his fearless and honest expression of opinion. As I got to know him more closely and personally I developed a real friendship with him. I therefore mourn his death not only on public but also on personal grounds.
Several hon. Members—including the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies)a few moments ago—have referred to the somewhat hurried nature of these proceedings. I also regret it, but I want to explain the reason. First, there was a delay in the signing of the agreement. We had hoped to get it signed considerably earlier, but there were difficulties in the negotiations which held us up.
There is also the need to get the Bill through before the Recess, because the date for the creation of Malaysia is 31st August. The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East said that he would be quite prepared to have the Recess delayed, and to put back his holiday, liven if that had been the general wish of the House—and there is no evidence that it is—there is another factor to be taken into account. We are not the only people who will be required to pass legislation. We are passing this modest Bill, but if hon. Members will read the Blue Book they will appreciate what a long and complicated Malaysia Bill the Malayan Parliament will have to pass, and they cannot do that until we have pronounced upon the future sovereignty of these three territories.
I think everyone will agree that we have had an interesting debate. First, I should like to pay my compliments to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East for an extremely thoughtful speech in which he roamed into the wider fields of the future, with regard to the possibility of extending this Federation to embrace other territories in the area, a speech to which I am sure we all listened with great interest. Altogether, I think that it has been a very valuable debate in which we have had the benefit of contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House, who all, in one way or another—some as Ministers, others as residents in these parts of the world and others as travellers—have been able to bring to the debate personal knowledge and experience.
I join with the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) in congratulating all those leading representatives of the various Governments who have taken part in the negotiations. Although, as he said, there was hard bargaining and difficulty in arriving at agreement, none the less we must recognise that, in the end, all made concessions and accepted compromises in order to achieve an objective which is common to them all.
I should also like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to my colleague the Minister of State, Lord Lansdowne, for the very important part which he played as Chairman of the Inter-Governmental Committee. He went backwards and forwards to North Borneo and Sarawak, and he, together with Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaya, played a very important part in explaining to the representatives of the peoples of North Borneo and Sarawak just what was involved, in allaying their fears and anxieties and in ensuring that those safegards which they felt were necessary were incorporated in the new Constitutions of those two territories.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick said that he regretted the decision to create sovereign military bases in the territory of an independent country. I think that if he looks carefully at the Agreement he will find that that is not the case. We are not creating sovereign military bases. What we are doing—it is Article VI of the Agreement—is something quite different from the bases in Cyprus. What we are doing is to extend the defence agreement which we have with Malaya to embrace the whole of the territories of the new Malaysia Federation. We are, of course, providing that we shall continue to be able to use the defence facilities in Singapore, without which we could not carry out this enlarged responsibility.
My hon. Friend the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) said that Indonesia thought that Britain, even after the creation of the new Federation, would be pulling strings behind the scenes, and she asked me to give some assurance on that point. Obviously, to those in this House such an assurance is not needed, but to those outside it is, perhaps, worth emphasising that once a country is independent it is indeed independent and that we do not try to interfere in its internal affairs, politically or in any other way.
We believe that the success and future prospects and strength of the new Federation will depend essentially upon the two territories of North Borneo and Sarawak looking to the Federation for their future, and not looking to the former colonial Power. That does not mean to say of course, that we shall not wish to maintain, as has been urged by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the closest relations of friendship with those territories and with the whole of Malaysia and to continue to give them such support and assistance as we can. I should like to join with my hon. Friend in her tribute to the expatriate public servants. She referred particularly to Sarawak and to the period of Rajah Brook. More than one hon. Member urged that the present officials should not leave too soon. This is absolutely right, and I can assure the House that it is the wish of all parties and races in the Borneo territory that expatriate officials should stay on as long as necessary in order to train local people to take their places.
My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) thought there was some danger that the safeguards in the Borneo territories might be abolished by the federal authorities. There are, of course, a variety of safeguards, some more important than others, and I assume that my right hon. Friend was referring to the more important ones. The abolition of the principal safeguards—the ones to which he referred particularly relate to religion and language—would require a two-thirds majority in the Federal Parliament and, in addition, the consent of the State Parliament. That is a pretty good safeguard. My hon. Friend regretted that the safeguards for language in Singapore have not been provided for North Borneo and Sarawak. I know that this Blue Book is a long document, but if my hon. Friend will look at it again, he will see that the safeguards are the same. The language cannot be changed without the consent of the State Parliament.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked when North Borneo would become Sabah. The answer is when the Federation comes into being on 31st August.
The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) and other hon. Members asked about the right of Christian missionaries to proselytise and make converts. It is true that in some States of Malaya there are certain restrictions by regulations under laws made by those States and not by the Federal Parliament. But because we were aware of this and because anxiety had been expressed about it, special precautions have been taken to ensure that this kind of thing cannot happen in the Borneo territories except with the general consent of the people. Article 11 (4) of the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya provides that State and not federal law may restrict the propagation of other faiths than Islam among Muslims. On the other hand, the Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia will provide that such State law may be introduced in North Borneo and Sarawak only by a two-thirds majority of the total membership of the State legislature. Since Muslims in North Borneo represent only 38 per cent. of the population and in Sarawak only 23 per cent., there is little risk that there would be a two-third majority in favour of introducing restrictions of that kind.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) urged that technical, financial and military assistance should continue. That of course is our desire and intention. The right hon. Member for Smethwick thought that the financial arrangements appeared generous. I regret that the House has not had longer to study these provisions. But it has been a bit of a rush and I do not pretend that it has not. Some of these matters have had to be cleared with the Governments concerned after the signature of the agreement; so it has not been altogether easy to get everything ready in time for this debate.
On the military side we are extending the Malaya defence agreement to embrace all Malaysia, and have offered to finance the new battalions needed in Singapore and the Borneo territories. We want the Malaysian forces to take over from us as quickly as possible responsibility for internal security. We do not want to have this for longer than necessary inside an independent State.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly said that he thought the amount we were giving was too little and the balance was wrong. We were giving too much for defence and not enough on the' civil side. I can quite understand his reaction to that, but I would point out that Malaysia is a stable and prosperous country and is able to raise money outside for economic development, from sources such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other such organisations. That money, however, is available only for economic development, not military needs. That is why, knowing that they have to depend for help on the military side from their friends and allies, we thought it right to put rather more emphasis on the military aspect of our aid than otherwise would have been done.
Mr. J. Griffiths I quite appreciate that point. What I am concerned about is that it sounds all right in this House but steps should be taken to see that that kind of balance is not given another interpretation elsewhere.
Mr. Sandys The financial authorities of the Federation, in the end, have to look at the whole of their expenditure together. Therefore, the fact that we are relieving them of certain expenditure which otherwise they would have to incur on defence, will enable them to devote greater resources to the development of these territories. The money we are providing for development is linked to the Borneo territories. It is not for the Federation of Malaysia as a whole. In addition—this was one of the things we sat up so late about—we secured agreement by Singapore to make a substantial loan to the Federation for the purpose of development in the Borneo territories.
The hon. Member for Leyton produced some powerful arguments against those who cast doubts on the popular support which exists for Malaysia, and who questioned whether it was wise to go ahead with this plan without further investigation of opinion. However, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) took a rather different view. I know he favours the idea of Malaysia, but he expressed doubts about the timing and questioned whether more effort should not be made to make sure that the people of these territories really wanted Malaysia and were ready for it.
He asked for some delay in bringing in the Federation, first because of his doubts about the existence of adequate popular support and, secondly, on the ground that it would be damaging to the relations with Indonesia, and possibly also the Philippines. I cannot accept that there are serious doubts about what he majority of the people want, nor do I believe that relations with Indonesia would be improved by appearing to hesitate and draw back at this last moment.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough questioned whether there was adequate popular support, particularly in Sarawak. I think he recognised that there was a reasonable majority in favour in North Borneo, but he questioned whether in Sarawak this support existed. This new association is coming into being after very prolonged thought and discussion within the territories themselves, and between their Governments, and, as the right hon. Member for Wakefield pointed out, we have been thinking about this ourselves for quite a long time. It is, of course, a local initiative. On the other hand, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, we have thought for many years that this was a good solution. The fact that neither the Labour Government nor the present Government have publicly advocated this course was because we felt that it would stand a better chance if it grew out of a natural desire from the people on the spot, and was not given the appearance of an initiative taken here in London.
However, that does not mean that this is all just a last-minute conception. A great deal of thought has been going on. There has been a great deal of discussion between us and the Government in Malaya before this all came into the public Press. Nobody can reasonably suggest that this is an ill-considered plan.
I am convinced that the Federation has the backing of a majority of the peoples of all four territories. Since doubts have been expressed about the attitude of the peoples of North Borneo and Sarawak, and particularly Sarawak, I should remind the House of the extent of the consultations which took place. First, there was the Cobbold Commission which expressed the unanimous opinion that two-thirds of the population of both territories were in favour of Malaysia subject to proper safeguards, which I believe we have secured, and they seem to recognise that they are adequate. A little later, the Legislatures of both territories passed resolutions without a dissentient vote in favour of Malaysia. Both these Legislatures were subsequently dissolved and general elections were held. In both territories these elections have resulted in majorities for parties which support Malaysia. I think that is pretty conclusive.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough said that he thought that whilst there might be a majority in Sarawak in favour of Malaysia, nonetheless there was probably a majority which favoured a plebiscite; or, at any rate, a part of the majority for Malaysia was not in favour of going straight into the Federation without holding a plebiscite beforehand. I do not think that is correct. I should like to explain what the position is. As the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East said, (he Alliance Party, which is in favour of Malaysia without a plebiscite, obtained 19 votes out of the 36 members of the Legislature. Then there is the Panas Party which—and this is where the confusion arose—for some time has been in favour of Malaysia, but then after the recent election, or in the course of this complicated election in different stages, joined in a declaration with another party in favour of a plebiscite before Malaysia was created. It has now changed its mind, and, as evidence of that, the leader of that party, A bang Haji Mustapha signed the agreement without reservations, which is pretty conclusive evidence that it is prepared to go forward with Malaysia without insisting upon a plebiscite.
There are seven independents. Four of them are in favour of Malaysia and three are against. There is only one party which is against Malaysia, and even that has some qualifications. That is the S.U.P.P. which has five members. Hon. Members can analyse that as they think best, but even if they count only the 19 members of the Alliance Party, there is a clear majority in favour of going ahead without a plebiscite.
Mr. Brockway I appreciate that the figures must be uncertain. I am basing my statement on the Government's official bulletin which is issued from Sarawak. In the issue of last week it stated that a coalition has been formed between the Sarawak United People's Party and the Negara section of the Alliance Party, and that the coalition favours a plebiscite before Malaysia is introduced. If it is true that the Negara section has withdrawn from the Alliance on that issue, then the figure of 19 Alliance members is very substantially reduced. I am only expressing a question mark about this, because I think that the facts and figures are still very uncertain.
Mr. Sandys I have no confirmation that there has been any change in the attitude of the Alliance Party which all along has been the party which has been campaigning for Federation.
Mr. Brockway Only a section of it.
Mr. Sandys I do not think that there is any question of there not being an overall majority for federation. There are also the other elements. There are four independents in favour of Malaysia and five members of P.A.N.A.S. I do not think that we need worry that if it were put to another vote—I do not know whether they will think it worth while doing so in their own Parliament—there would be much doubt about there being a majority to support the Federation. I do not think there is much doubt about that.
Mr. Sorensen Does it not follow that if they wish to have a referendum they can always have one? It is for them to decide.
Mr. Sandys I think that we have gone through all the processes which could reasonably have been expected to ascertain their views, and I have explained them to the House.
I would like to say a word about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) who rightly stressed the value of the appeal procedure to the Privy Council. He said that this was an active practical Commonwealth link, and I entirely share his view. He made the interesting suggestion that the judicial committee should go on circuit to other parts of the Commonwealth. I like the idea very much, although I have no doubt that there may be some practical difficulties, but I will certainly bring it to the attention of the Lord Chancellor.
We welcome Malaysia for its internal and also for its external implications. Malaysia will open up wider prospects for economic development and industrial expansion, and benefits will accrue to the less-developed territories of North Borneo and Sarawak as well as to the more industrialised States of Malaya and the great commercial centre of Singapore. Malaysia will also bring added security to all its members against the dangers of external attack.
In the wide context there can be no doubt that the Federation of Malaysia will provide a new element of stability in what the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East rightly said is a none too stable area. It will constitute a new bulwark of freedom and democracy in the Far East. We are convinced that the peoples of these territories want Malaysia. We are convinced that Malaysia is in their best interests. We are convinced that it will contribute to economic development, political progress, security and peace in these territories and in South-East Asia generally. I am sure, therefore, that we can give this new union our unqualified blessing; and this debate has shown that the whole House sends its warm good wishes to Malaysia and all its peoples.
- 3.30 p.m.
Mr. Harold Davies (Leek) We are today discussing such an important part of the world and such a tremendously important Bill that the implications involved in the establishment of the Federation will, within the next 20 years, bring a change in the social, political and economic history of South-East Asia. The word "Malaysia" will be heard more in the next 6 to 12 months than ever before.
The British Government are performing a constructive task in relinquishing Her Majesty's sovereignty and jurisdiction over this area. Without meticulously going over the details of the Bill, I will concentrate on the implications it has for South-East Asia. These are particularly important for those of us who have tried over the years to understand the dynamic force Oriental man has possessed throughout history. I will deal with the strategic implications of the Bill later.
Whatever hon. Members on either side of the House may say, irrespective of their constituencies or parties, it is clear that we no longer look upon these territories in the old-fashioned, imperial way of the 19th century. For many years I had the job of composing a weekly article on events in the Far East. For this reason I realise, perhaps more than some hon. Members, how important it is when asking supplementary questions or making remarks in the House not to say things that might be interpreted in other parts of the world in the wrong light, especially since the hon. Member making such remarks may not be aware at the time of the inferences that may be drawn from them. It behoves us today to make constructive suggestions and to show that we wish to be constructive and progressive towards Malaysia.
Hon. Members who know the Far East and who have studied its history will be aware that there was a flourishing civilisation there long before King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. That civilisation had its own politics, architecture and other advancements, which were spread to the furthermost parts of New Guinea. In other words, there has been through the centuries a magnetic force in Oriental man giving him a desire to progress and unite. This helps to show that, by the Bill, we are not forcing something on him but are assisting him in his desire for progress and unity.
Time does not permit me to delve more deeply into this interesting subject. It is essential to realise the progress that has been made in this area in recent years. One does not need to be a student to know that the reports produced by the United Nations Far Eastern section have revealed that in Malaya the production of food per head of the population is not much greater than it was in 1938.
It is easy to say that the only problem facing Malaysia is that of Communism. That is not so. Malaysia's fundamental difficulties—and this applies to Indo-China and other areas—concern the hungry peoples of the territory. If Britain wishes to help Malaysia succeed in this venture it is in that direction that aid is most vital.
Malaysia can succeed only with the help of Indonesia and the Philippines. I was talking with some of the Philippinos who were over here not long ago and discussed the strategic implications of the whole area. I should like to see them join Malaysia ultimately, and I hope that we shall find the answer in a greater Malaysia. The Philippines have not yet completely solved their own problems. Unless this part of the world which sells to Western technological man tropical oils, greases and fats gets a fair price for them from Western Europe, the United States of America and Britain, they will not get the economic stability they want.
Therefore, whatever party is in power, stability of prices is essential for these areas where a revolution of awakening expectation is taking place. Stability of prices for raw materials is a problem which must be solved. It can only be solved by the actions and studies of the kind the United Nations is undertaking. It is no good just using words. We live in a world where words are controlling man and not man controlling words. When a politic an gets up on the platform and says that the problem of Malaysia has to do with the Chinese or Communism, it is easy for the public to say "Hear, hear", but that is not the problem at all. It is only a small aspect of it. The problem has to do with the buying and selling of goods that these people are trying to produce and the prices that they get for them. That is why the Freedom from Hunger Campaign is so magnificent in its conception. The people in these under-privileged parts of the world must first learn to produce their own foods, rather than have doles pushed out to them, because those come to an end.
I do not know whether hon. Members will like this, but it is my duty to say it. I shall not contribute to the general statement that the enemy there is China. I am hoping that the trade talks will be a success, and I shall be delighted if the Government succeed. All we want on earth is peace, and it does not matter whether a Tory gets it or a Labour man gets it at the Moscow talks. But inside these talks we must realise that it is no use pretending that a nation of 700 million people does not exist. This might seem a far cry, but if we want stability in South-East Asia and the Malaysia area we must appeal to the United States, the Soviet Union and ourselves to see that China takes its rightful place in the comity of nations for the proper discussion of all these technical problems which have to do with the tens of millions of Chinese who are in this archipelago.
I apologise to the Minister for coming in late, but there were reasons, because some of us have a little other work to do.
I hope that some time, even if it is next Session, the Government will find time for the House to have a half-day constructively to discuss the technical problems of Malaysia, including, possibly, a White Paper, to show these people that we wish them well and that we will try to ensure that they get the stability of prices that is needed. As has been shown by all those who understand the problem of economic aid, without stability of prices economic aid is useless, whether in Malaysia or anywhere else. If we let the people have food and stable prices for their commodities, the problems of Communism and hunger will begin to disappear. We wish the Bill well, but some of us have to make these protests.
- Question put and agreed to.
- Bill accordingly read a Second time.
- Bill immediately considered in Committee.
- [Sir ROBERT GRIMSTON in the Chair]
- Clause 1.—(MALAYSIA.)
- Clause 2.—(CONSEQUENTIAL MODIFICA TIONS OF BRITISH NATIONALITY ACTS.)
- Clause 4.—(POWER TO MAKE CONSEQUENTIAL PROVISIONS.)