Families of massacred Malaysian rubber tappers press UK for apology
Agence France-Presse in Kuala Lumpur
Relatives of 24 Malaysian rubber tappers killed by British troops in 1948 yesterday pressed their demands for an apology, after a London court ruled that Britain was responsible for their deaths.
However, they expressed anger after the High Court judges on Tuesday upheld a British government decision not to hold a public inquiry into the shootings.
Quek Ngee Meng, lawyer for the campaigners who have been battling the case since 1993, said they would appeal against the latest court decision.
Although the ruling appeared to give the families a strong case to sue for damages, Quek said: "Compensation is not the point but a full acknowledgement of the fact.
"Family members of those killed are now pressing [British] ministers to accept the facts found by the court, take full responsibility for the massacre … and apologise."
Last November Britain said it would not hold a formal investigation into the Batang Kali killings in then British-controlled Malaya.
But the victims' families filed a judicial review, heard in May, claiming there was enough evidence to justify an inquiry.
During the hearing, the London High Court was told that British soldiers surrounded the Sungai Rimoh rubber estate in Batang Kali on December 12, 1948, shot the 24 workers and set the village on fire.
The incident, which has been referred to as "Britain's My Lai" after the infamous Vietnam War massacre, occurred during the so-called Malayan Emergency, when British troops conducted military operations against communist insurgents.
Although the court concluded there was no legal duty to hold a public inquiry into the killings, it rejected the official position that the government was not responsible as the soldiers were under the command of a Malayan ruler.
The judgment said the troops were under the direct command of the British army.