THE support of an eminent British historian for a book by two Singapore-based authors is helping to drive new legal moves in London with evidence to show how 24 innocent men were killed by British troops in a Malayan rubber plantation in 1948.
Britain’s 62-year-long refusal to resolve the ‘Batang Kali Massacre’ controversy during the Malayan Emergency is being challenged by Professor Anthony Short, according to a media release from Horizon Books Pte Ltd, based in Singapore.
Four decades ago, Prof Short was appointed official historian for the Malayan Emergency period.
Writing in the authoritative Asian Affairs journal, he describes the British Army’s action or Batang Kali as ‘a matter of dispute’, among others.
The media release said prominent London legal firm of Bindmans LLP, representing surviving kin of the 24 plantation workers killed at Batang Kali, now await Whitehall’s final response to the latest arguments and fresh evidence submitted in the case.
The lawyers are demanding a public enquiry and reparation for the families of the victims.
Prof Short’s article in the Asian Affairs journal is a direct reaction to accounts of the affair, detailed in the book, Slaughter and Deception at Batang Kali, by Australian writers Ian Ward and Norma Miraflor.
The medal release added that as author of The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948-1960, published in 1973, Prof Short now ‘commendably admits’ his own official history’s ‘very brief account’ of this incident ‘seems now to have been wrong’.
He lauds the Australians’ book which, with his support, is forming an important foundation stone to Bindmans’ latest legal submissions.
Prof Short writes: “We are closer to the answers to some of these questions as the result of the publication in Singapore in 2009 of Slaughter and Deception at Batang Kali, written by Ian Ward and his wife Norma Miraflor.
“Ward was for many years the Daily Telegraph correspondent in Southeast Asia and for the last four years, has worked with his wife on this extraordinary story. Thanks to their tenacity, we now have a proper account of a story that has been running for more than 60 years, a detective story that lacks only a denouement.”
Arguing similarly for ‘justice and humanity’ for the surviving relatives of the Batang Kali dead, Prof Short notes: “As a point of comparison, in the case of Bloody Sunday, where 13 unarmed men were shot dead in Northern Ireland, the cost of the enquiry alone has been nearly 200 million pounds.
“Is there now any reason why a fraction of that amount should not be given to the victims of historic misfortune in Malaysia? If only in admission of ‘a bona fide mistake’, it could form part of a more honourable conclusion to a dubious affair.”
According to the media release, copies of Slaughter and Deception at Batang Kali have been formally submitted to the Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London by Bindmans’ legal team.
Other copies have been sent to members of the UK House of Lords and the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, director of Horizon Books, John Francis said in a statement that the information concerned the Malayan Emergency’s Batang Kali Massacre cover-up and associated controversy.
“Undoubtedly, these developments will be most relevant as international attention turns increasingly to the worrying subject of military excesses in times of conflict,” he said.