Letter: British victims in Malaya

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD be quite wrong to allow Neil Barnet (Letters, 5 June) to leave the impression that in overcoming the Malayan Emergency Britain was engaged in brutal colonial oppression, although it is sadly true that innocent people of all races were caught in the crossfire.

The emergency was created by orchestrated groups of Chinese Communist guerrillas whose stated objective was to wrest control of the country from the indigenous Malay Sultanates of the Federated Malay States and the British administrators of the Straits Settlements. The prize would have been rubber, tin and the enhancement of Chinese Communist power.

It was the policy of all British post-war governments to mount a phased withdrawal from their Far Eastern spheres of influence, handing over the administration in good order to the indigenous people. It would probably have happened sooner if the emergency had not taken place. Our presence in Malaya was by treaty, not conquest, and we were always aware the Malays were vulnerable to the rise of Chinese economic power.

My father was one of four brothers who spent part or all of their working lives there. One died a prisoner of war and another, Robert Boyd, had been directed by the Colonial Office to set up the Co-operative Movement to further the interests of Malay workers not long before he, too, became a prisoner of the Japanese. Those who survived received a rapturous welcome on release.

Clodagh Wilkinson

London W11