British Colonial War Crimes: Unpunished, Unaccounted And Awaiting Apology – OpEd
By Shenali Waduge
The British Empire was the world’s first global power and largest empire with dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and territories controlling close to 500m people covering over 33,700,000 km2- quarter of the world’s landmass. In 1909 the British Empire encompassed 20% of the land area of the Earth and 23% of its population. All the roads to all the evils that exist globally lead to Great Britain and the violence sown by one system and their engineering of sectarianism. It is this legacy of criminal history that has been passing on unabated and not a single country has been afforded an apology thus far. It is in looking back at history that one would find all the answers – it is history that would set the records straight. It is for these reasons that certain quarters attempt to through their international offices subjugate history.
“We are not a young people with innocent record and a scanty inheritance. We have engrossed to ourselves — an altogether disproportionate share of wealth and traffic of the world. We have got all we want in territory, and our claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seem less reasonable to others than to us” – so said Winston Churchill denoting the mindset of all imperialists.
Would anyone think the British capable of burning down villages to the ground, seizing and raping women and children on orders, hanging prisoners without trial, starving locals to death, infecting natives with smallpox, getting natives addicted to opium and alcohol – these are just a few of the crimes attributed to Great Britain.
The wealth of the imperial countries – its gold and raw materials were all robbed, the people of these nations whose lives were without the complications and complexities it suffered as a result of colonial rule needs to be reiterated. There were no equity, justice and impartiality, there were no good governance that was given as a legacy, all the niches that were carved out have only served to continue to divide from the first divisions carved out to facilitate the rule of the colonials.
None of these former colonials welcomed British or European rule – their nations were all occupied by force. It was not only the natives that were mercilessly killed and executed, their lands were transformed to cash crops, they brought in guns and cannons, their “deals” and “agreements” were insincere, they destroyed the culture and heritage, the religious bonds that existed and in its place a legacy which we are yet to shrug off yet the ignorant remains grateful to the arrival of these colonials.
The British ruled Ceylon between 1815 to 1948. When the British landed in Sri Lanka its population was just 800,000 by the time the British left 150 years later that population had risen to 7m – there was never a time until repatriation in 1971 and 1981 that the Sri Lankan Tamils outnumbered the Indian Tamils who brought in as cheap labor from India.
The brute force used in Sri Lanka was only a replica of the brutal policies used by the British in all other colonies and territories. Kandyan chieftans were promised unconditional warranty that Buddhism would remain inviolable but these were never kept. Entire villages and farms were torched, cattle slaughtered, vegetation’s burnt to the ground and people killed remorselessly. Lands were taken by force to start cash crops resulting in diverse affects to the environment and natural surroundings. The aim of the British was simply to annihilate the traditions, customs, culture and religion of these natives in order to facilitate the plunder of wealth of these nations.
The Uva Rebellion/Third Kandyan War (1817) turned into a guerilla war with rebels being brutally massacred by the British. The Madulla massacre was one of shoot-to-kill policy leaving not a woman or child spared. When despite rescuing over 294,000 Tamil civilians the British Government is crying genocide and war crimes why have they remained mum over 200,000 deaths in 1848 when orders were to kill anything above 8years!
Refer the House of Commons Committee for the gory details that would include how Lt. J. Maclaine of the 73rd Regiment whose pastime was to watch Sinhalese men being hung one after the other whilst enjoying breakfast!
Even the animals were not spared – elephants the mode of transport used by both King and villager alike for cultivation, tanks, religious processions soon became the target of huntsmen who designed weapons from England. Samuel Baker headed the elephant slaughter killing 30-40 elephants on a daily basis – calculate this into 150 years to estimate the number of elephants the British have killed as a sport in Sri Lanka. There are plenty of memos to prove these allegations though most of these hidden secrets have been destroyed by the British.
The British laid siege on hundreds of natives in the colonies who like the Sinhalese were men who were protecting their nation using just bows and arrows!
Do these crimes started and spread from the British Raj to the present not pale in comparison to the other crimes which were drawn upon these original methods?
Justice for Mau Mau rebellion – Kenya
It took over 60 years for justice for victims of the Mau Mau rebellion because the British Government took away all evidence of their atrocities and destroyed evidence against them – atrocities that included “roasting alive” Kenyans, beating natives to death, concentration (internment) camps where men were anally raped using knives, broken bottles, rifle barrels, snakes and scorpions, even making a special tool to crush and rip off testicles by British forces. These detention camps held more than 160,000 Africans between 1952 and 1960. The Mau Mau court hearing charges numbered over 400 brought by 4 elderly Kenyans – 2 victims of castration.
If these were not horrific enough pliers were used to mutilate women’s breasts while men were rolled up in barbed wire and kicked around the compound. This is Britain that is preaching human rights after committing 200 years of human rights abuses! The same Britain that makes heartening appeals to the International Criminal Court while it remains guilty of depopulating natives of Diego Garcia so that it could give its buddy America a military base to carry out renditions and human torture – so has the British learnt lessons inspite of its colonial crimes?
It was through the Mau Mau hearing that emerged that the Foreign Office held 9500 files from 36 other former British colonies secretly further emphasizing oppression by imperial forces a hidden past that no British child is today aware of. Yet Britain and its present and future generations are beholden to know how Britain became the society it is from the looting and plundering nations and completely destroying the unity that existed amongst the indigenous peoples.
India was Britain’s prize catch but it had its own share of British atrocities. English East India Company did pittance to help the famine since rice fields were turned into poppy plantations to grow opium. The famine brought down the population from 150,000 to 30,000 in Dhaka as part of the Malthusian population theory adopted by British advisors to starve natives to death. The 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre led to hundreds of unarmed civilians ordered to be killed by General Dyer. During the Partition of 1947 where the largest mass-migration took place upto 3m died and Britain simply abandoned its responsibilities. 6-7m Indians had been starved to death by the British in 1943-1945. The Indian Holocaust is in excess of 1.8billion between 1757 and 1947. Are British human enough to tie thousands of Sikhs to gun cannons and fire!
We cannot reiterate enough that the real villains of the world are those that own the Bank of England established in 1694, the US Federal Reserve who control the World Bank and IMF as well as the world’s intelligence agencies – a network known as the “Club of Isles” having $10trillion in assets. The square-mile City of London is a sovereign state run by the Bank of England which is a private corporation and not subject to British law. Yet the Bank can even dictate to the British Parliament and it was these very bankers that created the British Empire.
Today democracy is simply a means to control society using mass media and education systems.
The power of the banks is their monopoly over credit using Government’s credit to print money and forcing taxpayers to make billions in interest for all Central Banks are private institutions that give credit to businesses and individuals. It is not hard to fathom how bankers have been destabilizing society and creating one crisis after another forcing those who depend on credit to remain mum.
There are many who view that what happened is past and should be forgotten. Well that appears to be directed at only white crimes – but these same Governments blow hot and cold over crimes that are not half as horrific as the one’s that were systematically part of plundering nations. Imperial amnesia is nothing that can be swept under the carpet. It is what connects the roots to the ills that prevails globally throughout the third world.
What the British Government needs to understand is that apart from its crimes committed as part of imperial policies what is more horrific is the manner it attempted to illegally conceal and destroy documentary evidence of its colonial crimes secretly kept in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s security premises in Buckinghamshire. The atrocities committed by the British East India Company and the British Raj are what BBC’s Channel 4 should be showcasing first.
The question remains why politicians and media alike are afraid to accuse Britain of its barbarism which is an important part of history of man. Why have historians themselves failed to associate the brutality of an empire that spanned such a land mass affecting the lives of millions of people? We are talking about centuries of hidden history, hidden crimes and imperial amnesia.
The British was responsible for the death and destruction to millions of people throughout Asia and Africa. Indigenous heritage had been annihilated and in its place natives were Christianized and people marginalized and decentralized to create chaos with political administrations leaving people fighting for territory and power.
All that the West proudly enjoys were built from gold, spices, opium, oil, minerals all looted from the colonies while natives were turned into slaves and today suffering from poverty and a new wave of neo-colonialism.
Britain stands accused of crimes against humanity of not just one nation but several hundred, not just a handful but of millions of people. Britain stands accused of slavery, plundering of land and natural resources of territories belonging to the Indigenous people. Should Britain not be compensating these countries at least 20% of the value of goods produced and extracted from the resources since late 1400s? Should Britain not compensate for the damage done to the environment as well as compensate for the cruel and inhuman manner women were raped and impregnated as a policy.
How much should the United Kingdom Government pay the world’s citizens for centuries of imperialism, wars, diseases and mass murder – $58 trillion or $8350 for every living person was a suggestion – is this really enough to cover the injustice suffered and the injustice that still prevails – it is when China becomes the sole superpower and Britain faces its decline when reparations demands will surface!
The world needs to know exactly what the European powers – the French, the Italians, the Germans, the Belgians, the Portuguese and the British empire did to the people of the world and the legacy that these nations continue to be burdened with.
Yet, if the German government could formally apologize for the enslavement and genocide of the Herero peoples of Namibia, French showed some resent over Atlantic slave trade though yet to apologize to Algeria, in the 1980s the Canadian Indian Tribal Chiefs were given a public apology, while in the 1990s the Maoris of New Zealand were extended a public apology….
It is now time for the British to apologize for its crimes.
Why can’t the British apologize to the rest of the world for its crimes against humanity?
The views expressed are the author’s own.