British minister says ‘active debate’ on apology for India massacre

Indian visitors gather near the Jallianwala Bagh Martyrs' Memorial ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar on April 7, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019

British minister says ‘active debate’ on apology for India massacre

  • Former British prime minister David Cameron described it as “deeply shameful” during a visit in 2013 but stopped short of an apology

NEW DELHI: A British minister said Tuesday there was an “active debate” in government about apologizing for the killing of hundreds of Indian civilians, as India prepared to mark the 100th anniversary of the atrocity.
The April 13, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters, remains an enduring scar of British colonial rule in India.
Colonial-era records show about 400 people died in the northern city of Amritsar when soldiers opened fire on men, women and children in an enclosed area, but Indian figures put the toll at closer to 1,000.
Former British prime minister David Cameron described it as “deeply shameful” during a visit in 2013 but stopped short of an apology.
In a debate on the subject in London on Tuesday, Foreign Office Minister Mark Field said the massacre was a “shameful episode in our history and one that we deeply regret to this day.”
He said: “It would not be appropriate for me, in the context of this particular debate, to apologize today, but I have found many of the speeches very very compelling and I will take up with the foreign secretary and number 10 Downing Street a sense that we perhaps need to do a little more than the very deep regrets that I have set out today.”
He said representatives from the British High Commission would visit the site to lay a wreath and that the government would also publicly acknowledge the centenary in Britain.
A ceremony was due to take place at the site of the massacre on Saturday.
Earlier Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP who organized the debate, also called for the British government to say sorry, “not just explaining away what happened, but apologizing for our involvement and what was done in our name.”


New Zealand volcano spews ash plume in eruption, several injured

Updated 17 min 5 sec ago

New Zealand volcano spews ash plume in eruption, several injured

  • As many as 100 people were in the vicinity when the eruption began
  • The White Island volcano is one of New Zealand’s most active

WELLINGTON: A volcano erupted in New Zealand on Monday, spewing a plume of ash thousands of feet into the air, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying tourists were among several people unaccounted for as emergency services mounted a rescue operation.
As many as 100 people were in the vicinity when the eruption began about 2:11 p.m. (0111 GMT) on White Island, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the east coast of North Island, authorities said, sending up smoke visible from the mainland.
“We believe 100 people were on or around the island,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference, adding that a rescue operation had begun, although it was too early to confirm any injuries or deaths.
“A number of people are reportedly injured and are now being transported to shore,” she added. “It does appear to be a very significant issue...particularly the scale of people affected, at this stage.”
Many of those affected could be tourists, she said.
“I’m not sure if these people were on the island or near it, but there was definitely one group out there and they definitely needed medical care,” said Judy Turner, the mayor of the coastal town of Whakatāne, near White Island.
“There were some injuries and the focus is on getting these injured people back safely and to get them to a hospital.”
There seemed to be no danger for people in coastal areas farther away, she added.
The island’s immediate surroundings were hazardous because of the eruption, the National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement, adding that falling ash might affect some areas.
The “short-lived eruption” threw an ash plume about 12,000 ft (3,658 m) high, New Zealand’s geoscience agency GNS Science said in a statement, but added there were no current signs of an escalation.
The White Island volcano is one of New Zealand’s most active.