Thursday, February 29, 2024
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Home » HT This Day: October 18, 1947 — Burma to be independent in January

HT This Day: October 18, 1947 — Burma to be independent in January

by Benoy Mazumdar
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A treaty of agreement between Britain and Burma was signed here this morning by the British Prime Minister, Mr Attlee, and the Burmese Premier, Thakin Nu, on behalf of their respective countries.

The Anglo-Burmese Treaty will operate from January next when Burma, after the transfer of power, leaves the British Commonwealth to become a sovereign independent nation.

The terms of the Treaty will be published as a White Paper on October 24 when the Government will introduce into Parliament the Burma Independence Bill. This will give constitutional authority to the transfer of power and is expected to be rushed through the House of Commons in a matter of weeks at the outside.

Mr Attlee described the occasion as ~unique “for the Treaty has been signed in anticipation of a transfer of sovereignty which has not resulted from the exercise or the threat of force.”

The historic scene, rendered colourful by the national dresses of the Burmese delegation, was witnessed by principal members of the British Cabinet, including some of the architects of the Anglo-Burmese constitutional settlement.

Though the proceedings lasted only a few minutes they were full of drama from the moment when Burmese leaders. Thakin Nu and his colleagues, entered the Cabinet room to be greeted by the already assembled British Ministers and advisers.

A brief interchange of friendly greetings between the Burmese Premier and Air Attlee. the British Foreign Secretary, Mr Bevin, the Secretary for Burma, Lord Listowel, and the Economics Minister, Sir Stafford Cripps, took place as a score of cameras and cine-cameras recorded the incident for history.

Disposed round the long oval Cabinet table, the Burmese delegates with their pink head-dresses made a sharp contrast with the sober garb of the British representatives. While the cameras still whirred. Mr Attlee, with Thakin Nu on his immediate right, addressed the gathering.

“I do not want to make a long speech today,” he said smiling towards Thakin Nu. ‘’but this is an historic occasion and it would not be proper that it should pass without some words from me.

Treaty Between Equals

‘’Today the Prime Minister of Burma and I are signing a treaty to regulate the matters arising out of the transfer of power from Great Britain to Burma, proposals which we are about to submit to Parliament. The treaty has been freely negotiated between our two Governments as between equals.

“It records the full agreement that we have reached on the matters which it covers. It will be the basis of our future relations. This is, I believe. an unique occasion, for the treaty is twing signed in anticipation of a transfer of sovereignty which has not resulted from the exercise or the threat of force. (Hear..hear).

Voluntary Transfer

“It is a voluntary transfer, subject, as the free negotiation of this treaty shows, to no conditions, and it will take place in circumstances of the greatest amity and mutual understanding. ‘’The Constituent Assembly representing the people of Burma has decided that Burma’s future as an independent country “should lie outside the British Commonwealth. We are sorry to think that our long association with Burma at a member of the Commonwealth should tote be undone. But this is a matter which is for the decision of the people of Burma and tea accept their decision.

“We know that it is taken in no spirit of hostility or unfriendliness. We are glad, indeed. to think that the conclusion of the treaty which is being signed this morning shows that the bonds of friendship between our two countries are as strong as ever.

Good Wishes To Burmese

“We are confident that with the passage of time. mutual respect and community of interest will ensure the continuance of the radial friendship and good understanding which so happily mark relation between us today. In the handing of the great tasks that lie before than the Government of Burma under their distinguished leader whom we are so glad to have with us this morning (applause) and the people of Burma will go forward with the sincere good wishes of the Government and the people of this country for their advancement, prosperity and happiness as an independent State.”

Thakin Nu’s Reply

Thakin Nu, replying said that throughout the negotiations both H.M.G. and the Government of Burma had striven for something greater and more inspiring than a mere agreement on such points as might arise for settlement m connection with the impending transfer of power.

“What both sides have sought, and [ believe have achieved is nothing less than arrangements that will form a solid basis for Anglo-Burmese friendship.

“It is true that relations between our two countries were in the past not as happy as they are today, but I wish to say very honestly that even m those days when we had to strive against Britain, our admiration for the British people and our appreciation of their greatness as champions of human rights and as leaders in the field of science and literature was always very high.

“That admiration has never been higher than today. It is our firm belief that Britain represents in the world that intellectual and moral leadership which she has exercised for many centuries to the common good. “It is also our firm belief that her economic troubles of the present day are but temporary, and that Britain will overcome them with the same spirit that brought her victory in the last war.

Foundation For Friendship

“We on our part welcome the confidence and friendship which Britain has shown towards Burma. Our admiration for your country and your goodwill and consideration for ours will, I firmly declare, serve as a solid foundation for Anglo-Burmese friendship which both you and I and the countries which you and I represent cherish so sincerely.”

Thakin Nu concluded: “We tender to you our sincere wishes for your welfare and prosperity. This day is memorable not only to Burma which is about to achieve her freedom, but also to Britain whose greatness enables her to surrender willingly and in friendship the sovereignty which she has hitherto exercised over another country.”

The Anglo-Burmese Treaty, which deals with defence, finance, nationality, commercial relations and contractual obligations arising out of the transfer of power, was laid before the two Prime Ministers replete with its bright ribbons and crimson seals. Page by page they initialled the document.

The signing over, the two Prime Ministers simultaneously arose and warmly shook hands.

Burmese Felicitated

The gathering immediately lost its formal shape and Mr Attlee and Mr Bevin strolled through the Cabinet room, felicitating each of the Burmese delegates in turn. Those present included, in addition to the leading figures, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Jewitt, the Commonwealth Relations Secretary, Mr Noel-Baker, the Secretary for Air, Mr Henderson, the Secretary for Overseas Trade, Mr Bottomley, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for Supply, Maj. John Freeman, the Under-Secretary for Colonies, Col. David Rees-Williams, Sir Gilbert Laithwaite and Sir David Monteath.

With Thakin Nu were the Finance Minister, U Tin Tut, the Defence Minister, Bo Let Ya, the Industry and Labour Minister, Mahn Win Maung, the Sawbwa of Mongmit, the Counsellor -for frontier Areas, U Vum Kc Hau, the Deputy Counsellor for China Affairs. Rob Emu Aung, the Vice-President of the Anti-Pacifist People’s Freedom League. U Kogyi. the President of the Burmese Socialist Party and Mr Basstice E Maung.

After the signing of the treaty Thakin Nu had an audience with the King.

Source : Hindustan Times

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