Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1989 Oct 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Sky TV (Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Commonwealth Conference Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Adam Boulton, Sky TV
Editorial comments: Between 0900 and lunch.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1459
Themes: Foreign policy (Africa), Commonwealth (South Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Race, immigration, nationality, Commonwealth (general), Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Interviewer

Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe yesterday said that the British statement amounted to a deliberate act to show support for apartheid and the white man in South Africa, and that it was there solely to protect Britain's commercial interests. What is your reaction to that?

Prime Minister

First, Robert Mugabe has made no complaint whatsoever to me. He will wish to have his military training, which is done by Britain, continue; he will wish to have his aid continue. He will have both. We are not small-minded. And he has made no complaint to me.

Second, he knows full that Britain is as much against apartheid as he is. It is because some of them sometimes express this - I think in anger, I do not believe they really mean it - it justifies everything I did in putting out a document setting out clearly and in writing our views on where we disagreed with the Commonwealth and where it said in the document that we disagreed but did not say why. [end p1]

Interviewer

I think he fears perhaps that Britain's attitude might prolong the apartheid regime and therefore result in suffering over a period of years whereas if you put your weight the other way, perhaps you could achieve much quicker change.

Prime Minister

He and the rest of the Commonwealth know that South Africa is changing, is making movements in the direction in which we want and the new Government has in fact made more. Archbishop Tutu had a full demonstration without any difficulty. They also have released people like Mr. Sisulu. On the day the Commonwealth is complaining about my freedom to issue a statement, the South African Government gives absolute freedom to Mr. Sisulu to hold a demonstration next week. It is very ironic!

No, they make these comments; they think they are absolutely free to make them and they do not like it if one actually replies and replies effectively.

Britain's case is strong. One day, apartheid will go in South Africa - that is our objective - and they will still have a strong economy. Had they had comprehensive sanctions, the economy would have collapsed, there would have been millions and millions of very poverty-stricken and starving people and they would have inherited a desolate land. They will not! They will inherit a strong economy and there is one country in the world they will have to thank for that - one country in the Commonwealth at any rate - and that is Britain. [end p2]

Interviewer

Do you think part of the row is because of bad presentation and lack of liaison perhaps between the Foreign Secretary and your own Office?

Prime Minister

There is no lack of liaison at all. You are trying to run that one and you are totally wrong and you know you are totally wrong!

The John MajorForeign Secretary has been here the whole time. We work extremely close together. There is no lack of liaison. There is no difference. His was a quite outstanding performance, as he did at the United Nations previously.

Interviewer

Moving on, can I ask you a little about Hong Kong. It does seem, does it not, that there is going to be a real problem for you very imminently on the question of repatriating the Vietnamese boat people forcibly, given what the Americans said in Geneva last week, their opposition to that idea?

Prime Minister

Yes, but the Americans push people back over the Mexican border and they repatriate illegal immigrants to Haiti. Most countries in the world repatriate illegal immigrants unless they are in fact refugees. Then, they never repatriate refugees. [end p3]

Hong Kong now has over 55,000 boat people. They do not push them away - we all feel they could not possibly push the boats away - so they take them in. Some other countries push them away.

They simply cannot have them flocking into Hong Kong merely as what are called economic refugees - they just want jobs, they are not political refugees - and so those countries which object very strongly - and so far we have had just voluntary repatriation - if it comes to repatriating illegal immigrants, should in fact say: “Right! Instead of doing that, we will take so many each ourselves!” and they are not doing that. Hong Kong is bearing the burden.

Interviewer

It is an unpleasant, though, forcible repatriation.

Prime Minister

Yes, it is. It is an unpleasant business but we put back across the border of Hong Kong every year about 35,000 illegal immigrants from China because Hong Kong just could not take it. They come across the border and automatically they go back. That has been done for years. America puts people back into Mexico, puts people back into Haiti. That is the sort of double standard we are up against. [end p4]

Interviewer

… this sort of diplomatic problem along with Europe and indeed aspects of your Southern Africa policy which in a sense you are having to sort out on your own with the relevant people, not with the Commonwealth yet; Britain bankrolled the Commonwealth to a large extent and yet it seems every time you come here you get vilified and attacked as this kind of big sister everybody likes to hate. Do you ever think the Commonwealth is not worth it?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, Britain is attacked. It is “exploiting the Colonies.” I sometimes say: “Look! I think some of them are jolly lucky that we colonised them and not other people!” and this is the only empire in the world that was dissolved into a Commonwealth in a spirit of friendship. But that is ritual. They make these ritual speeches. You do not need to worry about that, we are used to it. They make their ritual speeches on South Africa but not one of them themselves puts on sanction.

Interviewer

So the Commonwealth is worth it still for Britain?

Prime Minister

Of course it is! [end p5]

Interviewer

What do you get out of it?

Prime Minister

We have discussions. It is the only international conference that I go to where we have discussions in one language. We are forty-eight - or is forty-nine now? - countries and we all discuss in English. No difficulties of translation. We spend hours sometimes on communiques in other for a because of difficulties of translation. We get a view from the small island states of the Pacific, we get the view of Singapore and Malaysia which is the view of south-east Asia, we get the view of India and that main subcontinent and we get the African view and we get the Caribbean view - it girdles the world - and we all discuss. All right, they hit out much harder than I do and they do not like it when one hits back with the truth, but that is all in the day's work. As I do sometimes again say to them: “We could not have got Zimbabwe independent actually without the cooperation and help of South Africa.

Look at the Front-Line States! They have not put on sanctions. The United States has stopped air flights from the United States direct into South Africa. Where did they fly to? They are flying to other African countries and they promptly change planes down to Johannesburg - and it is all a strange world of what people say and what people do, which is different. [end p6]

Interviewer

While we have been here, of course, life has gone on in Britain and we have seen the release of the Guildford Four. Has that made you think again about capital punishment?

Prime Minister

Not in any way! I believe that capital punishment should be available not as a mandatory punishment but as one of the punishments which the court can use in suitable cases.

Interviewer

So even if the Guildford Four had been hung it still would not change your mind?

Prime Minister

The decision for the punishment would have been for the court.

Interviewer

A mistake would have been acceptable? [end p7]

Prime Minister

A decision would have been for the court and I do not accept your proposition that it would necessarily have been exacted in that particular case.

Again, I must point out to you there have been two thousand people murdered since the beginning of the troubles in Northern Ireland - two thousand - a lot of broken homes and broken hearts and tragedies. It does not mean that anyone innocent should have been convicted - that is totally and utterly wrong. We must do all we can to both inquire into that to see that it does not happen again and all we can to make amends, but the troubles, the bombings, the people who go out to use a gun to bomb, to main, to injure, to kill should not go out knowing that however hideous, bestial and vicious their crimes, their lives can never be forfeit.