A BBC article today recalls the trapping and shooting to death of 379 - 1000 Indian protesters by British troops in 1919.
While Winston Churchill called it "monstrous" in 1920, David Cameron paid his respects at the memorial in 2013, and Theresa May expressed "regret" for the "shameful scar" on our history today, the BBC piece (and Jeremy Corbyn) point out this is avoidance of a formal apology.
David Cameron is quoted in the piece thusly:
He later defended his decision not to offer an apology, saying the British government had "rightly condemned" the massacre at the time.
"I don't think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things that we should apologise for. I think the right thing to do is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened," he said.
Lacking a justification this sounds empty and evasive to me. The overall stance also has the flavour of word games given how condemnatory the language and behaviour of all these prime ministers has been. What's so special about the "sorry" word specifically?
If people want it so badly, and the atrocity happened 100 years ago, surely it does needless damage to Britain's reputation to be seen to go 99% of the way toward an apology but equivocate on formalities? Even more contradictorily, David Cameron did apologise for the Bloody Sunday massacre by British troops in Northern Ireland.