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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to those noble Lords who have remained until a fairly late hour on a Thursday evening to take part in this important debate on the question of human rights and democracy in Indonesia.
I believe that the Government had the best of the argument on their policy of constructive engagement when this became a matter of dispute in the Select Committee in another place. In the long run we have been more effective by remaining involved than if we had tried to isolate Indonesia. The principle of constructive engagement should be applied on a case by case basis, as the Government agreed with the Select Committee. There are only a handful of psychopathic regimes where it would not be possible to do anything at all to promote human rights. Indonesia, even under Suharto was not included in that category.
During the Suharto era we did quite a lot. Mr. Fatchett met Xanana Gusmao in prison twice and called for his release. In the presidency of the European Union we led a troika mission to East Timor; we organised a human rights workshop later in the year in Jakarta in October and since the resignation of Suharto we have continued to work actively to support reform.
One matter which received emphasis in the report of the Select Committee and also in the reply from the Foreign Office was the training of the police force. It is important, bearing in mind the poor human rights record
Intuitively, human rights education ought to improve the standards of any police force, but I want to ask the Minister whether there is any evidence to show that it does. If the police are part of a system with an agenda of oppression, the training might be nothing more than a cloak to hide their real intentions. As the Minister knows, the police are still responsible to the Ministry of Defence and thus under the control of ABRI, whose political goals are not entirely clear. Under the previous administration, a study was initiated of the effects of police training in human rights to ascertain whether or not it was effective. It would be useful to know whether that project is continuing.
The Government also have a better record on arms sales than their critics have allowed. According to the Strategic Export Controls report, they issued 40 licences in 1997, but most of those were not for lethal equipment. We exported 23 armoured combat vehicles in that period, which were presumably licensed under the previous administration. Can the Minister say whether there are further commitments to deliveries of lethal equipment and tell us whether, in view of the violence already erupting, she thinks we ought to ask the United Nations to impose an embargo on all military supplies to Indonesia until after the presidential elections?
We do know that there are 16 Hawks still remaining to be delivered. I ask the Minister to agree that, even if we cannot persuade the Security Council to impose a mandatory embargo on all weapons sales to Indonesia, it would be inappropriate to deliver these aircraft while the armed forces are still involved in atrocities all over the country, not just in East Timor.
Since the fall of Suharto, both the risks and opportunities have increased. The electoral system has been reformed and the dual function of the military has been reduced, though not eliminated. As I have already said, the police are to be separated from the army, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly have been expanded and the parliamentary elections are scheduled for 7th June, with presidential elections following in November. Above all, the people of East Timor are supposed to be given a choice between autonomy and independence.
On the other side of the coin, the economy has nose-dived and unrest has broken out in many parts of the country, with ethnic and religious tensions fuelling violence. The armed forces and the police have continued to kill and torture civilians and, in East Timor, pro-integration militias have been formed with ABRI encouragement and given free rein to attack and intimidate those who favour independence.
Although the unrest and violence is very serious, I do not think it has reached the level at which the elections in 45 days' time are imperilled, except in East Timor where a vote is also scheduled in July on the government's autonomy package. The modalities of that exercise are being sorted out today in New York
On 6th April the militia, aided by the army, attacked refugees in the church and the home of the local priest in Liquica, killing some 50 people, When Bishop Belo went there to say mass the following Sunday, his convoy was attacked by the same thugs. Last weekend the militias went on the rampage in Dili, beating up and shooting people and setting houses on fire.
At the home of Manuel Carrascalao, brother of the former governor Mario and a leading critic of Indonesian rule, 12 people were murdered, including his son. The army made no attempt to stop the violence, and two of the victims who were wounded say that not only were soldiers in uniform standing by, but they believe that others who were dressed in black and who participated in the murders were serving soldiers. Neither the Governor, Mr Soares, nor the local military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, did a thing to maintain order, as the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Andrews, confirmed. Mr. Andrews was in Dili at the time and he heard from aid workers that the soldiers cheered truckloads of militia on their way to the massacre as they passed army posts, and that a speech by Governor Soares at a military rally had encouraged the assassins to proceed with the murders.
The disbandment and disarmament of the militias under international supervision is absolutely essential to the success of the democratic process. As long as these elements have a free rein, pro-independence activists are
Has Britain, as a permanent member of the Security Council, taken a view on the desirability of an international presence in East Timor to ensure that both the MPR election and the referendum on autonomy are conducted properly and without violence or intimidation on either side? I note that James Rubin of the US State Department said that an international presence could advance the immediate disarmament of all groups on the island although clearly action needs to be taken to prevent murders elsewhere, including Jakarta.
It is reported that President Habibie has invited Australia and other countries to co-ordinate preparations for the July consultation. Can the Minister confirm that the other countries invited are Germany, Brazil, the US and the Philippines and has their role been further defined, or is this a matter to be left to the Security Council, in consultation with those concerned, assuming that the deal is signed between the foreign ministers today or tomorrow?
While the limelight has been on East Timor, the army has also been responsible for atrocities in Aceh and Irian Jaya, in both of which there are strong independence movements. In Aceh, preliminary findings by commissions of inquiry have discovered that the army was responsible but no one has been tried for the killings, torture and disappearances. The hostility between the military and the people is intense and is fuelled by the unnecessary arrests and gratuitous violence against people supporting the Free Aceh movement. For instance, on Tuesday two people were killed, five suffered gunshot wounds and 300 were arrested at Lhokseumawe when they were demonstrating against the arrest of perfectly peaceful demonstrators the previous day. In Irian Jaya, the police have banned all discussions of recent talks between President Habibie and a delegation of locals who were demanding a review of the 1965 Anschluss sanctioned by the UN in breach of its own rules.
In a situation where the people cannot get news of the negotiations and activities of government, the World Service has a particularly vital part to play in enabling people to get the information that their governments do not want them to have. It has a good record of responding to immediate crises with additional broadcasting time, as it has done in the case of the events in the Balkans. The Foreign Secretary wrote to me on 13th February and said that the World Service,
If people cannot talk freely about questions of governance in the context of elections, the transition will not be towards democracy but to civil war. Britain has already done much to help with the reforms that are so desperately needed throughout Indonesia. I hope that we may continue to rely on the Government to look for means of helping the people to make their important decisions in June and July, after full debate and without further intimidation or violence.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, when I was appointed to your Lordships' House I had the pleasure of occupying the desk of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I was amazed at the mountainous number of files on his desk, all of them about matters of human rights. There are many people in various parts of the world who are alive today because of the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Your Lordships' House should note seriously what he has to say. Only last weekend I was observing elections in Turkey. No one cared about me; all that people wanted to ask me was how was Lord Avebury.
I welcome the debate. Only this week, in a debate on India and Pakistan, I said that it is right that we should stress our commitment to human rights wherever, whenever and by whomsoever they were abused. Here we have the opportunity to express our concern about East Timor.
We are all aware of the troubled history of Indonesia. For more than three decades of President Suharto's rule the regions were governed by civil servants from Jakarta, supplemented by battalions of soldiers to quell separatist revolts. I have looked at a number of reports analysing the history and they all confirm that the major share of Indonesia's revenue depended on the regions. No wonder this situation was exploited without due regard to the grievances of the local population. It is expedient to ignore human rights when the primary aim of Indonesia was to explore the wealth of its regions. The government there are now considering greater autonomy, including the proposal that regions control most of the revenue from their own resources.
The Government of Indonesia had no alternatives. East Timor has been a special case as the United Nations decided that its annexation was illegal. There are pronouncements now that East Timor may be granted full independence after the June elections. I shall believe that when I see it.
The BBC has quoted the Information Minister, Yunus Yosfiah, as saying that Indonesia's parliament may consider granting regional autonomy plus to East Timor. I do not know what he means by "plus". He goes on to say,
About a year ago I had been invited as a witness to an exhibition of photographs which highlighted the tortures and murders in East Timor perpetrated by soldiers sent to quell revolts by local people. No one can fail to be moved by the suffering of the East Timorese. The degradation of and violence against defenceless people was unimaginable. We must never allow that to happen again.
East Timor has a troubled history. In 1975, immediately after Portugal's withdrawal, Indonesia sent troops in. In the process of annexation and the famine that followed it is estimated that over 200,000 people died. The rights of ordinary people were violated. In 1991, armed forces fired on demonstrators, killing scores and imprisoning Xanana Gusmao, who is today under house arrest. Despite the offer of special status by the new president, President Habibie, there is concern about the future of the island. The main concern is what will happen economically to an island which has few natural resources and few other means of supporting itself. Of course I accept the point about natural resources such as oil still being available.
We need to ensure that a number of things happen. The political process of autonomy and independence must be achieved by peaceful means and ample support must be provided during the transition period until Timor gets on its feet.
Decades of protest and political repression have left the country with a poorly educated workforce. Unemployment is high. There is also a history of violent political divisions. As a history of the island demonstrates, in the past rival political factions have formed militia to fight others for control. I echo the words of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Bishop of Dill, Carlos Belo, that the dangers of destabilisation are there. A transition period is needed during which talks could be held between opposing groups. We need to ensure that the bloody history of the island is not repeated in the new process, otherwise, violence and bloodshed will taint the road to freedom.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, not only on this debate, but on introducing so many debates on human rights and encouraging younger Members when they first enter this House. I also thank the noble Lord for his invitation to speak in the gap. I speak as a board member of Christian Aid and on behalf of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development. I hope that, in a reformed House, we may have a Roman Catholic spokesperson. A subject such as East Timor requires a major contribution from a Catholic church leader.
For the people of East Timor, the situation is broadly comparable to that in South Africa just before the elections in 1994, or even to the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. After many years of struggle, the parties are on the verge of agreement. They are almost ready to lay down their weapons. It is only a matter of time. The outside world must encourage both sides in the long-awaited peace process which may lead to independence, although it may fall short of that.
However, it is not as simple as that, because the people do not yet have the confidence that the government--and I mean here the Indonesian Army rather than President Habibie himself--will deliver on the agreement they are putting forward. The Foreign Ministers may be meeting in New York today, but the Churches in Timor are cautious. General Wiranto, the armed forces Minister, attended the so-called peace accord, between pro-integration and pro-independence groups in Dili yesterday, but he did not actually put his name to it; nor did Bishop Carlos Belo (Bishop of Dili and Nobel Laureate) or Bishop Basilio do Nascimento. Those two eminent Church leaders, and the Catholic agencies, remain extremely wary as it is widely believed that the whole agreement was stage-managed by the army and designed once again to prove that the Timorese are divided among themselves.
Meanwhile, there are nightly attacks in and around Dili and numerous reports of deaths at the hands of pro-integration militias. I know there are two sides to every process, but as one who has witnessed pre-election intimidation in South Africa, I can recognise the fear which contract killers paid by government can instil in the local population. It is the same in Southern Sudan.
I heard today from a Roman Catholic agency in Dili that many young Timorese are either hiding in the mountains or queuing to leave the country by air or ferry, or whatever means--so little trust is there in the peace process. The Churches are vulnerable to attack and a number of aid workers assisting the displaced people or running the health programmes, have received death threats.
We have heard that international pressure is developing in favour of a United Nations peace-keeping force. Amnesty International is calling for human rights monitors. Australia, Japan (which is the main trading partner) and Portugal are all urging restraint at this time.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I too wish to thank my noble friend Lord Avebury for raising the issue of human rights in Indonesia. I always remember being moved by a famous quotation from Lord Burke which runs:
Perhaps I may underline a point raised in particular by my noble friend, Lord Dholakia, and by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. That is the devastating effect that the economic crisis has had on Indonesia in the past two years. Certainly none of us would wish to pay too much tribute to President Suharto's long regime, although he managed to attract quite a lot of co-operation from this country at a business level. In the past two years Indonesia has gone through something close to agony with a 14 per cent drop in its national income in 1998 and a further probable drop of 5 per cent to 6 per cent in the current year. We are dealing with a country which has seen about a quarter of its national product disappear in the course of a very short period of time. Even though there are some signs of recovery in east Asia, particularly in Thailand and in Malaysia to some extent, that does not seem to have embraced Indonesia so far, where literally millions of people have lost their jobs, millions more are unable to feed their children and where there are extremely serious economic conditions in many of the islands.
My son-in-law visits Indonesia regularly. He is an architect and goes there in connection with his profession. He has often reported to me that he now finds starvation in the Indonesian villages, and people are unable to pay for even such basic products as rice. There is an increasing desperation on their part, much of which is visited in the form of ethnic violence. Attacks on the ethnic Chinese in May 1998 led to about 70,000 Chinese uprooting themselves and leaving with their capital. That had a devastating effect on Indonesia because the ethnic Chinese were among the major sources of business and trade in that potentially very rich country. Once again the poverty which affected ordinary Indonesians was carried further into ethnic violence, which has led to a further worsening of an economic crisis of a very serious kind.
I underline what my noble friend Lord Avebury said about Aceh and West Irian. I say with all the seriousness that I can that there is now some danger of Indonesia beginning to disintegrate. It is worth putting that on the record, not that there is any pleasure in the matter, but because it is another of those places like Kosovo which occupies much of our attention and where early warnings may help to avert a yet more dreadful crisis in future years.
What could we do? I do not want to repeat what has already been said by other speakers in this debate about the situation that arises with regard to human rights in East Timor. With the coming of President Habibie there is some hope, even though he does not now command a great deal of public support. He has signed human rights conventions, including the UN convention against torture. He has allowed a number of political prisoners out of prison. He has indicated that he is willing to accept the presence of opposition parties. He now has a very formidable party in the form of the PDI led by Megawarte Sukarnoputra, the daughter of the former president but one of Indonesia. That is something of an achievement and we should record that fact. But it is not clear whether he has command of his own forces or police in the way that my noble friends underlined.
The point made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, is all too likely to be true. We may be looking at a very elaborate form of stage management with the impression being given that the people of East Timor are profoundly divided in their attitude towards the long-standing effort for independence. Not only is there no reason to doubt that the attacks by paramilitaries have occurred consistently over the past few weeks, but those attacks appear to have been financed and supported by the Indonesian army and police. The evidence for that appears to be almost overwhelming.
Further, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out, the decision of the bishops, who for a long time have observed the attitudes of their parishioners in East Timor, not to sign the so-called peace agreement, alongside the decision by General Wiranto not to sign it, may signify their belief that this is perhaps a deception (to put it in modest terms). There appears to be no clear reason to believe that this is a serious, concrete step towards peace. A former governor, Mario Carrascalao, to whom my noble friend referred, very courageously indicated that he had grave doubts about
I draw my contribution to a close by mentioning some of the ways in which the Government may help. I do so recognising all the limitations--heaven knows--on the action of any government with regard to another sovereign, independent government. At present there is under discussion at the World Bank a $600 million loan for Indonesia. That loan has been held up because of concerns about whether it may fall into the hands of corrupt administrators and may not go to help the poorest of the poor for whom it is intended. Can the Minister say anything about the possibility of involving NGOs and others in the delivery of that loan so that the money goes to people who are now near starvation in some of the islands of Indonesia?
Is there any possibility of education and health being ring-fenced? The only matter on which I disagree with my noble friend Lord Dholakia is that Indonesia has a remarkable record of primary education with no less than 95 per cent of its children attending school. That is a high figure for east Asia. Alas, we now know from figures provided by UNCTAD that in the past year 20 per cent of children have withdrawn from school. It is likely that that figure will approach 30 per cent in the present year. That is devastating for the future of Indonesia and its ability to compete against other countries for global exports. It is not surprising that the World Bank's vice-president for east Asia said:
I turn finally to proposals for the political and human rights situation. Does the Minister agree that we should make representations to the Government of Indonesia, as I understand the US Congress has done already, about ceasing support for the paramilitaries? Can we ensure that we ourselves provide no such support? The US Congress discovered that training of some Indonesian police who were being used as paramilitaries was continuing and brought that programme to an end. First, can the Minister assure us that we are giving no support in the shape of arms, weapons or training to those currently engaged as paramilitaries in the suppression of opinion in East Timor and elsewhere?
Secondly, will the noble Baroness carefully consider supporting the proposals--now surprisingly accepted by President Habibie, at least in principle--for monitors to supervise the referendum in East Timor? I recognise that that may mean some delay from the 15th July date which has been made public, but the idea of having international monitors for that referendum is utterly crucial. Without them there is little chance that either the people of East Timor or world opinion will accept the outcome of the referendum. I think that those who take such a sceptical view would be right.
Lastly, can the noble Baroness tell us anything about the outcome of the recommendations of the inquiry into the rape of Chinese women at the time of the riots in May 1998? I understand that the Indonesian inquiry team courageously made a number of recommendations which we understand have not so far been acted upon. Can the attention of the Indonesian Government be drawn to that inquiry result, and to our approval of the courage of those who took part in it, and can we suggest that its recommendations should now be acted upon?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I should like, first, to take the opportunity to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on securing this important debate. As other noble Lords have mentioned, it has taken place at a relevant time, for today in New York the Indonesian Foreign Minister is due to unveil its autonomy package in the UN-mediated talks with Portugal, the very day after the pro-integrationists and anti-integrationists in East Timor signed a peace agreement.
From these Benches, I should like also to take the opportunity to welcome the announcement today that the Minister of State will visit Indonesia and East Timor next week, reinforcing the UK's support for, and commitment to, the process of democratic and political reform upon which Indonesia is currently embarked. We look forward to hearing the results of his visit in due course.
Nevertheless, despite those rays of hope in what has surely been one of the most tumultuous and traumatic years in Indonesia's modern history, progress on democracy and human rights has often seemed like a case of two steps forward and one step back, while religious violence, ethnic unrest, federalist, secessionist and integrationist conflicts, the corruption of "money politics", and economic hardships have continued to exact their heavy toll.
Yet it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the distance which Indonesians have travelled since last May when the tinderbox of public anger was set alight by the shooting of four students by the police and Indonesia teetered on the very edge of anarchy as years of simmering grievances boiled over. During that period, organised gangs looted the properties of the wealthier ethnic Chinese minority and systematically raped the Chinese women, as we heard, in one of Jakarta's darkest hours. Few Indonesians will forget the mass student march and occupation of the Parliament which sounded the death-knell for the three decade regime of President Suharto.
Since that time, Indonesia has seen a change in leadership, the enactment of new political laws, the scheduling of elections and the adoption of a fresh approach to East Timor. At this late hour, I shall not go into the details of East Timor. We have heard eloquently from noble Lords today on the issue.
I have a few questions for the Minister. The international community has often been criticised for its inaction over East Timor, other than to issue statements of condemnation and concern. Even the historic visit of the EU/Troika ambassadors to East Timor last June was criticised for contributing little to the process of seeking a fair, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the situation. In the light of that, what assessment have the Government made of the statement of the Nobel Peace prize winner, Jose Ramos Horta, that it is "bizarre" that while NATO's conflict with Yugoslavia is acceptable to the international community, sending peace-keepers to East Timor is not? Does the Minister agree with Mr. Horta's recent statement that there should be a boycott of Indonesian exports, a freezing of loans and of the assets of former President Suharto?
What assessments have the Government made of fears that too abrupt a transition could result in violence comparable to that which followed Portugal's withdrawal in 1975, with reprisals from pro-integration groups which want to remain in Indonesia?
What discussions have been held with the Australian Government concerning the future of East Timor? Can the Minister say whether this Government would offer troops as part of a multi-national force to oversee the transition from full Indonesian rule?
Finally, what support have the Government offered for Mr. Habibie's proposals to invite international monitors, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, to help to prepare East Timor for a vote, and does the Minister consider that it would be acceptable for the planned ballot in July to be delayed while international monitors are invited?
In conclusion, Indonesia has a peaceful, stable and democratic future within its grasp. Its position as the driving force behind ASEAN, the founder of the ASEAN regional forum and a major player in APEC, combined with its large population, its strategic location, the wealth of its resources, its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and its status as a vibrant centre of Islamic thought, make it a regional leader and a world player.
Indonesia, just like any other emerging democracy, will face many challenges to achieve the positive economic conditions and political trust necessary for a successful transition to democracy. From these Benches, we join the Government in offering Indonesians our full support in their quest for true democracy and for the rejection of violence, so that from Aceh in Northern Sumatra to Irian Jaya in Eastern Indonesia, where issues of political secession and independence are still to be resolved, a future of justice and freedom, prosperity and peace can prevail, enabling Indonesia to enjoy close and co-operative relationships with its international partners in the 21st century.
On 7th June Indonesia goes to the polls in full multi-party elections. Forty-eight political parties have qualified to take part. It is a mammoth task. Over 320,000 polling stations and 110 million eligible voters will have to be catered for. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is co-ordinating international electoral assistance, focused on support for the independent electoral commission, voter education and domestic monitoring.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked what we were doing to do in a practical way in support and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, made a very similar point. I can tell your Lordships that we are contributing over £1.8 million in bilateral assistance, mainly through the UNDP, supporting projects, including BBC training workshops for local radio journalists, workshops for Indonesian political parties which will be run by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and technical assistance for domestic monitoring organisations. The EU contribution is some 7 million euros and there will be, I can assure your Lordships, an EU observer mission for the election.
We are not sanguine about the human rights situation, particularly in East Timor, which I shall address shortly, but there have been significant improvements since President Habibie took office a year ago. That point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. We have seen most political prisoners released. Official figures show that 212 out of 240 have been released. There has been trade union reform and much greater freedom of expression.
However, the outbreaks of inter-ethnic violence in outlying areas in recent months have been truly shocking. We have called for a new approach in dealing with these incidents. We consider it essential that the delicate ethnic and religious balance of Indonesia is preserved. Acts of violence jeopardising this should be dealt with by security personnel in accordance with international human rights standards and with the aim of reducing tensions. We and the EU have called for all parties to show the utmost restraint in pursuit of their political goals in order to avoid a further increase in tension.
A large number of concrete suggestions for follow-up action emerged from the working groups which we and our partners are taking forward. Included was a recommendation that relevant training should be offered to the Indonesian National Police. As part of our human rights strategy for Indonesia we see a clear role for police training, and even more so now that the Indonesian police are being separated from the military, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, pointed out.
Perhaps I may tell him a little more about what is happening. Recent initiatives we have taken on police training include a lecture tour of Indonesia by a senior British police team on modern policing methods, and a training programme in the UK for Indonesian police officers of high potential on the concept of policing by consent as practised in the UK. The training will include modules on human rights, police accountability and the rule of law.
I turn to the issue of East Timor. Like the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, Her Majesty's Government are truly appalled at the recent violence in the territory, culminating in attacks by paramilitaries in the capital, Dili, last weekend resulting in some 30 deaths. We have called on the Indonesian government to rein in the militias. The violence included a report of up to 50 deaths in an attack on a church in Liquica, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred, on 7th April by paramilitaries while, as we understand from the reports, the army looked on. The Red Cross is investigating and the Indonesian government have promised an inquiry on this appalling incident. My right honourable friend Mr. Fatchett issued a statement on 9th April expressing concern and calling for restraint, and asking for the disarming of the militias and saying that the UN process was the best hope. I hope that your Lordships will also be pleased to learn that the EU issued a declaration along similar lines on 12th April.
At the weekend, the militias went on the rampage again in Dili, as the noble Lord told us, and some 30 deaths were reported. Some prominent independent activists sought refuge at the residence of the Nobel
As a number of noble Lords pointed out, it is imperative that the UN process stays on course and the consultation with the East Timorese people on the autonomy process to be organised by the UN takes place later this year. As a number of noble Lords noted--in particular, the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings--Portuguese and Indonesian foreign ministers are meeting Kofi Annan today to reach agreement on the consultation and transition process.
The Government believe that flexibility is needed. The EU and ourselves have called for a UN presence to be established in the territory as soon as possible to ensure stability. I hope that that answers the point that a number of noble Lords raised on that issue, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich.
We are not committed to any particular solution in that UN process. It is important that it should be fair and comprehensive and that an internationally acceptable solution should be found to the problem of East Timor. But that solution must also respect the interests and legitimate aspirations of those people. That has been the EU Common Position as agreed in 1996. We shall continue to keep in very close contact with the UN Secretary General and his personal representative, Mr Jamsheed Marker, as well as with the Portuguese, the Indonesians and the East Timorese, on that important issue.
The noble Earl raised the question of what was happening to the Christian community. We deplore the recent inter-communal violence. However, there is no suggestion that that is part of any systematic persecution of particular groups. It is the case that, generally, Indonesia has a good record of religious tolerance. We must continue to encourage the Indonesian Government to do all they can to prevent any recurrence of those deplorable events.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, drew our attention also to his worries about defence sales to Indonesia and I shall try to answer some of the points which he raised. We shall not issue licences for export of equipment where we judge that there is a clearly identifiable risk that equipment may be used for internal repression or international aggression. We have made clear to the Indonesian authorities that we do not expect any British-supplied equipment to be used against civilians; to prevent the exercise of their rights of free expression, assembly and association; or in violation of other international human rights standards.
I was interested in what some noble Lords said and the tenor of other speeches also indicated that there is evidence that equipment may have been used for such repression. The Government do not have evidence that any equipment licensed for export by this Government has been used for repression in Indonesia or in East
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked, implicitly at least, why we sell arms to Indonesia at all. We see no justification for a general arms embargo on Indonesia. It has legitimate defence requirements. All licensing applications for defence equipment to Indonesia are considered on a case by case basis following the criteria which I have just articulated. No new licences are issued for export of any equipment where we judge that it will not be used in accordance with those criteria.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, drew our attention to the useful role that can be played by the BBC World Service. I am grateful to him for his kind words about the World Service. The World Service is involved in the training of Indonesian journalists, to which I referred a moment ago, and how they report elections. There is a good deal of interest in that in this country as there will be in Indonesia. We hope that it will be possible to extend the broadcasting hours further, as the noble Lord indicated. I shall obtain further details from my colleagues in the BBC World Service and write to the noble Lord with details of what we may be able to take forward on that point.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, also referred to the appalling and shocking attacks on women in the Chinese community last year. I shall write to the noble Baroness about how the inquiry into that rape incident has evolved and how we might encourage its resolution.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked a broader question about our economic links. We are keen to maintain a substantive relationship with Indonesia. I want to make it clear that we believe that that is important. We believe that the relationship should reflect the breadth of our bilateral, regional and global interests and address the issues of mutual concern. We should also, of course, address the issues of human rights.
The noble Baroness also referred to the ASEAN relationship. Indonesia plays a leading role in the multi-national arena. It has an important role in regional and international organisations, such as ASEAN, and it is a role that we wish to see encouraged because we believe that that is the way in which Indonesia's institutions, which we have been discussing in democratic terms and in terms of the rule of law, can be encouraged.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked about the World Bank. We believe that the work of the international financial institutions (IFIs) should focus on the economic development of Indonesia. That is how
The noble Baroness made a specific suggestion about ring-fencing parts of public expenditure. That is a very interesting suggestion and I should like to look into it further. I shall write to the noble Baroness on that point, too. I now owe the noble Baroness three letters on the very interesting points that she has made this evening.
Although still fraught with difficulties, the transformation of Indonesia into a fully democratic country is one that must fill us all with a degree of hope and, I would go so far as to say, a degree of real joy. I believe that it can be accomplished.
I hope that I have been able to indicate that Her Majesty's Government are fully engaged in supporting that process. My right honourable friend Derek Fatchett visited Indonesia three times last year. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, is extremely observant and has noticed the press release from the FCO today which announces that he will visit both Jakarta and East Timor next week, security concerns permitting. We believe that my right honourable friend will have the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment there to the democratic transition, the support of human rights in Indonesia, and to a future for East Timor which accords with the wishes of its people.
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