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Lord Carter: My Lords, I am not sure whether all the speakers are here for the Unstarred Question. I think that we should adjourn during pleasure until 5.45 p.m. so that the speakers can be found and we can proceed with the Unstarred Question.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, the Unstarred Question is being taken at the end of business and is limited to one-and-a-half hours rather than one hour. Therefore, speakers may speak for a little longer than indicated on the speakers' list.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who are to speak. I express my gratitude to those noble Lords who had intended to speak, but who now are precluded from doing so because of the change of time. I especially express gratitude to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford who had hoped to speak despite all the commitments of Holy Week, and to the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. Our debate will be the poorer for not hearing their contributions.
Indonesia is a vast nation with enormous potential for prosperity. It has abundant natural resources, rich cultural traditions, magnificent scenery and people who are famous for hospitality and graciousness. Its parliamentary democracy has withstood challenges and its economic development is encouraging.
However, there are bitter conflicts in regions such as Aceh, Irian Jaya, Sulawesi and the Moluccas which could endanger the fragile democracy and destabilise national unity. I shall focus on Maluku and Sulawesi,
Indonesia is the world's largest Islamic nation, with a population of 220 million. It has a long and well-respected history of religious tolerance. About 10 per cent of Indonesians are Christians, but in Maluku and Sulawesi the proportions are approximately 50:50. The communities lived peaceably together until the end of the 1990s, when the previous government's policy of population transmigration generated some tensions, but nothing resembling the bitter conflict that erupted in Maluku in January 1999. Since then violence has escalated, with several thousand deaths and over half a million people displaced. Last year serious fighting broke out in Sulawesi, mainly around Poso, which only ceased when the government sent in massive security forces.
One of the main reasons for the violence was the influx of Laskar Jihad militant extremists. They began to come in significant numbers in the spring of 2000. Now there are some 3,000 in Maluku, with many more in Sulawesi. They have received international financial support and personnel from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other Islamic countries. They have set up training camps: one on the outskirts of Ambon is clearly visible and well established. We were told that there are several in Sulawesi and they can easily relocate in the dense jungle when approached by government security forces.
Both Muslims and Christians have suffered death, displacement and widespread destruction of homes, places of worship, schools and hospitals. Psychological scars have left the communities segregated by fear and intimidation. Those beautiful, once prosperous landsfamous tourist attractionshave been reduced to a state of devastation.
Many attempts to end the conflict, such as the grassroots Baku Bae process have failed, causing resurgence of violence. Then the government initiated a new series of negotiations resulting in the Malino agreements. The first related to Sulawesi and the second, this February, covers Maluku. Successful implementation is crucial. Failure would bring widespread disillusionment and fear that the government cannot maintain law, freedom, stability and protection of their own citizens.
The first Malino agreement was concluded last December against a background of attacks against Christian villages in Sulawesi, involving a two-month offensive by thousands of Laskar Jihad militants. Christians fled to the remaining stronghold of Tentena, doubling the population of the city. Tens of thousands of refugees faced death at the hands of the jihad warriors when the government sent in thousands of security personnel to restore order.
The conflict has affected other communities, such as the Hindus, originally from Bali. The mayor's office in Poso told us that one Hindu temple had been destroyed, but we saw numerous temples destroyed and local Hindus claim that over 40 have been destroyed. They are devastated. The destruction of their temples is sacrilege. They do not know how they will raise money to restore them and they are living among the ruins. Therefore, it is disturbing that the mayor's office gave inaccurate information, which trivialises the suffering of the Hindus. It is essential that they are included in confidence-building and reconstruction programmes.
In Maluku, the Christian and Muslim communities are tired of the violence and ready for reconciliation. But when the Malino signatories returned to Ambon, there was opposition to the agreement from some militant Muslims. The Muslim signatories' car was pelted with stones and there were bomb explosions on 13th February. They took refuge at the governor's residence. The Laskar Jihad radio was calling for a violent response against them, claiming that they had betrayed the Muslim community. The violence was inter-Muslim and it was not, as reported in the Jakarta Post, Christians who had thrown stones at the Muslim delegates.
The national authorities, including the head of police, the Co-ordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs and Vice-President Hamzah Haz, all reaffirmed that strong measures would be taken against provocateurs who tried to disrupt the agreement. Leaders of the Muslim and Christian Malino delegations have also emphasised the importance of the military and the police in the coming months.
However, concerns remain about the government's commitment to translate promises into action. For example, the Co-ordinating Minister for Welfare, Yusuf Kalla, reportedly stated in an Australian radio interview that there was no necessity to remove Laskar Jihad militants from the region, as they would automatically convert their violent activities to social work if the conflict were to stop. The head of national police expressed similar sentiments.
There is concern over the growth of militant Islamism in these areas, with a fear that Indonesia will become a new base for the training and support of international terrorists. As Afghanistan can no longer serve as a primary base, it could be an ideal alternative, with its island terrain of jungles and mountains. The substantial proportion of its population with Arabic backgrounds would enable incoming jihad warriors from the Middle East to be easily absorbed.
The presence of both Christian and Muslim militants is the greatest threat to the achievement of peace and stability. We were also told that the agenda of Islamist militants in Sulawesi was to continue their military offensives against all areas with significant Christian populations, finishing in the Tana Taraja region. Having killed, converted or evicted the Christians, they would achieve demographic change with Muslim populations who would apply for the right to implement Sharia law. That would have far-reaching implications for the principles of religious freedom and the quality of life in those communities.
The presence of militants includes both Christians and Muslims and poses the greatest threat to the achievement of peace and stability. That is reflected by a commitment in the Malino agreement. However, their eviction will present a serious logistical and political challenge. Unless the government act, their presence will undermine the confidence of local communities, which is an essential ingredient of the reconciliation and normalisation processes.
It is important to mention that there have been some positive developments. Members of the military forces and the police had been implicated in the violence in Sulawesi and Maluku in a very one-sided way, but their recent interventions have contained violence in a professional and impartial way, which is to be welcomed.
I turn to reconciliation and reconstruction. Millions of dollars of aid have been provided by western governments for emergency assistance and rehabilitation. However, local people are concerned about corruption among local and regional officials responsible for distributing the funds. Therefore, essential economic assistance should be accompanied by evaluation procedures to ensure that funds reach the intended recipients. Ineffective assistance exacerbates tension and provides breeding grounds for militants.
Reconciliation, inter-communal peace, stability and trust are preconditions for the normalisation of everyday life, with reconstruction of homes, places of worship, schools and healthcare facilities. There is also an urgent need for economic investment to provide employment. The costs will be very great.
I therefore ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government will urge the international community to offer whatever support might be appropriate to assist the Indonesian Government to implement the law enforcement and security measures recommended by the Malino agreements; take the strongest possible measures against those inciting hatred and engaged in violence; bring to justice the perpetrators of violence; invest adequately in programmes of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of devastated communities; and provide employment opportunities.
In conclusion, what is at stake today in Indonesia is not only the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people but the stability of the world's largest Muslim nationa nation that has a highly respected tradition of religious tolerance and cultural pluralism. If its somewhat inevitably fragile democracy succumbs to threats from militant Islamist minorities, supported by external forces, the price will be very high for its own people and for the international community. This great nation plays a significant role in regional and global affairs. It must be in everyone's interests that its government are supported in their endeavours to resist militant Islamist subversion and maintain the best and most honourable traditions of the Indonesian people, including their tolerance, friendliness and historic cultures, which elicit respect and affection from all who visit their beautiful land.
The noble Baroness has graphically described some recent events that have taken place in parts of Indonesia. No reasonable person could fail to be moved by her tireless efforts on behalf of the people of many countries. I am confident that every Member of this House will agree that her work in pursuing the human rights of individuals to live in peace and enjoy freedom of worship is an inspiration to many both inside and outside this House.
Violence has continued in the Moluccas for more than three years. As the noble Baroness said, the traditional peaceful communities have grown weary of the attacks perpetrated by minorities determined to sabotage the current efforts to bring about reconciliation by trying to restart the violence. Recent developments have resulted in Muslims who support reconciliation being subjected to attacks. Muslim and Christian peace meetings have also been attacked. The object of those attacks was to heighten tension between the communities within the region.
During the debate in this House on 20th June 2000 I drew attention to the influx of jihad warriors in the Moluccas. At that time, almost two years ago, in answer to a Question in another place expressing concern about reports that a number of extremists had travelled to the province from outside Maluku, our Government confirmed that they were aware of the situation. They said,
The recent Malino agreement, which has already been referred to, dealing with the situation in Maluku was signed by the Indonesian Government. It made clear that the Indonesian Government were responsible for the enforcement of the law and for security aspects.
In the time available todayalthough I accept that we now have a few moments longerit is not possible to deal in detail with the 11 tenets of the Malino 2 agreement. It is sufficient to say that it confirmed the right of the people of the Moluccas to live and work and to be active in the whole of Indonesia. That right was spelt out as being a responsibility that there should be respect for local cultures and that security and local regulations would be upheld.
A major tenet of the agreement was that a national independent team would be established to investigate conclusively the events of 19th January 1999. That was the date when the conflict started. The hope that was widely expressed at the time of the Malino 2 agreement has still a long way to go before being fulfilled. In my view, the international community must press for the agreement to be implemented as a matter of great urgency.
The peace process is in constant danger all the time that there are individualsmany who come from and are supported by outside countrieswho are determined to wreck the efforts of those brave people who strive for peace and in many cases suffer violent attacks for what they are trying to do.
Another important part of the agreement was about rehabilitation. Quite clearly, the Government were committed to undertake the programme of rehabilitative training and understanding that would help rebuild the economy and public facilities in that country.
It was said at the time of the agreement that a national independent team would look into the whole question. It was hoped that there would be open doors. Unfortunately, that has not happened. There is still a tremendous amount of obstruction to people who want to find out what is going on.
I ask my noble friend to comment on the recent reports of a number of attacks on those who support the peace efforts. It is very important that those people, who are fighting both physically and with any other thing at their disposal, see that governments such as ours are supportive of the need to implement the intentions of that Malino 2 agreement.
I should also like to mention that it is time for an international monitoring team to be sent, outside of the independent review team that was mentioned in the Malino agreement. As a matter of urgency it should be sent to look into what is happening and to initiate moves to involve the international community to become more involved in the peace process in this troubled part of the world.
As I have saidand as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, saidthe Indonesian people are traditionally peaceful and harmonious. They have a long history of peaceful co-existence among the various communities
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow, if not my noble friends, certainly kindred spiritsthe noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I apologise to the noble Baroness that I was unable to hear the first part of her remarks today in the light of this debate coming slightly earlier than some of us had perhaps anticipated. However, I was very pleased to hear what she had to say in the part of her speech that I was able to hear. I know from my conversations with her prior to this debate that we should all listen with great care to what she has said to the House today.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, always has my admiration in raising these questions. Many of us are united in our admiration for her. When travelling in various parts of the world, all of us encounter people whose first question is to ask how the noble Baroness is. Whether it is people from the Sudan, Armenia or, in my case, when I visited the Karen on the Burma/Thai border. In refugee camps there the noble Baroness was already known because she had been there. She has been a great standard bearer for people who suffer intimidation and violence in many parts of the world. Today she has been properly raising the situation in Indonesia.
I should like to add my voice to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and also to convey my thanks to Ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for extending invitations, as they have done, to the noble Baroness, myself and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I suspect that the noble Lord is still recuperating from his recent period in hospital, but I know he would otherwise want to be associated with the remarks which are being expressed in the House tonight.
I found those information briefings helpful. It was through one of those meetings that I met the retiring Indonesian ambassador. During his time in London he did a great deal to try and address the concerns of parliamentarians and agencies working in the field. I was particularly pleased when he invited me to the embassy to discuss human rights issues. He clearly had a great interest in how we in the United Kingdom saw the language of human rights and how that must become a common language for the discussion of foreign affairs and Foreign Office issues in the future.
I am also very glad that there is now an all-party group dealing with the Indonesian question. A few months ago, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, I was able to meet a number of parliamentarians from Indonesia who were visiting the Palace of Westminster. It is good to see that there are the beginnings of a more stable democracy. Whether
The great tragedy of the last few years is thatwhether people are Muslim or Christianthose who have incited violence in Indonesia have been undermining a long-standing relationship of co-existence that has previously existed in that country. Also they have been destabilising the position in parts of the country of both Muslim minorities and Christian minorities.
The Jubilee Campaign is a human rights group which I helped to establish in Parliament some 15 years ago. I know that the Minister in a previous incarnation was always a great supporter of that organisation's work. I have always been grateful to him for that. Through that campaign I became increasingly concerned about the deepening problems which the Christian minority in Indonesia faced.
Perhaps I may at the conclusion of today's debate give the Minister a copy of a report entitled Indonesia: Poso and Maluku Fear for Life's Safety Overcomes the Urgency of Humanitarian Needs which has been prepared by the Jubilee Campaign and specifically by Ann Buwalda and Kie Eng Go. In January of this year they were in Indonesia taking evidence. As the Minister will see, it is a voluminous and detailed report. In their summary of conclusions they state:
Fighters from Laskar Jihad, the militant Islamic group responsible for killing thousands of Christians in the Molucca Islands and in Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia, have now infiltrated into the Indonesian province of West Paptiawhere those militants are training local militia who support Indonesian control over that province. The Laskar Jihad has sent more than 100 of its armed fighters into the West Paptian district of Fak Fak and is operating military training camps there.
Some Indonesian authorities are supporting the training that Laskar Jihad fighters have been giving members of the pro-Jakarta, East Merah Putih militia. Unrest and fear have also spread through the Christian community in the Sorong district of West Paptia,
The Laskar Jihad started by invading the Moluccas in 2000, then moved to Sulawesi. Now it is starting to infiltrate West Paptia, which has a large Christian community. Laskar Jihad's devastating effect on the people of the Moluccas and Sulawesi make it amply clear that there will be a lot of bloodshed if it is permitted to operate in West Paptia, as it has been able to do with impunity elsewhere in Indonesia. Urgent action is needed once and for all to stop Laskar Jihad from implementing its strategy of inciting religious hatred and carrying out systematic violence against Christian communities in Indonesia.
The Laskar Jihad is comprised of Islamic extremists from different parts of Indonesia. Some come from outside that country, from some other Muslim states such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. In May 2000, just as sectarian violence in the Moluccas appeared to be starting to wanemany of us hoped that it might be abating at lastthe Laskar Jihad invaded the islands with about 7,000 fighters to wage a jihad or so-called holy war against the Christians of the Moluccas.
That invasion brought the levels of violence in the Moluccas to unprecedented levels, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. Months before the Laskar Jihad invasion of the Moluccas, it had vociferously declared its intention to go to the Moluccas to wage a jihad against the Christians thereyet sadly, the Indonesian Government did nothing to stop the Laskar Jihad. Some elements of the Indonesian military even supplied Laskar Jihad fighters with automatic weapons and mortars.
Last December, the head of Indonesia's National Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Hendropriyono, publicly confirmed that members of the notorious Al'Qaeda terrorist network were joining Laskar Jihad militants in fighting against Christians in Sulawesi. Due to pressure from more fundamentalist people operating in Indonesia, General Hendropriyono later retracted that statement. It is important to note that he withdrew it only because of political pressure, not because he had got his facts wrong. Intimidation was placed upon him by people from a far more extreme background.
While peace agreements signed between Muslim and Christian leaders from Sulawesi in December 2001 and from the Moluccas in February 2002 indicated a positive step towards peace and reconciliation, it is most unlikely that there will be long-term peace until the Laskar Jihad is completely expelled from the Moluccas and Sulawesi and its leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, is detained and prosecuted for inciting and carrying out sectarian violence. Not surprisingly, the Laskar Jihad has publicly denounced those peace agreements. It is self-evident that the Laskar Jihad has no intention of abiding by either peace accord. Numerous Christian villagers in Sulawesi report an intimidation campaign, in which they have been threatened that harm will come to them after the Indonesian troops are withdrawn in the middle of this year.
In central Sulawesi, about 20,000 Christians have fled their torched villages for Tentena, a village of about 8,000 inhabitants. Since June 2001, despite the absence of provocation by local Christians, Laskar Jihad-supported fighters undertook planned offensives to clear the town of Poso of Christians and systematically to target and destroy surrounding peaceful Christian villages. Thousands of Christians have become internally displaced as a result of violent attacks by Laskar Jihad and its allies.
The villagers' resources are limited, so they are living in miserable conditions. The Christians in Tentena are cut off and surrounded by thousands of hostile fighters. If the Indonesian police and military fail to protect Tentena, there will be a massive bloodbath.
While the president's despatch of thousands of additional soldiers to central Sulawesi to help keep the peace is much to be welcomed, it is deeply disturbing that those troops will only be there six months and are scheduled to be withdrawn by June. It is highly unrealistic to expect that the Indonesian military will no longer be needed to keep the peace in central Sulawesi after only six months. The peace agreement between the Muslims and Christians of Sulawesi will have little value unless there are Indonesian troops present and willing to act impartially in enforcing the agreement's terms.
In the Moluccas, the scandal remains of the desperate plight of at least 3,000 Christians who have been forced by Muslim militants to convert to Islam on the islands of Halmahera, Bacan, Buru and Seram. The Indonesian Government has so far refused to evacuate these forced converts to a place of safety where they can safely revert back to practising their Christian faith.
The Indonesian Government needs to take firm and long-term measures to control and disband the militant Islamic groups such as the Laskar Jihad. If the Indonesian authorities simply try to appease and accommodate those militant groups, they will only grow stronger and more effective in inciting sectarian violence throughout the country.
I refer your Lordships to an article by Andrew Marshall in the New York Times Magazine on 10th March entitled "The Threat of Jaffar". That article sets out precisely the nature of the man with whom we are dealing, the admiration that he has expressed for Osama bin Laden and his rejoicing after the tragedy of September 11.
I urge the British Government to put strong pressure on the Government of Indonesia to remove all Laskar Jihad members and militants from the Al'Qaeda network from Sulawesi, the Moluccas and West Papuaand to detain and prosecute the Laskar Jihad leader, Jafa Umar Thalib. The Indonesian Government should also be prepared to maintain for at least two years the current level of troops in Sulawesi to keep the peaceand to ensure that the police and military in the Moluccas and Sulawesi act impartially to preserve law and order. Furthermore, the British
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I also congratulate my noble friend Lady Cox on sponsoring this important debate. Indonesia has embodied principles of religious tolerance and has served as an example not only to other Islamic countries but to the wider international community. It is unfortunate that the latest image of Indonesia in international news is of a safe haven for militant extremists and religious strife.
That is especially the case regarding the activities of militant organisations in the provinces of Moluccas and Sulawesi. While members of Christian and Muslim communities have been implicated in both conflicts, the recent violence is associated with the militant extremist organisation Laskar Jihad. That is the most organised militant faction in Indonesia, with reportedly more than 10,000 members. Although relatively small numerically, according to experts in the region it enjoys high-level military and political backing.
Some reports suggest that members of the Indonesian armed forces have provided the organisation with training, funds and weapons and have ordered Moluccan officials not to intervene in the violent activities of Laskar Jihad in the region.
I should also stress that the great majority of moderate, peaceable Muslims do not want the Laskar Jihad to remain in their midst, and the Moluccan Muslims have insisted that the Indonesian Government should remove them from the region. When the Laskar Jihad leader, Jafar Umar Thalib recently visited the Aceh region, a predominantly Muslim area, he was asked to leave by the Achenese Muslim leaders.
However, despite opposition to the organisation's extremist activities, no concrete action has been taken against it. Instead, according to the latest tragic reports from Moluccas, Laskar Jihad has been allowed to jeopardise the Government's negotiated reconciliation agreement. For example, participants in spontaneous peaceful demonstrations were attacked, sustaining serious injuries. The attackers intended to intimidate Muslims supporting reconciliation and disrupt the fragile reconciliation process. There have been no reports to suggest that the perpetrators of that act have been brought to justice.
It is in the areas of law enforcement and security that the international community and the British Government could play an important role. The Indonesian Government have committed themselves to uphold law and order in the Moluccas and Sulawesi and to act swiftly against those parties trying to re-ignite the violence.
Have the Government offered any assistance to the Indonesian Government to help to bring about a peaceful conclusion? Such an initiative would be of particular importance given the recent reports of possible Al'Qaeda connections in Indonesia.
The militant extremist organisations enjoy numerically little support. At the same time, however, they have been able to destabilise two crucial regions in the country, with plans for a violent campaign in a third, Papua to tarnish Indonesia's international reputation and undermine foreign investment and tourism in the country.
Indonesia is a country that has seen little respite from its turbulent politics, the faltering economy and simmering conflicts since a mass uprising forced President Suharto from office in 1998 after 32 years of autocratic rule. Since then, it has had three presidents, with B. J. Habibie removed in an election in 1999 and Abdurrahaman Wahid ousted by Parliament after a lengthy impeachment process involving corruption charges in the summer of 2001. Megawarte Sukarnoputra, daughter of Indonesia's founding leader, Sukarno, now heads a fractious and deeply troubled country.
The President faces a myriad of dark legacies from the Suharto era, including weak institutions, and a corrupt and untrained judiciary and a pervasive military structure that exists in parallel with the civilian government. Separatist conflicts in Aceh and Irian Jaya remain unresolved, and plans for greater autonomy for those provinces have not come to fruition. Communal violence has flared in Kalimantan and Maluku and simmers away elsewhere. Little has been done to fix an economy that nearly collapsed in 1997 and has shown few signs of recovery. Corruption and lawlessness are still defining themes of a Government that have spent most of their time preoccupied with political scandal.
That is a bleak picture for Indonesia. However, there are bright aspects. The Malino agreement mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is a bright spot. We should commend the work of all the NGOs that have worked so hard and the tirelessly in all the trouble spots to bring the trouble to an end.
I should like to focus on a different aspect of the recent troubles, which is their international context. Indonesia has been seen, especially by the Americans, as one area from which Islamic fundamentalism and support for Al'Qaeda have derived. Indonesia has two prominent radical Islamic organisations, the Front To Defend Islam and the Laskar Jihad, which were
Indeed, in the case of Laskar Jihad, affiliation with the Al'Qaeda network must be doubted given the openly contemptuous attitude of its leader towards bin Laden, whom he accuses of rebelling against Saudi Arabia, a state that applies Islamic law. The group has vigorously condemned the United States attack on Afghanistan, but it has not been in the forefront of the current anti-American demonstrations. The Front To Defend Islam has taken a more aggressive stance towards America, but within Indonesia it is not reckoned capable of carrying out some of the threats that it has made.
Other militant groups are also engaged in protesting against the United States and threatening to expel Americans and citizens of allied countries from Indonesia, several of which registered volunteers who were sent to Afghanistan. Indonesia's radical Muslim organisations represent only a tiny proportion of the population of 210 million. Nevertheless, the outrage expressed by radicals against the United States is widely shared by the moderate Muslim majority, as well as by secular groups. They accuse America of having double standards by fighting terrorism with terrorism.
That has created a dilemma for the government of President Megawarte Sukarnoputra. They have pledged to support international action against terrorism, but do not want to be seen to support a US attack on a Muslim country, with inevitable civilian casualties, as there unfortunately have been. Further, the government desperately need US assistance to restore an economy that has still not recovered from the 1997 financial crisis.
The demonstrations, which have rarely involved more than 1,000 demonstrators, are not in themselves a serious threat to the government, but in a context where Indonesia's democratic transformation is being accompanied by a crisis of lawlessness, it is feared that anti-foreign sentiment could prejudice prospects of economic recovery. Little could do more harm to the government's efforts to persuade investors to return to Indonesia than attacks on western property or isolated physical assaults on westerners.
Obviously, Indonesia is to a degree outside the Government's sphere of influence. However, I ask them to use their influence to ask the American Government not to be too proactive in aggressive action within Indonesia, because that could have the undesirable effect of provoking action rather than combating terrorism.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, as always, I know that your Lordships' House is extremely grateful to my noble friend Lady Cox not only for promoting the debate on this important issue but for bringing to it her up-to-the-minute expertise and clarity of exposition, which we greatly value. That has enabled us to have a debate against a highly informed background, introduced by a highly informed expert.
People forget something on which the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, touched. Until five years ago, Indonesia was regarded as a good investment bet. Indeed, it was regarded as one of the new tigers of Asia and attracted considerable foreign capital. All the major investment banksI declare an ex post interest; I was working for one of themran enormous operations in Jakarta and saw it as a part of the future. Then the Asian turmoil came out of the blue, knocking the Indonesian rupiah way down. After that, there were the IMF remedies, which proved totally unsuitable and ill adjusted to the situation, plus the usual dose of disastrous advice from economists who seemed unable to perceive the relationship between economic matters and the social and political condition of the country, as they have done in many other areas. The consequences shook the country to its foundations. It was, as we have been reminded, a dictatorial autocracy, but it had one quality, which it has struggled to regain ever since, namely enormous enterprise and energy, leading to a rapid rate of economic growth. There was also some social development, even under the dark shadow of the former president, Suharto.
All that is history. Since then, political and social instability has increased. Mixed up with that has been the opening of old sores and divisions and the sinister presence of terrorist activity. We see that pattern all around the world; terrorism feeds on nations in difficulties and re-activates old problems. Of course, none of that began in the past few yearswe are dealing with ancient rivalries and difficultiesbut what has developed in the past few years is the enormous opening up of ancient quarrels, with a terrifying level of violence. Is it all related to the Al'Qaeda global terrorist network? No one really knows. We get various stories and assertions. Were there training camps on some of the islands? Again, that is said to be so and then the statements are retracted and contradicted. It is hard to get a clear picture, except that it is clear that, in this world of e-enabled terrorism and global interconnection, there are international terrorist links.
Recently, some of us, including my noble friend Lady Cox, hoped that the communities on the islands, particularly the MoluccasMaluku and Sulawesiwere weary of the endless strife and violence and that moderate groups on both sides were seeking to bring the communities together again to live in peace. We also hoped that the attacksnot just those by one side against the other but those on all moderates who talked of reconciliationwould cease. I was particularly fascinated by the fact, revealed by my noble friend Lady Cox, that there was a triangular battle of faiths. I had not appreciated that. Not only were Muslims attacking Christians and, in some caseswe must be realisticChristians attacking Muslims, but the Hindu community was being exposed to murderous violence. There, too, the Hindu-Muslim disaster that we saw so recently in Gujarat and elsewhere is being played out.
A new factor has come along, about which the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, spoke eloquently. That factor is Laskar Jihad. When I visited that group's website, when preparing for the debate, I found some chilling indications of what it believed in and what it was up to. As always, the matter is not straightforward. I do not deny that, in some areas, the group may have done some social good. It may have given some impoverished and frightened Muslim communities some protection and a better standard of living. There are some testimonies in the group's favour. Generally, however, the group seems to be fully committed to violence and intent on carrying out jihad, not in the moderate Islamic sense but in the violent sense.
The group has links with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Philippines, where the United States recently identified major activity by the Al'Qaeda network. Some of the group's language is very sobering; it says that it will "deal" with Christian problems and will do it "by force". That identifies it as a highly undesirable and, in many aspects, evil movement, even if there are, as always, some less evilly motivated people attached to it and believing in some of the things in which it believes.
It is a situation of enormous concern. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, it may not be within the Government's scope or bailiwick to do much about it immediately. However, we are all, as never before, part of an interdependent global network. The continuing sagging of Indonesia's giant economy, in contrast to its brilliant performance in early years, is all part of the slow-down in Asia and may even be interconnected with the continued stagnation in Japan. It is in our interests, as a prosperous trading nation, to see Indonesia prosper again.
Even if we cannot have a direct effect, are there some things that we can do? By holding this debate, we can show the Indonesian Government that we recognise their pain and difficulty in the face of the violent clashes. We must give them the strength to ensure that the security forces act professionally, as they appeared to be doing in Sulawesi and may still be doing. If they act in an even-handed and professional manner, it will be possible to start generating the first shoots of peace, compromise and reconciliation. In the broader Indonesian context, it is encouraging that members of the armed forces and police who, in East Timor, were not even-handed and may even have promoted atrocities, are being brought to trial. Cynics will say that they are only small fry and that the real offenders are not being brought to trial. Nevertheless, there is an important attempt being made by Indonesia to bring to justice the offenders who were in uniform and may have promoted or accelerated terrible doings in East Timor and, for all I know, elsewhere. We should welcome that.
Laskar Jihad must be confronted and, sooner or later, disarmed, before it continues to undermine the stability and cohesion of the whole of Indonesia. I also agree with my noble friend and others, who said that economic assistance had, of course, a role to play. I would not put it all that high; enormous sums have
It is right that the British Government and other governments should indicate their full support for the two Malino agreements, as noble Lords have urged. Those agreements must be pursued and implemented. I am sure that the Government will do what they can from a distance to send that message. We must all recognise that it is a country in a precarious condition. Visiting Singapore a few years ago, I was told that the Singaporeans foresaw the total disintegration of Indonesia in a few years. That was at the time when the violence in Aceh was particularly prominent and also when East Timor was at its worst stage of difficulties.
Through some miracle the country has not disintegrated: it has held together. If we work and support the right forces, express the right sentiments and work with the rest of the international community in a sensitive wayand dare I repeat it, keep some of the economists with their absurd propositions well out of the waywe may see Indonesian society yet stick together.
Mrs. Megawati is on a tightrope and everyone recognises that. It is a similar kind of tightrope to that which confronts, say, the rulers of Saudi Arabia. The tightrope is with the extremists who have very strong appeal. They are anti-American and give very strong support to Islamic culture and ways, often of a very extreme kind. They have immensely powerful propaganda with some admiration for Osama bin Laden and some readiness to condemn the whole of the West. That is the constituency that Mrs Megawati has to recognise because it exists. She has to take it on otherwise it will destroy her and democracy totally in Indonesia.
On the other side there is the need to maintain Indonesia as part of the global capitalist system and to make it attractive again for foreign investment and to mobilise the colossal enterprise, which I have just mentioned and which exists in Indonesia to attract once again the huge investment flows that were so happily going into that country in the early 1990s.
This is not an area where bankers and economists can really understand what is going on. Indeed, the bankers were all predicting that Indonesia was the ideal investment spot almost up to minutes before the entire system collapsed. It is an area where we need to understand, as in many other areas, the inner workings of the society. There our intelligence and the skills which this country has long had in coping
People say that they are worried that the Americans believe that they can go it alone. They cannot because the curbing of extremism and the attack on terrorism is a totally collaborative venture and our skills here are just as much needed as the vast military might and the 13-carrier fleets of the United States of America.
That is the picture and we have had a fascinating glimpse of it, thanks to my noble friend Lady Cox. I personally am very grateful to her. We look forward to hearing the Minister's views on how the situation stands and on what we can do here to improve it.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, as we might have expected, this has been an extremely well-informed debate with a very wide measure of agreement. I do not believe that anything I shall sayat least, I hope notwill in any way detract from the views which have been expressed by most speakers. As ever, we are indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. She introduced the debate with characteristic sincerity, passion and commitment. We have all benefited from the first-hand experience which she brought to bear.
It is sometimes easy to forget that Indonesia held its first democratic elections for 44 years in 1999. Today, Indonesia is a young democracy facing many difficult challenges. We must judge the country from the progress it has made so far.
I know that the noble Baroness is a keen follower of events in Indonesia and this Government share her concern at the ruinous inter-communal conflicts that have blighted central Sulawesi and Maluku provinces.
I would like to place on record our appreciation of her constructive interest in the country, its many problems, and for her consideration in sharing her findings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I also appreciate the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his expression of gratitude for the various briefings which have taken place.
We take some encouragement from the Malino peace deals which have been referred to by a number of speakers. The Government recently supported an EU statement which called on the Indonesian authorities to do their utmost to nurture the fragile peace.
The House will be aware that in the weeks since the signing of the Malino peace agreements, efforts have been made in implementing their terms. The agreements were described by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, as one of the bright spots of recent times. Multi-faith gatherings have been held in Maluku and attempts by extremists to trigger violence have met with little success.
But these agreements are but a first step in a long process to reconcile warring communities, rehabilitate families who have been forced from their homes and reconstruct the many buildings destroyed during the violence. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, will also be aware of this Government's actions in bolstering Indonesian efforts to promote reconciliation, having recently met with our ambassador in Jakarta. She will have heard about the United Kingdom support to the UN Conflict Prevention and Recovery Unit in Jakarta, which monitors developments in areas of conflict in Indonesia. We are also undertaking a three-year strategy using funds from the Global Conflict Prevention Pool to promote reconciliation and facilitate reconstruction in all parts of Indonesia affected by violent conflict.
I agree with the noble Baroness that the conflicts in Maluku and Sulawesi, which are primarily inter-communal in nature, have been made much worse by the activities of Muslim and Christian extremist groups. Laskar Jihad was the group specifically mentioned by a number of speakersthe noble Lord, Lord Howell, described it very welland the chilling language used by the group. The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, also made an important point. They do not just intimidate Christians, but Muslims as well.
With our European Union partners, this Government have consistently urged the Indonesian Government to take firm action against extremists and to bring all persons guilty of human rights abuses to justice. As regards terrorism, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, drew our attention to the factit is quite important to make this pointnot just that Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world, but that it has a moderate and tolerant interpretation of Islam and a history of religious tolerance. She is also right to point to the worrying speculation that post September 11th organisations with links to Al'Quaeda could operate out of Indonesia. The Government have been following closely Indonesia's approach to counter-terrorism. President Megawati was very quick to condemn the acts of September 11th and shortly after she visited President Bush in Washington.
A number of speakers have raised the point that there is as yet no conclusive proof of strong institutional links between Al'Qaeda and Laskar Jihad. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has written to President Megawati to share with her his thoughts on the war on terrorism. He has urged her to take firm action against individuals suspected of having links to terrorist organisations and in particular to investigate allegations of terrorist camps
The problems facing Indonesia, of course, go wider than the inter-communal conflicts in the two provinces we have been speaking about and our concerns about possible terrorist links. Separatism poses a particular challenge in the two furthermost Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Papua. Bills for special autonomy have been passed devolving significant financial resources to both these provinces. They also offer a stronger sense of local democracy. These laws now need to be implemented in full and we strongly urge the Indonesian Government to ensure that that is done.
Continued efforts are needed to reach a peaceful negotiated settlement with secessionist groups in these provinces. The murder of the Papuan leader, Theys Eluay, last October was a particularly worrying development. We have made clear to the Indonesian leadership that it is vital that a full and open investigation is carried out and that those implicated in the murder are brought to justice.
The noble Lords, Lord Astor of Hever, and Lord Howell, mentioned security sector reform. The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, described the situation in Indonesia as cause for concern but hope for the future. That is a useful phrase. It is very important within Indonesia's new democracy that the security forces operate within a framework of democratic control. During the impeachment of President Wahid, the armed forces played an even hand. Military participation in Parliament will cease entirely in 2009. But much remains to be done, in particular with issues on human rights and budget transparency.
Britain is playing a part in pushing forward the debate about the need for reform of the security forces. I can tell the House that Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development have agreed a three year £2.5 million security sector reform strategy for Indonesia. It aims to foster the debate about the need for democratically accountable security forces. In taking it forward, the British Embassy in Jakarta is engaging with Ministers, parliamentarians, the media and other local groups, academics and security forces. That is an important point.
A number of speakers referred to human rights. There is a legacy of human rights abuses committed in Indonesia under the Suharto regime. Soon after her installation, President Megawati issued a decree to extend the jurisdiction of ad hoc human rights courts to cover events in 1999 prior to the popular consultation in East Timor. Those courts started to consider cases on 14th March 2002. We are pressing the Indonesian Government to ensure that the cases are tried in a transparent and open way and that wider concerns about the jurisdictional limitations of the courts are addressed. In particular, progress is needed on accountability for past human rights abuses in Aceh and Papua.
On corruption, President Megawati has begun to tackle the legacy of corruption, collusion and nepotism from the Suharto era that percolates through many tiers of government, business, the judiciary and the military. The president has established an anti-corruption commission. We were heartened recently to see a resolution of the corruption case against the Governor of the Bank of Indonesia and the steps being taken to prosecute those implicated in the latest scandal involving BULOG, the State Logistics Agency. But much work remains to be done and our Government are using the United Nations Development Plan and the World Bank Partnership for Good Governance to push forward the debate about governance reform within Indonesia.
The justice sector also needs a major overhaul. We and other partners are lending a hand, for example, through the Partnership for Good Governance and visits to the UK by representatives of the Indonesian Supreme Court. Recently there have been some encouraging signs: the upgrading of the convictions in the Atambua murder case where three UN aid workers were killed in West Timor; the conviction of Jacobus Bere for the murder of New Zealand peacekeeper Leonard Manning in East Timor; and the charging of Tommy Suharto for involvement in the murder of a High Court judge. Yet perseverance and political will will be needed to make lasting changes.
I must mention briefly the economy and the problem of poverty in the country. Indonesia still faces tremendous economic and social challenges. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to that issue. Total public debt amounts to 90 per cent of GDP, and poverty has risen sharply as a result of the east Asian
The Department for International Development is supporting Indonesian efforts to develop policies that support the poor. Sustained structural reform is the only way Indonesia can revive its economy and stay on track with the IMF and its Paris Club creditors.
On relations with East Timor, Indonesia continues to try to mend the wounds in its relationship with East Timor. We warmly applaud this rapprochement. President Megawati has met Timorese leaders Xanana Gusmao and Ramos Horta and has been invited to the independence celebrations in Dili on 20th May. High level bilateral talks continue between the countries about outstanding issues of concernfor example, refugees and judicial co-operation on human rights cases.
Our Government and their strategic partners in the European Union, United States, Australia and Japan believe strongly that the important foundations of democracy laid down in Indonesia in 1999 must be built upon. President Megawati assumed office in July 2001 in a constitutional and peaceful way, following the impeachment of former President Wahid. She has made a positive start but we all acknowledge that the challenges facing her government remain formidable.
Indonesia needs our help if the reform process is not to falter. It is in all our interests that Indonesia delivers the prosperity and security that its people demand.
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