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Arm Sales To Indonesia – Principles for Pragmatism

Arms Sales To Indonesia – Principles for Pragmatism?

Britain, still selling arms to the Indonesian government, must immediately suspend all further contracts and cancel the invitation to an arms fair later this month. Are world leaders sacrificing principles for pragmatism? John Howard reports.

The mounting violence in East Timor has spread panic across the former Portuguese colony and across the whole region. Afterall, it's our backyard.

The militia's aim is transparent. They intend to make East Timor ungovernable and are doing so with the active collusion of the territory's present rulers. Whatever the promises made by President Habibie in faraway Jakarta to respect the referendum result, Indonesia's troops on the ground have no intention of doing so.

The UN has accused the Army of doing nothing to prevent the bloodshed. That is an understatement; the Army has encouraged and protected the militia's.

Those Army officers based in East Timor have carried out repression for years and have no intention of relinquishing power.

Britain said it has no troops to spare and could send only a destroyer now in the South China sea to the region. European Union foreign minister's, meeting at the weekend in Finland, have called for a "smooth transition" but appear unwilling to do much to enforce it.

Our Foreign Minister, Don McKinnon, says the carnage is "totally unsatisfactory." And President Clinton says he is under "firm domestic pressure."

Weasel words, all of them.

It was clear to even the most casual observer of the East Timor referendum that significant problems could arise, in fact, highly likely. Yet there were no contingency plans made by the UN or anybody else for that matter.

And APEC looks like being a total failure in this regard because of so-called diplomatic niceties.

Jakarta has taken no notice of 24 years of opposition from the UN to its annexation of East Timor. Realistically, what made our world leaders think it would now.

The law of averages says they've got to get something right sometime, but no, they've got it wrong again. I reckon anybody reading tea leaves would have had better success predicting what might happen.

But then, if only money, trade and selling arms is what drives your leadership, perhaps the carnage is the best result we could have expected. And there's not much principle in that.

What does the CCF TV advertisement say " Meanwhile, a little girl waits."

ENDS

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