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East Timor: Government still sitting on hands

East Timor: Government still sitting on hands

Friday, 15 February 2008,

Friday, 15th February 2008

East Timor: Government still sitting on hands

Yesterday’s announcement that Australia were now sending their Prime Minister to East Timor raises more questions about New Zealand’s response, says an MP.

Independent MP Gordon Copeland was again asking the government why nobody from New Zealand had responded, yet the Australians were sending their leader.

The Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Rudd would be in East Timor today, "reflecting the Australian government's, the Australian Parliament's and the Australian people's long-standing support and long-standing friendship and special relationship with East Timor."

Mr Copeland said it was reprehensible that the New Zealand government had not responded in a proportionate manner. “We have a substantial commitment to East Timor, proportionately, yet we continue to sit on our hands while our defense partners the Australians, take action.”

Earlier this week Foreign Minister Winston Peters said international permission was needed before New Zealand could send anyone, such as a platoon who were on standby. Mr Copeland said sending the back-up platoon did not need permission because our troops and police were already there. “All we have sent is a wrong message to our partners, on a matter we could have taken an initiative on. Instead we see our Defense Minister Phil Goff also wringing his hands, defending allegations our troops weren’t fast enough getting to the incident.”

Earlier in the week the Australian foreign minister said they wanted to show solidarity after the assassination attempts on East Timor's leaders. Mr Copeland said that at least should have signaled to Winston Peters and Phil Goff that action was required. He accepted that communications would be taking place on a diplomatic and operational level between Australia and New Zealand, but questioned why it was not being taken to another level, namely actually doing something tangible.


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