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East Timor's triumph is APEC's challenge

Jim Anderton MP Sat Sep 4 1999

Jim Anderton
MP Mrs Shipley's government must now guarantee the people of East Timor that as APEC host, she will use the advantage that role gives her to put pressure on Indonesia for a peaceful transition to independence.

In an announcement today it was confirmed that East Timor has voted 78.5 percent in favour of independence from Indonesia.

United Nations officials on the ground are expecting an escalation of violence today.

'The people of East Timor don't have time to wait for the United Nations to organise a peace keeping force. That could take weeks. The New Zealand government must act now to put pressure on Indonesia to discipline the militia and bring peace, and what better venue that APEC?

'If an international meeting of the leaders of the Asia Pacific region can't discuss civil strife and chaos in the region as a priority on the APEC agenda, then why do we have APEC?

'Delegating discussions on East Timor to the 'margins of APEC', as Don McKinnon called it, is an insult. What an embarrassing lack of courage compared to the incredible bravery shown by the people of East Timor.

'I want to know why East Timor is not higher on the agenda at APEC. Is an outbreak of anarchy and violence in a country not deemed a threat to economic stability and the efficient flow of trade?

'At Kuala Lumpur last year APEC leaders recognised the need to deal with the immediate risks caused by the Asian financial crisis. They said the crisis had to be dealt with because it had 'resulted in far reaching social costs...setting back decades of progress achieved in eliminating poverty...as well as access to basic health and infrastructure facilities.'

'Today we are faced with a crisis in East Timor which will effect the social and economic stability of the region.

'Why then, is East Timor not high on the APEC agenda?

'If enough pressure was brought to bear on Indonesia's President Habibe, he could instruct his 15,000 Indonesian troops and police who are already in East Timor to bring peace to the streets overnight.

'The spotlight is on Mrs Shipley to act, and act quickly,' said Jim Anderton.

ENDS

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