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Statement to Parliament by Rt Hon Don McKinnon

Statement to Parliament by Rt Hon Don McKinnon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The Government condemns in the strongest terms the violence that has broken out in East Timor. The initiative of President Habibie’s Government to not only bring democracy to Indonesia but resolve the East Timor issue, which we have welcomed and worked to help implement, is in danger of being undone by criminal violence.

There is no question that Indonesia has not to met its responsibilities under the 5 May Agreements to ensure peace and security. There is the gravest risk of the democratically expressed wish of the East Timorese people to determine their own future being subverted. If Indonesia - which is only recently beginning to enjoy the flowering of democratic processes - allows this to happen, it will add a further chapter of shame to its involvement in East Timor and will unquestionably damage Indonesia’s international reputation and interests.

Under the 5 May United Nations agreements Indonesia alone is responsible for maintaining law and order in East Timor. Indonesia wanted this responsibility and was not agreeable to a UN peacekeeping presence. It insisted that it had the will and the capability to carry its responsibilities out. It showed, in the remarkably successful conduct of the ballot on 30 August, that it could ensure a relatively peaceful and secure environment in East Timor. Subsequently, the international community has heard repeated assurances from the most senior levels of the Indonesian Government about its commitment to a peaceful and secure transition in East Timor, and that external assistance was not needed.

The facts on the ground belie these assurances. Since the ballot - and particularly since the announcement of the reult on Saturday - there have been numerous disturbing accounts, from a wide range of sources that include our own representatives in East Timor, of armed militias opposed to the outcome terrorising the populace. UNAMET buildings and staff have been targetted; a number of locally-engaged UNAMET staff have been murdered; an international civilian police officer has been shot. The United Nations, notwithstanding the commitments given to the people of East Timor, has been forced to pull back to five centres. Even visiting Indonesian Ministers this week were unable for security reasons to travel from the airport to downtown Dili.

We are deeply concerned at the abundant evidence that the Indonesian police and military in East Timor, having failed to disarm and control the militias when conditions were relatively peaceful, are now unwilling to intervene and are complicit in the mayhem taking place.. They are derelict in their duty under an international agreement. And they are failing to enforce Indonesia’s own laws against criminal behaviour and the carriage of weapons.

The New Zealand rejects totally the media and official commentary in Indonesia depicting the behaviour of the militia forces over the last week as simply the emotional response of people disappointed in the outcome of the popular consultation. People who believe in democracy do not respond in this way. What we are witnessing is criminal and lawless behaviour, supported and orchestrated by those who want to frustrate the process set in place by the Habibie Government.

Nor should we allow to pass unchallenged the systematic attacks by th e pro-autonomy parties, before and since the ballot, on the integrity of UNAMET and the process it managed. International and domestic observers overwhelmingly endorsed the popular consultation as a fair and well-conducted process, the result of which they considered an accurate reflection of the will of the East Timorese people. A number of specific complaints were heard by the Electoral Commission and found to be lacking in substance. Allegations of bias, intimidation and misconduct on a grand scale are not credible against the facts of the turn-out of voters - 98.6% of those registered - and the unambiguous result of the consultation - four to one
against the autonomy proposal.

I have no doubt that this rejection of Indonesian rule has been a hard blow for many Indonesians who believe, not without some justification, that they have contributed much to the infrastructural development of East Timor. But the result of the popular consultation shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Indonesians failed to win the hearts and minds of the people of East Timor. Let us be clear about this: it was the conduct of Indonesia during the past 23 years, and particularly the conduct of the Indonesian armed forces, that led East Timorese to reject the autonomy proposal. If Indonesia has been wounded by its experience in East Timor, the wound was self-inflicted.
The situation in East Timor today can be brought under control. Most obviously, if the Indonesian police and the military (TNI) carry out the instructions of the President to restore order and to implement fully the commitments entered into by the Indonesian Government in the 5 May agreements.

But if the authorities in East Timor are unable or unwilling to do this, then President Habibie should look to help from the international community. I want to make it clear that no country envisages sending forces to East Timor without the consent of the Indonesian Governemnt. That would be tantamount to invasion, and for New Zealand or any other country in the region, such a proposition is simply not a starter. You don’t send Peacekeepers where there is no peace to keep.

A Security Council Mission leaves for Jakarta today. Its mandate in essence is to see how to meet the Security Council’ s determination for the 5 May Agreements to be fully implemented. We would hope it could gain Indonesian cooperation for an enhanced UN presence to assist in restoring peace and security in East Timor.

Alongside the APEC Meetings this week we will be discussing with involved parties how we can support United Nations endeavours to this end. This is an international initiative chaired by Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian Foreign Minister, who early promoted the idea. Its purpose will be to discuss how we can support the Indonesian Government to restore law and order in East Timor. I am in no doubt this will go beyond the APEC Ministers.

I can assure the House that the Government is engaged in the most intense consultations internationally to see how we can work to help restore security in East Timor and ensure the outcome of the 30 August ballot is respected. This involves highest level contacts with the United Nations and the other two parties to the 5 May Agreements - Indonesia and Portugal - as well as with Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries.

The United Nations Secretary General and members of the Security Council are also strenuously engaged in trying to shape an international response.
The Government pays a profound tribute to the work of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) and those serving with it, including the New Zealand Police and Defence Force personnel and also those MPs who went to East Timor to observe the ballot. It also recognises the deep contribution to the welfare of the East Timorese people made by the many non-governmental and church organisations and their staff - including New Zealanders - working in East Timor. A number of these New Zealanders, including 10 NZDF personnel remain in East Timor and their security is of utmost concern to the Government. We are doing everything possible to monitor the situation and ensure their welfare.

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