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Save The Children Letter To McKinnon

7 September 1999

Hon Don McKinnon
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Parliament Buildings,

Dear Mr McKinnon,

Re: East Timor

I write on behalf of Save the Children New Zealand to register our grave concern at the current inaction by the United Nations in East Timor and to convey the strongest possible encouragement to the New Zealand Government to take a leading role in bringing the current violence to an immediate end.

We urge the New Zealand Government to take positive practical and immediate actions aimed at protecting the innocent civilians in East Timor. We understand Government’s desire to use normal diplomatic approaches first but these will clearly not prevent further bloodshed in the current East Timor situation. New Zealand has a reputation for finding practical solutions to seemingly impossible situations such as we saw in Bougainville. The people of New Zealand are expecting a stronger lead in this issue.

The current violence and slaughter of innocent civilians is quite unacceptable. We must prevent East Timor from becoming another Rwanda or Kosovo where the United Nations were guilty of inadequate action. We note that you and your Australian counterpart has claimed that sending troops would be an act of invasion. We in Save the Children would prefer to think of it as an act of protection.

Our particular interest is innocent Children who will be separated from parents; who will have parents killed, possibly right in front of them, and who will be subjected to the horrors of rampaging militia marauders. Strong positive and immediate action now will limit their trauma and the high cost of community rehabilitation which New Zealand and other countries in the region will be expected to contribute to.

There has been talk that peace keeping is not possible because there is no peace to keep. It seems to us that a multi-national armed force, preferably under UN sponsorship, would ensure that the Indonesian Army is accountable and the activities of the local militia is monitored, thereby reducing violence. It was totally predictable that the militia would create havoc on the streets of East Timor when the vote

announcement came; and that the Indonesian Army, who after all had taken East Timor into Indonesian control 24 years ago, would stand by and watch. The only solution is for foreign troops to be present in East Timor immediately as every day involved in talking provides the local militia with time to continue their mayhem.

We urge you to take immediate steps to initiate a foreign Military presence from New Zealand, Australia, the United states, and other South East Asia Nations with urgency.

Yours sincerely

John Bowis

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