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Questions Of The Day On East Timor

APEC And East Timor - Slaughter In East Timor - Indonesia's Attendance At APEC

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 7 September 1999

The following are paraphrases of today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised some days after the event.

Question 2.

Rt Hon. Helen Clark to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Will she, as chair of the APEC Leaders' Meeting, ensure that resolution of the crisis in East Timor is placed on the formal agenda of the meeting; if not, why not?

A: (Transferred to end of question time to allow PM to answer in person.) It is my hope that progress on East Timor will be made before the APEC meeting occurs this weekend. APEC will then face up to the challenge of improving the incomes of the people of APEC economies. The APEC meeting provides a unique opportunity to assist the situation in East Timor. An informal meeting of Foreign Ministers has been arranged to take place before APEC by the Canadians and the British Foreign Secretary is expected at that meeting.

Q: (Helen Clark - Labour Leader) Is this the most serious and pressing issue facing the region? And what is the moral basis for not placing it on the agenda?

A: The member will have heard me say. There is a major initiative that is underway. I hope that progress will be made and that order will be restored in East Timor before the Leaders Summit on Saturday. APEC has a strong tradition of confining itself to economic matters that needs to be upheld. Other matters are discussed at accompanying bi-lateral meetings. Outrageous suggestions from the opposition are not correct. APEC has always confined itself economic matters and the improvement of prosperity of people in the region. I intend to uphold that principle.

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Q: (John Carter - National) Has she spoken to President Habibe on this matter and what did he say?

A: Yes I have spoken to him and I have made it very clear that NZers are very concerned about the situation in East Timor. The President has made a number of things clear too. Firstly he has said that "he accepts the vision of the people of East Timor." He made it clear he will "not tolerate anarchy" in East Timor. He has at midnight last night introduced martial law. He assured me people carrying weapons would be disarmed. He has also signed paper work freeing Xanana Gusmao. The leader of the opposition should not be so desperate in this matter - everything that can be done is being done.

(To Matt Robson - Alliance:) The fact that there are so many leaders here will mean that we can raise this very constructively. APEC's primary role - lifting people out of poverty - would be undermined by putting this on the official agenda of the meeting. No national leader has asked that this matter be put on the agenda.

Q: Is she confident in President Habibe's assurances?

A: I can only report faithfully on the spirit of the conversation. Whether he can enforce it or not is something that remains to be seen. But he was at pains to say that he has not at any stage introduced martial law before and that he takes this situation very seriously. I can only assume this indicates the seriousness of this situation to him. The government has been acting at the highest levels to seek a resolution to the crisis.

Question 5.

Hon. Phil Goff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Don McKinnon:

Q: What are the details of any action he has taken to promote multilateral action, such as financial, trade, military, and political sanctions against Indonesia, in order to force Indonesia to stop the slaughter of people in East Timor; if he has taken no action, why not?

A: The government has been acting at the highest levels. I have spoken to the foreign ministers of several countries today about the possibilities for positive developments at the Auckland meetings. It is only through the general consensus of the international community that we may see the development of further action which would be desirable.

Q: (Phil Goff - Labour) Why will he not threaten Indonesia with economic sanctions?

A: It is very clear that since the imposition of martial law, that if it does not work then the international community may then be involved with the resolution if Indonesia invites them. The important thing at present is to consider the motivations that the Indonesians are likely to respond to.

Q: What is Kofi Annan's view?

A: Clearly the UN is very concerned about the security of its UNAMET team in East Timor.

Q: (Ken Shirley - ACT) Does he agree it is more important to encourage Indonesia rather than alienate it?

A: We have to come back to the original objective. To have peace in East Timor. Sanctions may be appropriate or may not be at a later stage but now we should not lose sight of the objective.

Question 6.

Jim Anderton to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: How can she welcome the President of Indonesia to the APEC Leaders' Meeting when the Indonesian Government and armed forces under his leadership have allowed the brutal actions of the armed militia in East Timor which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of East Timorese and grave threats to the lives of representatives, including New Zealanders, of the United Nations assistance mission in East Timor?

A: (Deferred till end of question time to allow the PM to answer.) I want to remind the house that President Habibe has seen the strengthening of democracy in East Timor in spite of the Asian Crisis. I will continue to discuss this issue with world leaders - the implementation of an armed force to contribute - but the preferred option is for Indonesia to live up to its responsibilities. I can only accept a person at his word. Mr Habibe made it clear he will "not tolerate anarchy" in East Timor. We should look carefully over the next 24 hours whether martial law does make a difference. I stress again that action is underway and that we are supporting that action. I repeat again. If the Security Council provides a mandate and if Indonesia is willing then NZ stands ready to provide military assets. NZ has defence personnel at 24 hours standby notice to be deployed. Today I offered to PM Howard to deploy assets to Darwin if they are necessary.

(To Phil Goff - Labour) This government stands willing to take whatever action is necessary that is supported by UN mandate. It is very important that the institutions which can make a difference do make a difference. The UN is the organisation most likely to make a difference. Indonesia is critical in terms of regional stability. It is critical that it is well governed. It is the intention of NZ to welcome Mr Habibe to New Zealand so we can discuss these matters with him.

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