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Clark: Timor crisis demands urgent measures

2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark and senior Labour MP Phil Goff said today that time was running out on the New Zealand Government’s strategy of encouraging President Habibie to act to restore order in East Timor, particularly in light of news media reports that what amounts to a coup may be under way in Jakarta.

Helen Clark and Phil Goff met this afternoon with the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. They said they were very encouraged by the priority that Britain, representing Europe, was giving to the issue, and were confident that Europe would continue to exert pressure to see the Timor crisis resolved.

“Today’s meeting of foreign ministers represents little advance over the outcome of other such diplomatic meetings in recent days.

“Yet another call has gone out to Indonesia either to bring the situation in Timor under control or to invite in others who can help.

“New Zealand’s thinking does not appear to have progressed beyond that point. Yet the situation in East Timor has continued to worsen today, with clear evidence that independence supporters, ordinary citizens, Catholic clergy and foreign observers are all targets of the death squads while the Indonesian military either stands by or actively aids and abets the militia.”

Helen Clark and Phil Goff said that urgent consideration now needs to be given to further measures with respect to Indonesia.

“Indonesia’s economy is kept afloat with Western money. The West has significant leverage over Indonesia. The message needs to go out that if Mr Habibie and/or his generals will not act, then the world will act by withdrawing the flow of funds Indonesia needs for economic survival. An arms embargo should also be immediately imposed.

“All week the international community has been calling for Indonesia to act. Those calls have not been heeded. Are New Zealand and other countries now to stand by while terror and anarchy reign in East Timor, or are they to begin to take practical steps to restore Indonesia to its senses?

“As each hour goes by, the New Zealand Government’s agenda for APEC of spending the weekend discussing tariffs and trade seems utterly irrelevant while a dire emergency is taking place in a major APEC member nation.
“We reiterate our call for the situation in East Timor to be made the priority issue at the APEC leaders’ summit. If that does not happen, then it will be hard to explain to New Zealanders or to anyone else what the relevance of APEC to everyday life in this region actually is,” Helen Clark and Phil Goff said.

Contact: Helen Clark, 09 638 8055 or 025 923 237

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