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Highlights from East Timor speech by Jeanette Fitzsimons MP, Green Party Co-Leader

19 September, 1999

Sept 19, 1999

Highlights from East Timor speech by Jeanette Fitzsimons MP, Green Party Co-Leader, in Parliament on Friday

Please note suggestion (marked) for voluntary force of young New Zealanders.

First like to pay tribute to the brave people of East Timor. and their determination to be a free country through 24 long years of brutal Indonesian military occupation when they were deserted by much of the international community including, shamefully, our country.

Secondly, I would like to pay tribute those New Zealand activists in the East Timor Independence Committees who have held the torch here for the suffering people of East Timor through those long years of darkness.

Who together with others around the world have kept the issue alive in our communities, and at the United Nations.

This persistence internationally finally lead to the independence referendum Where 80% of the people voted for independence. After the referendum the people of East Timor felt betrayed And left at the mercy of the Indonesian army and its militias.

The bloodshed could surely have been forseen. It was no secret that Indonesia had filled East Timor with militia who were determined that unification would prevail regardless of the outcome of the vote. The Indonesians who have settled in East Timor to vote for autonomy rather than independence now have everything to lose. They will not fit easily back into Indonesia and they will be afraid of reprisals if they stay.

Last Saturday night in Auckland at the start of the march for East Timor I listened with admiration to Jose Ramos Horta igve a statesmanlike speech where he assured us there will be no reprisals and that Indonesians who wish to stay and help rebuild a Timorese nation will be welcome and safe. That is the mark of a person who can rise above the slaughter that has been perpetrated on his people and work for a better world. I sincerely hope he is able to keep that inspitation in front of his people when the time comes.

The Green Party fully supports the decision to send New Zealand peacekeepers to East Timor and congratulates the United Nations Security Council for the prompt action it has taken. A number of media commentators are smirking that those who have traditionally argued against military involvement are now calling for it, knowing that there is at present no peace to keep and that it may involve NZ casualities. So it's worth exploring why we support this initiative and not others.

First, this is a force fully mandated by the UN, not an adventure by one or a few countries seeking their own geopolitical advantage. Second, it is a clear cut case of upholding the unequivocal will of the people as expressed in a referendum with a turn out that would be remarkable in any peaceful democratic nation. East Timor has never been internationally recognised as Indonesian territory except by a small handful of nations - ironically this includes Australia which is now having to recognise that there was no basis for its previous position. So this is not an intervention into another country against its will.

Third, the humanitarian need is overwhelming and the problems do not appear to be insoluble given time and effort.

Fourth, we are not being asked to collude in large scale bombings under the pretence of protecting civilians, as in Kuwait, Iraq and Kosovo, but are taking the more honest and courageous path of sending ground forces.

The contrast with our opposition to what was attempted in Kosovo is particularly marked. The Greens will not support military intervention until all possible peaceful means to resolve the dispute have been tried. That was not the case in Kosovo. Milosevic had in fact offered the option of a peacekeeping force under the UN and that was rejected because the US insisted it must be under NATO, a military alliance rather than a political association of all nations. As a result the two communities in Kosovo have been driven further apart than ever and the killing has intensified.

So we support the prompt action the Government proposes to send a substantial force and support resources to stop the killing as fast as possible.

But we must do much more, especially in view our government's disgraceful collaboration with the Indonesian government and its army over all these years.

East Timor has been destroyed. Buildings and whole towns have been burned, infrastructure destroyed, food production halted. Children are without parents, refugees number many thousands. Humanitarian aid will be needed for a long time. But the rebuilding must start as soon as security is restored.

As a government and as a community we must put substantial resources into reconstructing the new independent East Timor. There is a real opportunity here for the NZ Government to co-ordinate and help fund non-government aid organisations such as VSA, Caritas, and others to play their role of working alongside the people of East Timor as they rebuild their country. Working together with government support they could field a volunteer force of skilled young people to help re-establish housing, food production, transport systems, health services, schools. In addition to the practical help for the East Timorese the benefit to the volunteers would be enormous - wider understanding of another culture, leadership training, and the satisfaction of serving others. There are many New Zealanders who would be keen to take up this challenge and I hope we will help the NGOs to make it possible.

It is also a time for a thorough re-evaluation of our whole foreign affairs and defence policy towards the Asia/Pacific region.

Let's be blunt: our defence cooperation with Indonesia did not restrain the attacks of the Indonesian military against the Timorese people IT ENCOURAGED THEM. During 23 years of brutal repression NZ trained Indonesian military officers and serviced Indonesian military planes.

Our links with governments and armies in our region must in future be conditional on their human rights records.

Our defence spending and training must focus on preparing for specialist peace keeping in this region, as we have done successfully in Bougainville and are about I hope to do successfully here. There is no need to waste money on F16s in that strategy.

And we must be more independent in our stance. Not just following the Australian lead. Canberra's support of Jakarta was a disaster.

We are sending our Defence Force contingent into a difficult situation. Our thoughts are with them, as they say goodbye to their families and friends,. We support them in their endeavours to bring peace and harmony to East Timor, Soon to join us as a independent country.


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