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More: Act now! for the people of West Papua


20 October 2000

Kia ora,

further to our alert 'Act now! for the people of West Papua' circulated yesterday, we have just received information that the Hawk warplanes which were being used to intimidate people in West Papua (see copy of TAPOL alert below from earlier this month) may have been withdrawn. This is most likely because the outrage in Britain over the complicity of the British government in arms sales to Indonesia (including the sale of Hawk warplanes) has finally caused British politicians to complain to the Indonesian government.

However, the Hawks have been replaced with Indonesian Skyhawks - does this ring any bells ? Yes indeed, the type of Indonesian warplane which was being outfitted at Safe Air in Blenheim last year ... perhaps even the very same warplanes which the previous NZ government refused to impound, and allowed to be returned to the Indonesian military as the situation in East Timor deteriorated.

The current NZ government has, as we pointed out in yesterday’s alert, the opportunity to act at next week’s South Pacific Forum to prevent the same descent into atrocity in West Papua - will they choose to do something now, or will they go on ignoring the people of West Papua and leave them to suffer the same fate as the people of East Timor ?

Hawk aircraft terrorise Papua

TAPOL press release

2 October 2000

'East Timor re-visited' as low-flying jets used in operation to quell independence movement

Campaign Against Arms Trade and TAPOL repeat calls for arms embargo and halt to further Hawk deliveries.

British-made Hawk 100 and 200 series ground-attack aircraft are conducting a series of operations over towns in Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) in a show of strength designed to frighten local people and intimidate supporters of independence for the remote easternmost province of Indonesia.

Three Hawks are now stationed at the Air Force base at Biak as part of a special military operation aimed at cracking down on the independence movement. Air Force Marshall, Ali Musiri Rape, described the aim as 'Tactical operations by means of a show of force if requested by any party to safeguard situations.'

Papua is in danger of becoming the next East Timor. Since August, thousands of extra troops have been deployed to the province and militia activity has increased with the support of the army and police. Local people justifiably fear that the special military operation will lead to a marked increase in human rights abuses and have demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Hawks.

A pattern is emerging of Hawks being used to intimidate local people in areas of conflict. In July last year, in a similar incident, a Hawk aircraft made two low passes over Dili, the capital of East Timor, in the run up to the referendum on independence. Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, was forced to obtain assurances from the Indonesian Government that this would not happen again, but clearly those assurances are worthless.

TAPOL Hon. President, Lord Avebury, has written to Foreign Office Minister, John Battle, asking for an explanation of this latest breach of assurances given to the British Government.

Labour MP, Ann Clwyd has also written to John Battle warning that the situation could develop into another East Timor. 'Those of us who warned about the danger of continued export of military equipment to Indonesia, as we did for years over East Timor, believe the Government should review the situation urgently …It seems that instead of entering into dialogue with those demanding Independence [in Papua] repression is instead the tactic being preferred,' she said.

Paul Barber of TAPOL says "Once again the response to deep-seated grievances is military instead of political. The continued export of any kind of military equipment to Indonesia is indefensible. It signifies approval of the actions of the Indonesian military and undermines attempts by the Indonesian Government to resolve the problems in Papua, and other volatile areas by peaceful means. Is the UK Government going to wait once again until hundreds die, as it did in East Timor, before it finally imposing an arms embargo?"

Two or three Hawks, out of 16 licensed by the Tories, may still be awaiting delivery. TAPOL and CAAT insist that the deliveries must stop.

In a report on Papua issued last week, Amnesty International concluded that: 'After initial optimism that President Wahid's government would improve the human rights situation through entering into dialogue with those demanding independence, it seems that hard-line tactics and repression are once again the order of the day.'

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia following a fraudulent 'Act of Free Choice' in 1969, which involved an unrepresentative assembly of 1,025 persons voting under duress to become part of Indonesia. Support for independence is widespread throughout the province.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign.

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