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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the current situation in Indonesia in your Lordships' House and I thank all noble Lords who will be participating in the debate.
The debate is, sadly, timely. Recent developments in Indonesia are cause for great concern. Only yesterday 120 people were killed in the Christian village of Duma in Halmahera in Northern Moluccas. My contribution will focus on the escalation of conflict in the Moluccas, as I and colleagues from Christian Solidarity Worldwide have recently returned from the region. We found devastation and suffering on a scale beyond anything we had expected.
The Moluccas, also known by their more romantic name of "The Spice Islands", are dramatically beautiful. They used to be a model of religious harmony. But recently sectarian violence has racked the communities, leaving many once beautiful and prosperous towns and villages in ruins, an estimated 3,000 people dead and over 270,000 displaced, many living in conditions of acute deprivation in the jungle.
The two major religious communities, Muslim and Christian, had co-existed peacefully for centuries. But tensions have been building, erupting into violence and war for a number of reasons: demographic, economic, political and religious. First, there was Suharto's policy of transmigration in which the delicate demographic balance of approximately 50 per cent Muslim and 50 per cent Christian was upset by a large influx of predominantly Muslim settlers. This upset trading patterns, with Christians experiencing difficulties in selling goods in the markets.
The new demographic structure led to changes in political representation and to the marginalisation of Christians in local government, the military and the police force. Local conflicts were fuelled by the influx of jihad warriors. Major conflict broke out in the town
Subsequently, violence has escalated. Time only permits a few examples. On 30th May this year, also in Halmahera, at least 50 Christian villagers were killed and over 100 injured in a carefully co-ordinated land and sea attack believed to have been carried out by jihad warriors, actively supported by the Indonesian armed forces. On 3rd June, in Ambon, the Reverend Ridolf Bernard was killed and three people injured in an attack on a ferry. On 8th June, in nearby Sulawesi, police reinforcements were sent to Poso to quell violence which had already claimed 20 lives. The chief of police expressed concern over reports that a further 1,500 jihad warriers were on their way to the area.
On 10th June the town of Tubelo in Halmahera was attacked from land and sea. Two hundred were killed and hundreds wounded. The rest of the Christian population fled to the hills and elsewhere in Indonesia. Bodies were mutilated before they were beheaded. The island of Ternate had a large majority of Christians but has now been totally cleared of Christians, with an unknown number killed. All the evidence suggests that jihad warriors are gaining active support from disaffected elements of the Indonesian armed forces and that many of them are being trained by advisers from other militant Islamic countries.
It is inevitably difficult to obtain accurate information, but local Christians fear biased media coverage in this predominantly Muslim country, which portrays Christians as the aggressors. This perception encourages Muslims from elsewhere to come to the region to carry out a jihad against Christians to protect the Muslims whom they believe are under threat.
Many believe that the religious conflict is an orchestrated campaign by Suharto's supporters to destabilise the government and regain power. There is also a fear that militant Islamic extremists wish to undermine President Wahid's commitment to religious tolerance. In massive rallies earlier this year, an extremist movement behind the Laskar Jihad started recruiting volunteers to join the jihad against the so-called "Christian separatists" in the Moluccas. The movement claims to have recruited over 10,000 volunteers since January and the 3,000 jihad warriors reportedly converging on the Moluccas had been trained in military-style training camps.
Local people believe that Islamists in the military and in government are planning to drive out all Christians from the Moluccas, one of the few parts of Indonesia where Christians maintain a significant presence. They also believe that this may be part of a longer-term plan to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state by 2003, and then to establish a more extremist Islamic state, which would have far-reaching implications regionally and globally.
These fears for the future are cause for serious concern. However, I must highlight the present dire situation in which many thousands of people--both Muslims and Christians--are suffering. We witnessed the widespread destruction of homes, churches and mosques on a massive scale. We visited communities driven into the jungle to try to survive in the most primitive conditions, with no adequate housing, food supplies or healthcare.
We went by boat to the island of Haruku. People from Ambon were crowding onto the ferries, evacuating their homes, in fear of the threatened jihad. En route to Haruku, we passed close by the village of Tial, which had been attacked in October 1999, when the village and church were destroyed. It had been a place where Muslims and Christians had lived together in peace. When the attack occurred, some Muslims helped the Christians to defend their church; six of them died in the church.
On the island of Haruku, we found harbour villages devastated. They had been attacked on 23rd January this year by troops from land and sea. The land troops came over the mountains, wearing the characteristic jihad white uniforms and headbands. The troops attacking from the sea reportedly consisted of a mixture of jihad warriors and regular military forces. Neighbours from a nearby village tried to help the local villagers defend their homes and church, but they were overwhelmed. Four were killed in the church, which was destroyed. Only an empty shell remains, with a bombshell serving as a symbolic bell and the mangled remains of the weathercock from the top of the spire suspended from a telephone cable. The population of the village was over 3,600. We visited them, displaced in the jungle. On the way, we met a family carrying a child suffering from malaria. Some medical supplies are still available--but not enough. There is an urgent need for more healthcare.
The pastor told us, "The attack started at 5 a.m. and continued until noon. Nine people were killed by the military at the football pitch. Many others were injured. Some injured were still alive when the military came with bayonets and stabbed them in the neck. We didn't have time to collect our dead. Those who died were beheaded. We have not been able to find their heads, because the soldiers take them." As we left, the pastor pleaded, "If we don't get any help, we will die."
We also had meetings with community leaders in Ujung Pandang and in Ambon where we heard many accounts of similar attacks on local communities, both Christian and Muslim. We saw video footage of some of the attacks, and we saw and heard many examples of indescribable atrocities perpetrated by jihad warriors. Some are detailed in our reports. They are too gruesome to recount in this House.
We also heard and saw evidence of attacks on Muslim communities and the suffering of displaced Muslims. We met local parliamentary representatives, both Muslim and Christian. All stressed the need for reconciliation. However, reconciliation must be based on openness, honesty and acknowledgement of all that has happened. When we tried to ascertain the extent of
I conclude by asking the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government will encourage the Indonesian Government to take urgent action to stop the murderous activities of the jihad and allow international monitors to be attached to the armed forces; to allow an international fact-finding mission to undertake an impartial investigation into the conflicts in the Moluccas; to take immediate measures to investigate, identify and prosecute those responsible for these conflicts, which have caused such immense suffering; to act swiftly and impartially to provide humanitarian assistance to all those currently suffering from the conflict and to allow unrestricted access to the region for humanitarian aid agencies. Will Her Majesty's Government do everything possible to increase the provision of humanitarian relief to the region?
The situation is critical. President Wahid is trying valiantly to help Indonesia to recover from the legacy of Suharto rule, to develop democracy, reduce corruption and maintain religious pluralism. He has many powerful opponents: those who want to bring back previous political leaders, and those who want to move Indonesia forward to a more militant, intolerant Islamic regime. Both factions may be using the present conflict to further their own ends by destabilising the nation and weakening President Wahid's government.
It must be in the interests of Her Majesty's Government to support President Wahid in his commitment to maintain democracy and religious tolerance in this vast, complex and influential nation. I know that the Government are deeply concerned and I much look forward to the Minister's reply, with the expectation that it will bring to the Government of Indonesia some promise of support, and to the people in Maluccu and North Sulawesi, who are suffering so acutely, the assurance that they are not forgotten and that help will be forthcoming.
We have heard again today of the latest suffering brought about by the sectarian violence that has engulfed the once happy and peaceful communities in Indonesia. It is right and proper that we should turn our thoughts to the unfortunate people who live their daily lives in fear, brought about by intimidation, cruelty and intolerance. It is also right that we ask Her Majesty's Government what is their policy towards recent developments in Indonesia.
The need for a proper and in-depth investigation by the Indonesian Government into the causes of the conflict between the Christian and Muslim communities has been well documented in a recent report from the Christian Solidarity Worldwide organisation referred to by the noble Baroness. The investigation should be open and wide-ranging; it should include international representatives. Such an investigation is vitally necessary if the spiral of violence is to be ended.
It has been estimated that more than 3,000 people have died and some 270,000 people have been displaced in the Moluccas alone. It is difficult for us, in the safety of this society, to comprehend how people live in the constant shadow of conflict and threatened violence. The suffering is all too real, and such has been the case for the past 18 months.
The reports of jihad warriors arriving in the Molucca Islands led to a Question being tabled for Written Answer in another place on 23rd May. The Government's response at that time confirmed that they had received reports that a number of extremists from outside Maluku had travelled to the province. They were under close scrutiny by the authorities in Maluku. In the same response, the Government said:
I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister if the Government have received a response from the Indonesian authorities. Further, did the representations to the Indonesian authorities include a request for the expulsion of jihad warriors from the islands?
The report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide contains details of recent events in a number of places where violence is taking place daily. The time available in this debate does not allow me to quote from the reports of happenings in a number of the islands. It is sufficient to say that the reports contain harrowing and graphic accounts of the killings and maiming of a large number of people.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, it is a privilege for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, and to echo and endorse everything that he has said. It is indicative of the widespread concern that many of the sentiments that the noble Lord has expressed, and before him the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, will be echoed on all sides of the House.
Before turning to the main burden of my remarks, perhaps I may say that we all owe the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, a great debt of gratitude for the characteristic way in which she has seen for herself at first hand and has been able to tell us about the situation in the Moluccas and in Indonesia generally. That is characteristic of the noble Baroness herself and her description this evening of this humanitarian disaster. Devoid of unnecessary hype or emotion, she told us the facts in a straightforward way. I believe that we are now all well aware of the need to take urgent action to try to assist the people in that beleaguered place.
During May this year a delegation from the Jubilee Campaign, with which I am associated, visited Indonesia. That delegation included Joseph Pitts, a US Congressman, and Mr Mark Siljander, a retired US Congressman. During that visit they met President Abdurrahman Wahid. Even while they debated these issues with him on 28th May in another part of Indonesia, Medan, bombs were placed in a Protestant church building. They exploded during a service and 47 people were injured. It was one of three bombs which had been placed in Medan that weekend. The local governor, Tengku Rizalnurdin, was quoted as saying:
The Jubilee delegation visited hospitals in Medan 48 hours after the attacks to see some of the victims, many of them young women. The bombs had been placed underneath a gallery in the church where the young women were sitting. Many of those young women remain untreated. One of them had open wounds, and bomb fragments and nails remained embedded in her body. The delegation was told that there were no resources to deal with all of the victims.
The Minister's letter replies to concerns that I voiced to him about the violence in Ambon and the Molucca islands. To date, some 162 churches--60 Catholic and the others Protestant--have been destroyed throughout the Maluku islands. In the whole of North and South Maluku about 400 churches have been destroyed since February 1999.
Although Jakarta has organised many fact-finding teams to investigate these abuses of human rights, no reports whatsoever of those investigations have been made public. As in East Timor, the situation has been exacerbated by the flow of arms into that troubled part of the world. One non-governmental organisation claims that 700 arms found recently originated in Nigeria. Clearly, the flow of arms, the absence of international monitors, the imposition of jihad, the destruction of churches and the targeting of vulnerable Christians are all the components needed to create an international tragedy that could end in genocide.
During this brief debate I should like to mention six headlines which perhaps give some idea of what I and others, primarily from the American Congress, who have had the opportunity to see the situation, believe should be done in consequence of all that has been said so far in the debate. I believe that Her Majesty's Government should put pressure on the Indonesian Government during the dialogue to which Mr John Battle refers in his letter: first, to remove more than 2,000 Islamic militants who have infiltrated into the Moluccas province to wage a jihad and to stop further influxes of fighters with the deliberate intention to create the kind of tension that we have seen so far and to disrupt the co-existence that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, rightly reminded us, previously existed.
Secondly, we must ensure that those Indonesian military units which, instead of acting neutrally, have taken sides in the conflict are removed from that theatre. Thirdly, we must take decisive action to punish those responsible for atrocities. Fourthly, I believe that unilaterally Her Majesty's Government should impose an arms embargo on Indonesia and urge the European Union to do likewise. All aid to Indonesia should be closely linked to the actions of its government to restore peace in the Moluccas. Fifthly, there is an urgent need for international monitors. The Christians in the Moluccas and their church leaders have frequently called for United Nations intervention. Although I note that Mr John Battle says in his letter that the situation is not comparable with that in East Timor because there is no question of disputed sovereignty, which I accept, nevertheless there are many precedents in other parts of the world for the involvement of UN monitors, even though questions of sovereignty are not on the table. Monitors would be free of the allegation of bias which is so often levelled at the Indonesian security forces.
Church leaders in Indonesia have also urged that neutral third-party human rights investigators, such as UN human rights monitors, be sent to the Moluccas to investigate the causes of the conflict and human rights abuses that have taken place there. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to that particular point in her reply.
I turn finally to the issue of aid. So far about 3,000 Muslims and Christians have died in the conflict, and it is estimated that over 300,000 people have been internally displaced. The British Government and European Union should also do a lot more to get humanitarian assistance to the vast number of internally displaced people and those who suffer as a result of the conflict, such as people in Medan to whom I referred earlier. I hope that when the Minister replies she will outline the nature of the humanitarian aid which is being provided at the present time by Her Majesty's Government and what is being done to ensure that it is distributed equitably between all the groups affected by the crisis. At the weekend I noted that in one of the newspapers President Abdurrahman Wahid was reported as addressing the Christian Conference of Asia and calling for mutual understanding and tolerance. We all hope and pray that that sentiment becomes a reality.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, like other noble Lords I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for initiating this short debate, which is not only important but particularly timely. Like other noble Lords, my concern is also with these religious clashes. The noble Baroness indicated the social, economic and political background to the clashes. I hope that the House will be assisted if I mention three other factors.
First, Indonesia is not only the most populous Islamic country in the world but traditionally it has been the most tolerant, incorporating many elements of pre-Islamic culture and creating a society in which other religions are respected.
Secondly, as a result of the process of modernisation there has been heightened religious consciousness in Indonesia over the past 20 or 30 years so that people have found their identity through the mosque or church. As people move to the big towns and cities, particularly Jakarta, from outlying islands and villages, whereas in the past traditionally their identity and culture lay in their village, now it is to be found round the mosque and church, which heightens the sense of the public importance of religion.
The third background fact is that over the past 40 years or so there has been a variety of Islamic renewals in Indonesia. We are extremely fortunate in that President Abdurrahman Wahid has been very closely associated with the most helpful form of Islamic renewal in Indonesia which is based upon traditional Islamic schools. He has argued for a renewal of Islamic society through a renewal of culture and has opposed the imposition of an Islamic state. He has been quite
I have followed these extremely serious clashes, which have continued for a long time, in The Tablet. That excellent publication has better world coverage than any national newspaper. I shall not repeat the details which have been mentioned. I give just one figure. In 1999 at least 2,500 people were killed in the Spice Islands. As other noble Lords have mentioned, there was a recent serious raid--the dawn raid on mainly, although not exclusively, Christian villages in which up to 80 other people were killed. Although we focus mainly on the Spice Islands, there have been bombs in many other places in Indonesia.
When President Abdurrahman Wahid addressed the Christian Conference of Asia on 3rd June, he rightly called for religious tolerance. He also stressed that these problems must be solved locally. He said:
As other noble Lords have emphasised, the big question is this. What are those 2,000 armed people doing there? How are they allowed to be armed and trained? Why is no one stopping them? Lawlessness is fomenting religious strife for some of the reasons mentioned by the noble Baroness. There was clear evidence in earlier clashes in Indonesia that much of that religious strife was stirred up by government forces. In this case, it is not the government forces but probably supporters of the former president Suharto aligned with other extremist elements.
How can the Government best use their influence to ensure that President Wahid uses government power and government force to stop this unbridled lawlessness? If it were left to the local people, I do not believe that there would be these clashes. As the noble Baroness emphasised, those people have lived together happily for a long time. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, put forward a series of practical suggestions. I, too, shall listen with great interest to the Minister's response on the influence our Government can bring to bear in order to help President Wahid bring the situation under control.
Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, when I was young, I attended Highbury Chapel in Bristol which was built on the site where five Christian martyrs were burnt to death. The plaque commemorating that was in white marble and clearly visible from the house in which I grew up. Fortunately, differences on doctrinal matters are not so drastically dealt with. We have much greater tolerance among our various Christian denominations.
We all have to concentrate our efforts on what to do about that situation. We hear a great deal about pressure groups. I have talked about them in this House in particular in relation to the able and skilled way in which comparatively small groups have had the constitution of this country changed; and further changes are in prospect. A great deal of success has been achieved by these extremely able people. Having accomplished all this work on constitutional changes in this country, I should now like them to consider organising pressure to help our fellow Christian brothers and sisters abroad. If people decide that they will persecute a Christian community in their country, they should know that there will be such an organised volume of protest that they will face a difficult situation.
I should like to believe that we can go forward; that that message may be taken up by some of the people to whom I have referred (of whom some may now be at a loose end); and that they will help the work already being undertaken so that we can make a real impact and stretch out the hand of fellowship and relief to our persecuted brothers and sisters abroad.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I, too, extend my warm thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who has added yet another war-torn country to her travelling list. This time she has chosen a vast state which is experimenting with democracy but where there are inevitably many existing and potential conflicts arising from the collapse of the former dictatorship. There are some reasons for optimism,
I hope that it is in order again to raise the case of Timor because of its importance to Indonesia and the presence of refugees on Indonesian soil. Despite the relief of independence last August the ensuing violence left a new nation in ruins and a trail of hatred in the hearts of many former inhabitants. The refugees include elements of the pro-autonomy militias who caused the violence. It will take a long time for these physical and psychological wounds to heal.
The names of Aranyaprathet and Goma still haunt the United Nations and aid agencies. The Khmer Rouge in Thailand after Cambodia's year zero, and the Interahamwe and others in Zaire after the horrors of Rwanda, while posing as refugees continued to exercise their brutal control even when humanitarian agencies had jurisdiction. The international community has repeatedly tried, and failed, to be on the side of the angels. The fact is that in a civil war there are villains on both sides and the United Nations is supposed to remain neutral. That did not always happen in Goma and it is not yet happening in West Timor.
It may be time for this House to debate the role of the United Nations again in order to examine its mandate and see whether it can possibly cope with the scale of peacekeeping operations world-wide. Indonesia is already on the list of countries stretching international humanitarian resources to the limit, with more than 400,000 Moluccans, Acehnese and other internally displaced persons at the end of 1999. But that is not for today.
On the positive side, we should congratulate the East Timorese on their progress since independence and the High Commissioner for Refugees, among others, for the repatriation of more than half of the 200,000 refugees now returned to East Timor. However, the numbers crossing have diminished and there are still up to 125,000 in the West, most in the Belu regency or around Kupang. Even higher figures come from the Indonesian Government. The United Nations has not yet been able to register all of those refugees, some of whom live in scattered settlements. It estimates that there are 267 individual sites. Many camps are inevitably close to the border and inaccessible to the aid agencies.
Not only is humanitarian aid denied to many because of access problems, but security threats to refugees and HCR staff have been constant. Convoys have been stoned and police protection is inadequate. There has also been hostility from the local population, especially those who own land where refugees have been temporarily settled.
Last week, the head of the United Nations programme described the situation as "very fragile" and "volatile". The pro-auton leaders still offer their supporters the mirage that the elections can be invalidated and that Indonesian-backed militias can yet re-establish control in Dili. Some hopes have been placed in the possible reconciliation of one military commander, Mr Hermino Costa da Silva, who met Mr Sergio de Mello, the head of UNTAET, last week and appeared to recognise the weight of public opinion in East Timor. The East Timor leader, Mr Xanana Gusmao, also plans to visit the West Timor refugee camps. Those are positive signs.
Meanwhile, there are serious humanitarian problems in the settlements, with food shortages and health risks which Oxfam says could soon develop into a public health crisis. Flash floods and landslides in May displaced 16,000 people who still suffer from a shortage of proper shelter, water and sanitation.
For all those reasons, the United Nations and Indonesia's Governor Tallo are seriously considering resettlement over the coming months. This may encourage some refugees who are uncertain about the future to join the repatriation programme. But the longer they wait the more they are likely to be seen as collaborators. Many are former civil servants and East Timor desperately needs their skills to rebuild its administration.
Finally, can the Minister say what the Government are doing to support humanitarian work in West Timor? I am sorry that I have not given notice of that question. Furthermore, are any United Kingdom non-governmental agencies involved and receiving UK assistance? As the right reverend Prelate said, Indonesia has a tradition of tolerance. My experience of the Pancasila is that that is almost unshakeable. I hope that the noble Baroness's fears of an Islamist state are proved groundless, but she is right to draw attention to the terrible persecutions and tragedies which have occurred.
Although the economy of Indonesia has recovered from its lowest ebb in 1998, there are still 36 million unemployed people. Both internal and external investment are at a very low ebb. The Chinese diaspora moved much of their capital out of the country after the anti-Chinese riots of 1998. Can my noble friend say what prospects our Government and the international financial organisations hold out for further economic recovery?
Suharto fell as a result of the economic crisis of 1997. His much more popular successor, President Wahid, is unlikely to survive if economic progress does not occur. Although the influence of the military at the
We all know too well that their effect was devastating and many towns and villages remain largely destroyed; perhaps 130,000 enforced refugees still live in concentration camp conditions in West Timor. My informants tell me that the Indonesian security services are intimidating refugees and contributing to the process which is preventing them from returning home.
It is good that we now have an FCO post in Dili. It would be helpful if my noble friend could briefly describe the activities co-ordinated from this base, both independently and together with the United Nations. The Australians have carried the brunt of the security and relief operation in East Timor to date. Can my noble friend briefly say what financial and other assistance we are providing and what are our plans for the future in East Timor?
Finally, I want to say a few words about Irian Jaya, West Papua. That large territory was transferred from Dutch to Indonesian hands in 1962, in the absence of any West Papuan representatives. The 1969 "Act of Free Choice", which legitimised the annexation, is widely held to have been flawed and illegal. Last month, the West Papuan People's Congress, attended by thousands of ordinary West Papuan people, proclaimed their independence. Although the Indonesian Government are firmly opposed to secession, the West Papuans appear to have a good case considering the circumstance of the original annexation 38 years ago.
I realise that it is not easy for Her Majesty's Government to state a public position on this, but there is no doubt that if not handled skilfully a further violent trouble spot will emerge further to drain Indonesia's resources.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, it would probably be easier to recite a list of the countries which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has not visited rather than to list those she has visited, as did the noble Lord, Lord Cocks. But once again she has done your Lordships a tremendous service by initiating the debate on the present situation in Indonesia. Her comments on Maluku are of enormous importance as a description of the situation, the number of people killed and the number displaced. She might also have added the number of people thrown out of work, which I gather now exceeds 100,000.
That is all as a result of the awful clashes which were exacerbated by the influx of the 2,000 Laskar jihad fighters from Java. That was pointed out by the noble Baroness, by the right reverent Prelate and by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead. I understand that they were training quite openly in a camp in West Java. Although the Home Affairs Minister, retired General Surjadi Sudirdja, pleaded with them not to go
According to one authority, President Wahid ordered a blockade to stop the fighters from landing in Ambon. However, from the end of May onwards the armed forces there kept a very low profile, amounting almost to invisibility. The commander of the jihadists, one Dja'far Umar Thalib, who is said to be an Afghan veteran and is obviously extremely well financed, established a base on Ternate, from which he conducts seaborne raids on the Christian villages, as the noble Baroness described.
It seems that no attempt has been made to stop those activities by the military. Mr Thalib is reported to move freely between Ternate and the capital in Jakarta. Therefore, I should like to add to the questions put to the Minister by the noble Baroness. What do the Government know about the activities of this particular gentleman, and why are the Indonesian Government not attempting to restrain him, take him into custody and charge him with offences arising from the atrocities which his forces have committed?
Unfortunately, as we have heard from this debate, Maluku is not the only part of Indonesia where violence and anarchy are being stirred up. As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, it will take years, if not decades, to repair the damage which was done by the army-supported militias in East Timor. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out, there are still over 100,000 refugees in West Timor who, we believe, are being prevented from returning by the militias.
I saw a report by a recent delegation of congressional staffers and human rights workers, including a representative of the London-based human rights organisation, TAPOL, on a visit which they paid to the camps at the beginning of May. They reported evidence of militia control and intimidation and of TNI collusion with the militias. They said that they saw militias controlling the distribution of food to the camps. They saw that the camps are highly militarised, that the UNHCR dares not venture into them without a TNI escort, and they found that there was, as they put it,
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, said that the military local commanders follow their own agenda. Nowhere is that more true than in Aceh, where the armed forces have waged a systematic campaign of violence against the people for many years. The three-month "humanitarian pause", which came into force on 2nd June, was a breakthrough in the sense that for the
During the humanitarian pause in Aceh, reports were received of attacks on soldiers by the GAM and retaliation by the armed forces against civilians. We and others have been pressing for trials of those who committed the war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor. I believe that we should extend that demand so that similar crimes in Aceh, Maluku and other parts of Indonesia can be dealt with in the same way according to law.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, mentioned the West Papua People's Congress, which, as he said, was attended by some 3,000 delegates from all parts of the territory and declared that the so-called "Act of Free Choice", by which West Papua became part of Indonesia, was null and void. The government took a conciliatory line on that at first, apparently hoping that if the West Papuans were allowed to let off steam in the congress, they could be cajoled into an amicable relationship with the centre. However, when they saw the line being taken by the delegates, they took fright. I understand that they have now begun to pick off the leaders who attended and arrested them. The official line now is that foreigners who attended the conference were provoking agitation. They are referring to the delegates from Papua New Guinea and Australian NGOs, some of whom are sympathetic to the view, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that the UN violated its own rules on self-determination when it handed West Papua over to Jakarta without a referendum.
I do not believe that the disparate peoples of Indonesia can be ruled without their consent or that, in the long run, the Indonesian military could cope with the enormous task of suppressing independence movements and dealing with communal violence. The best hope of keeping Indonesia together as a state would be to allow territories such as West Papua and Aceh to control their own affairs, except for foreign affairs and defence, with mineral rights shared on a basis to be agreed with locally-elected legislatures. The army's support of the civil power could then be concentrated on preventing conflicts between religious or ethnic groups.
The development of genuine accountability, which is also essential to a stable Indonesia, would not be achieved on present policies. The draft Bill on human rights courts proposes that the courts would have jurisdiction over gross violations of human rights. However, there are concerns that the definition of those crimes is inconsistent with that adopted by the International Criminal Court and also that some of the offences may not have been crimes under Indonesian law at the time that they were committed.
As has been said, Britain and the EU have very limited influence over these matters. We have funded initiatives to promote reconciliation in Maluku; we have encouraged the Ministry of Human Rights, which has a mere six employees and has yet to resolve its boundaries with Komnas Ham, the national human rights commission; and the Foreign Secretary says that:
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, all the participants in this short debate have expressed their warm appreciation of the role played by my noble friend Lady Cox in bringing to us her first-hand accounts of this appalling tragedy. I strongly endorse everything that has been said about the service that she has performed.
The odd thing is that before the Asian currency turmoil and the collapse of the Thai baht--although, of course, the East Timor tragedy had been unfolding over the years and there were many problems--the general world view (it may be an ignorant view but it was a world view) of the vast country of Indonesia was that it was extremely prosperous and stable. Indeed, the great gurus of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the other world financial institutions were telling investors around the world that Indonesia was high on the list of desirable places in which to invest. Indeed, the IMF approved of the way in which the country was being run. That says a number of things. I believe that one is that economists are nearly always wrong about other countries; another is that the global financial system can be very indiscriminate and is unable to pick up and sense the different problems and developments in different cultures and different areas of the world.
What occurred was that East Asia went down as a whole, followed by other countries, including Russia. Again, contrary to the prediction of the economists, East Asia rose again and in most cases has recovered well. Unfortunately, Indonesia, the largest of the nations of East Asia--one of the largest in the world--has recovered more slowly.
Sometimes I believe that Indonesian citizens must feel that their country has been cursed by an endless series of disasters that have unfolded. There was the financial earthquake. Then they suffered the endless series of hideously bitter religious wars, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred. That was fought with an intensity that seems almost medieval and is very hard for us to grasp. The Molucca problem has worsened, and is getting worse while we have this debate. There were the horrific developments in Aceh, which Mr Lee Kuan Yew told me were being financed by Libyan arms and Iranian money. He saw no end to
Former President Suharto obviously had to go. He was running a corrupt and rotten regime, but it had a cruel stability. All the hideous developments that we have talked about this evening remained hidden, apart from those in East Timor.
Could the International Monetary Fund have acted differently? Did it make matters worse? I believe that it probably did make matters a bit worse. A more sensitive and focused understanding from the IMF management of the problems caused by pressing its demands for restructuring and reform too hard might have prevented some of the worst difficulties and ugliest developments.
I should declare a remote interest, in that I advise a bank that was the retained adviser to the Ministry of Finance in Jakarta. My colleagues found it extraordinarily difficult to get the real problems over to the IMF and to explain that pushing ahead on the economic side and ignoring the political repercussions would make matters much worse.
Then there is the army, about which noble Lords have spoken. It is playing a sinister role. Some people are looking forward to a coup or a military takeover, possibly with the formation of an Islamic state. The role of the army is ambiguous in Aceh and many other places, as we have heard from first-hand accounts. The desperate need for the civil authority to recapture or recontrol the army is central to Indonesian stability.
Despite all that gloom, Indonesia remains. Two years ago, people in Singapore were telling me that Indonesia was going to unravel and that it would be one of the great modern states that would disappear, broken up into a hideous series of provincial warring tribes. That has not happened. That is not saying much, because a lot of things have happened, but the Indonesian state remains intact--just. A lot of credit must go to the deceptively mild Abdurrahman Wahid, the new President, who, against many predictions about his feebleness, has quietly exerted the best influence that he can in the circumstances, with an angry army on one side and extreme feeling on the other. He has done a remarkable job and we should not underestimate him or some of his colleagues as they attempt to cope with well nigh impossible circumstances.
Finally, we have to remain vigilant not just for humanitarian reasons, but for reasons of global stability. Indonesia is a volatile area. The great oil routes to the Asian powers pass through the Molucca straits. China is beginning to import ever more oil and will not tolerate any intervention in its imports of oil from the Gulf. Other great nations will be involved. The situation is full of dangers for global stability, as well as dangers and horrors for the people living in the area. It is not easy to see how any neat programme can be worked out to solve the problems, but by debating them and showing our concern, trying to stretch out to meet some of the hideous problems that have been so graphically described, at least we are doing our little bit.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I must thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for initiating this evening's debate. It is over a year since the House debated the subject of Indonesia, and, as noble Lords will be only too aware, Indonesia has seen dramatic changes over that period. I also thank all those who have participated in the debate. Each in their diverse way has made a special contribution to issues of humanitarian importance. I very much welcome this opportunity to set out the Government's policy towards Indonesia.
In 1999, the country took major steps towards full democracy, with its first genuinely multi-party elections in over 40 years in June last year. We contributed over £2 million, focusing on support for the independent electoral commission, voter education and domestic monitoring. We are actively fostering UK-Indonesian parliamentary links. Several groups of Indonesian MPs visited the UK this year, and my honourable friend Mark Fisher visited Jakarta for a seminar to discuss alternative parliamentary models.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked about the Indonesian economic situation. While still fragile, the macro-economic picture is improving, with positive growth and low inflation, although foreign investment
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, also referred to East Timor. The terrible events in East Timor last August and September have left deep scars, but the territory is now well on the way to independent statehood. The UK continues to make a substantial contribution. We have provided £6.5 million in emergency aid and a further £12 million over three years. As tonight's debate is focused on Indonesia and time is short, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not go into detail on that but I shall respond in writing to the specific points that have been made.
We are pleased that more than 160,000 refugees have returned to East Timor from West Timor. Those remaining must be free to choose whether to stay or return without intimidation from militia groups. Our Ambassador has raised the issue with the Indonesian Government.
Abdurrahman Wahid became Indonesia's first democratically elected President on 22nd October 1999. I very much endorse the supportive comments that have been made about him by a number of noble Lords. He moved quickly to appoint a government of national unity. He gave Indonesia its first civilian Minister of Defence in over 40 years and created a new Ministry for Human Rights, headed by a former political prisoner from Aceh. The new Attorney-General is pursuing human rights cases, although much remains to be done.
I very much welcome the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about the considerable efforts being made to promote religious tolerance. I should say to my noble friend Lord Clarke of Hampstead that President Wahid has responded to our inquiries and reaffirmed his commitment to secure lasting peace between the two communities through dialogue.
The new government have also taken positive steps towards separating the police from the military. They have advanced by six months the proposed transfer of the police from the Ministry of Defence to the President's office. We are also providing practical support. A senior British police officer began his attachment at the British Embassy on 1st June, co-ordinating with United States and Japanese initiatives. He will help the police develop a strategic vision for change and a road map for implementation. A proper democratic and accountable police force is key to proper human rights observance. Police reform is only one part of our efforts to support wider governance reform.
So I would like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others that the Department for International Development is working closely with the Government of Indonesia, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank on governance reform through a
We want to work in ways which help broaden the constituency for reform and support the processes that will achieve that. Our help is demand-led. We and other international players will be looking to respond to Indonesian requests rather than trying to impose models or solutions from outside. So the help that we are seeking to give President Wahid is real and it is hoped that it will help him to deliver many of the things which noble Lords have identified that Indonesia needs. Despite the tremendous achievements over the last year, key challenges remain for President Wahid's democratic government.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for her sad and detailed account of recent developments in Maluku and for the tragic details outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. The recent escalation of violence after a period of relative calm illustrates the fragility of the spirit of reconciliation that had begun to take hold in Ambon. We deplore the loss of all life resulting from the latest violence and share the concern of many noble Lords at the arrival of extremists from outside Maluku.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, my noble friend Lord Clarke of Hampstead, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and a number of other noble Lords have asked the Government to encourage the Indonesian Government to allow an independent international investigation into the situation in Maluku. President Wahid is aware of the difficulties caused by such adverse outside influences and the need to address the difficulties they present. The violence in Maluku is an internal matter for the Indonesian authorities. Any proposed international investigation, no matter how independent, would be seen as biased by one community or the other. The solution must come from within.
The international community's role lies in supporting reconciliation and rehabilitation. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, my noble friend Lord Clarke and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, will be pleased to hear that EU representatives called on the Indonesian Government on 12th June to remind them of their responsibility to maintain law and order and to request an investigation and immediate steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. We have encouraged the Indonesians to pursue conflict resolution work in the communities concerned.
As part of the international effort through the UNDP, we have already funded two conferences promoting reconciliation in Maluku, which took place between 28th March and 3rd April. The BBC recently held a UK-funded seminar on objective conflict reporting for journalists in Maluku. The DfID has also seconded a specialist to work with UNDP to establish mechanisms for managing the UN humanitarian response and that of the international community
The noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Howell, rightly raised the issue of Aceh. We welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding on Aceh, signed between the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement in Geneva on 12th May establishing a "humanitarian pause". That is an encouraging step which we hope will stem or at least reduce the violence and pave the way for serious, detailed negotiations on the future of Aceh. However, although an important breakthrough, that is clearly just a first step on a long road.
UNDP has agreed to act as the co-ordinator for international humanitarian assistance for the people of Aceh and plans to hold a donor round-table in the next few days. But the level of human rights abuses committed in Aceh by members of both the security forces and the Free Aceh Movement and the outcome of the Bantaqiah trial need to be addressed. A thorough overhaul of the military is essential if peace is finally to return to the province.
Although the situation in Maluku and Aceh dominate the headlines, problems exist elsewhere in the region, as highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Representatives of the West Papuan people recently held a conference at which they asserted West Papua's independence, and ethnic unrest has increased in Central Sulawesi, as a number of noble Lords mentioned. The powerful earthquake in Bengkulu province, following on from the recent earthquake in Eastern Central Sulawesi and the floods in West Timor, add to the mounting list of problems facing the government. DfID contributed £250,000 towards the relief effort for the Bengkulu earthquake and our Ambassador in Jakarta will be visiting the province next week. I am not able to give the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, further details today in relation to DfID's contribution to West Timor but I shall write to him about that because time is pressing this evening.
The transformation of Indonesia toward a full democracy is well on the way. That is bound to be a turbulent process. There will be setbacks as well as successes. We and international partners are actively engaged in supporting that process. We shall continue to help, where we can, to consolidate the advances under way. It is important that we underpin, and not undermine, Indonesia's emerging democracy at this historic turning point.
When he visited London on 1st February, President Wahid made clear his absolute commitment to resolving the country's regional conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation in order to create a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for all the people of Indonesia. I endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about the quiet and solid
While we applaud that, there will be no blank cheques. Where we have concerns, we will share these fully and frankly, as between friends. The challenges facing President Wahid and his team are daunting. It
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