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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Apr 1994

Vol. 140 No. 1

East Timor: Statements.

I am very glad to have this opportunity to address the Seanad on the question of East Timor. I know there is great concern in Ireland at the situation in East Timor and at the gross abuses of human rights which have been reported from the territory. The Dili massacre, the disappearances, the torture and ill-treatment of political detainees, the extra-judicial executions by Indonesian forces engaged in counterinsurgency operations have been documented by such respected organisations as Amnesty International and Asia Watch.

The concern in this country reflects, I believe, a very deeply held feeling of Irish people for the victims of human rights abuses and injustice wherever they occur. A decade ago, Irish people were justifiably enraged at the appalling human rights abuses perpetrated on the people of Cambodia. In recent years, Irish people have clearly shown this same concern in the case of the terrible misfortunes which befell the people of Somalia. More recently, the human rights abuses and the humanitarian needs in former Yugoslavia, the Sudan and Angola have struck deep chords in Irish people. The same chord of concern touched people here when they learned about the human rights situation in East Timor.

I would like to avail of this opportunity to inform Members of the Seanad of the considerable efforts the Government has made in recent years to bring our concerns at the situation in East Timor to the attention of the Indonesian authorities and to those international for a with influence.

I do not need to rehearse in detail the history of East Timor for the Members of the Seanad, most of whom will already be well informed on the recent history of the territory since its invasion by Indonesia in December 1975 and its annexation as the 27th province of Indonesia in July 1976. These illegal acts were condemned by UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Indonesia was called to withdraw from the territory by the UN which continues to regard Portugal as the administering power.

Since their occupation of the territory there have been consistent and well documented reports of persistent and gross human rights abuses by the Indonesian armed forces there. It has been estimated that some 200,000 East Timorese — out of an original population of 650,000 — have died from starvation, hostilities and disease stemming from the conflict.

The plight of the people of East Timor returned to the world headlines in November 1991 when Indonesian security forces opened fire on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in the capital, Dili. Reports from sources in East Timor put the number killed in this shooting at between 200 and 300 people. A further 200 people who disappeared after the massacre have not yet been accounted for.

It was this incident more than any other which shocked public opinion throughout the world and particularly here in Ireland. The Government has consistently condemned human rights abuses in East Timor and we have used all avenues open to us to bring this concern to the attention of the Indonesian authorities and to seek action at international level.

Bilaterally, we have conveyed our concerns directly to the Government of Indonesia. I myself wrote to the Foreign Minister of Indonesia last year. My Department has taken up the matter with representatives of the Indonesian embassy. Officials from my Department have also frequently met with individuals and representatives of groups here in Ireland and abroad concerned with the human rights situation in East Timor. We have also joined with our European Union partners in condemning human rights violations in East Timor. I maintain close contact on this matter with my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Portugal.

The question of East Timor is the subject of ongoing talks between the Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Indonesia under the auspices of the UN Secretary General who was given a mediating role by the General Assembly in 1982. The last round of talks between the two Foreign Ministers took place in New York last September. On that occasion they considered possible confidence building measures as a means of fostering an atmosphere propitious to addressing the substance of the question of East Timor.

After that meeting, the Secretary General reported to the Security Council that he was moderately encouraged by the substance and tone of the discussion. The two Foreign Ministers are due to meet again in Geneva in May. I very much hope that the positive tone of their talks last September will continue at their next meeting. In addition to sponsoring these talks, the Secretary General has committed himself to monitoring the human rights situation in East Timor and a UN special representative visited Portugal and Indonesia in January of this year in preparation for the next round of talks.

We believe that this mediating process under the auspices of the Secretary General is the best means available to resolve the substantive question of East Timor. Together with our European Union partners we have regularly expressed our support for the Secretary General's unstinting efforts. With goodwill on both sides we would hope that this process will lead to a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the question of East Timor.

Since the Dili massacre in 1991 the human rights situation in East Timor has been on the agenda of the annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Although Ireland is not at present a member of the commission we attend the annual sessions as observers and our delegation is active in the work of the commission as well as within the European Union. At this year's session Ireland played an active part in ensuring that the statement made by the European Union to the commission reflected our national concerns. The statement noted that since last year's session of the commission the Indonesian Government had undertaken a number of steps particularly by inviting the representative of the UN Secretary-General and by extending an invitation to the commission's special rapporteur on summary and arbitrary executions. The statement also calls on the Indonesian authorities to comply fully with the decisions of the UN Commission; it calls for better access to East Timor for human rights bodies and the international media; it urges that those members of the security forces responsible for the Dili massacre be prosecuted, tried and punished; and it calls on the Indonesian Government to account for all those still missing.

At the conclusion of this year's session an agreed chairman's statement on the human rights situation in East Timor was issued. This noted with concern the continuing allegations of human rights abuses in East Timor while recognising the positive measures taken by the Indonesian Government to improve the situation. A matter of preoccupation to the commission was the incomplete information concerning the number of people killed and persons still unaccounted for as a result of the Dili massacre on 12 November 1991. The commission called on Indonesia to continue its investigation on those still missing and the circumstances surrounding the matter. The commission also expressed its encouragement at the greater access recently granted by the Indonesian authorities to some human rights and humanitarian organisations as well as to international media.

Of considerable importance is the fact that the commission has requested the UN Secretary-General to report to it on the human rights situation in East Timor and that the matter remains on the commission's agenda.

Arising from concerns expressed by Deputies in the Dáil in March, discussions have taken place in my Department with the Australian Ambassador. Officials of my Department have outlined to the ambassador the concerns of the Government at the human rights situation and have asked the Australian Government to use its influence with Indonesia to achieve an improvement in that country's record in East Timor. The ambassador confirmed his country's concern about human rights in East Timor and said that Australia was using all its influence with Indonesia to raise individual human rights cases. This policy of constructive engagement was outlined by the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Paul Keating, when he met the Taoiseach during his visit to Ireland last September.

Australia recognises Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor and this has, in their view, enabled the Australian Government to pursue its concerns for human rights and the economic development of the East Timorese people in a constructive and effective manner with the Indonesian authorities. The Australian Government has pointed out that this recognition does not, of course, imply approval of the circumstances of the Indonesian acquisition of East Timor. The Australian Government firmly believes that the development of a more substantial relationship in recent years with Indonesia has assisted their efforts to maintain dialogue on these issues, a dialogue in which Australia's views are clearly conveyed to the Indonesian authorities at the highest level. In this respect, the Australian Government has long emphasised to the Indonesian Government the need for a process of reconciliation with the people of East Timor.

The question of trade sanctions against Indonesia because of its policy on East Timor has been raised from time to time. As Senators will be aware Ireland is not in a position unilaterally to introduce trade sanctions against Indonesia. These are matters for the United Nations acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter or for the European Union in accordance with Article 228(a) of the Maastricht Treaty. At present, while the dialogue is under way between Portugal and Indonesia under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, I do not believe there would be sufficient agreement within the UN or in the European Union to impose sanctions on Indonesia. Nonetheless, I recognise the concern that has been expressed about the reported use of military equipment supplied to Indonesia by some of our partners in the European Union and I intend to take up this issue with them.

It will be clear from what I have said that the Government has an active and developed policy on East Timor which seeks to use all the resources at our disposal to bring pressure to bear on the Indonesian authorities. There have been some signs recently of Indonesian awareness of the damage that the activities of its security forces in East Timor are doing to its international reputation and of the need to take action. The Government will continue to work bilaterally, within the European Union and at the United Nations, to ensure that justice is done and that the people of East Timor can live in conditions of peace and stability.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the abuse of human rights in East Timor. Since the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia in December 1975 human rights abuses have occurred on an alarming scale. They include mass murder of unarmed civilians, political murders, imprisonment without trial, execution of the old and sick, widespread torture, rape and the regular disappearance of civilians.

The population of East Timor is approximately 600,000. Since the invasion 200,000 people are believed to have been killed or to have died of starvation. Due to the strategic position of Indonesia and its considerable oil resources criticism by the west has been sadly missing. Most western governments and the United Nations have failed to make any criticism of or to take positive action to prevent the massacre of the people of East Timor. Even worse, East Timor's nearest neighbour, Australia, has helped to train some of Indonesia's armed forces. The United States and Britain have sold a considerable number of aircraft, including Skyhawks, to Indonesia. Recently Britain agreed to sell that country 40 Hawk military jets.

I note from the Tánaiste's address that the Taoiseach had discussions with the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Paul Keating, when he visited this country last year. Did the Tánaiste, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, also raise the matter with the Australian Prime Minister? It is important that the depth of the feeling among Irish people about this issue was conveyed to him.

It saddens me that most of the world's prominent nations continue to trade with Indonesia. It is likely that other countries, in addition to the United States and Britain, may be selling sold arms to Indonesia. Ireland, as a sovereign nation, should table a resolution at the United Nations condemning the sale of arms to Indonesia by all governments. The resolution should also state that no arms should be supplied to Indonesia in future. We should also be courageous enough to call for the isolation of Indonesia until it ceases the genocide of the people in East Timor.

I ask the House to contrast the situation in East Timor with what happened when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The western nations united in opposition to him. If oil and mineral wealth had been involved would such a soft approach have been adopted towards what is now happening in East Timor? There appears to be a large measure of double-dealing in the approach of western governments to Kuwait when contrasted to their failure to take any action on the invasion of East Timor.

The United Nations are fully aware of the horrors and tragedy that are inflicted daily on the people of this small country. For years, Amnesty International have been highlighting the problems in East Timor. Western governments have undoubtedly been aware of the atrocities occurring there. In Ireland, the issue has been highlighted and kept alive by Tom Hyland and his East Timor Action Group, who have been tireless in their efforts to ensure these atrocities are brought to our attention.

As a small independent nation which had to fight to obtain its freedom, we should lead public opinion to mobilise support for the people of East Timor. This should be done at national, European and United Nations levels. We should continue regularly to press for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor and highlight and fight for the safety and protection of an innocent people who are being slaughtered by an invading Indonesian army. One-third of the population of this small country has been slaughtered. In the years to come people will look back on this crime with disgust.

Ireland is a democratic country. Democratic countries which allow such abuses to occur and who pursue a policy of quiet diplomacy hit the heart of their democracies. Any Member of this House or of any other government who saw John Pilger's special TV report "Death of a Nation", which was filmed in secret, will be aware of just how serious are the problems confronting this small nation.

I have been told that the Indonesian authorities have arrested people, transported them across from East Timor and treated them as slaves; only today, I was informed that 400 East Timorese have recently been taken to Indonesia as slaves. I ask the Tánaiste and his officials to investigate these reports. There has been considerable progress in eliminating slavery. If the Indonesian Government are practising slavery, concerted action is necessary at all levels of international diplomacy to ensure it is stopped and never allowed to happen again. This is a matter of the utmost gravity.

Many people have disputed that 200,000 people have been killed in East Timor. What cannot be disputed, however, is that massacres have occurred, are occurring and will continue to occur on an unprecedented scale unless western countries take action to prevent these horrors. This can be done through diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and embargoes and the prevention of any further Indonesian troops from entering East Timor. It is essential that we take a firm and determined position and give a positive lead in this matter on behalf of those in East Timor.

I congratulate the Minster for Foreign Affairs for the excellent work he has done since he was appointed to the position. The Minister has, at every opportunity, brought the problems of East Timor to the world stage.

There have been many calls in this House and in other parts of Ireland to debate what happened in East Timor. Many would ask why this problem should be discussed. East Timor is just another country where atrocities take place. It is far from Ireland, so why should we worry about it? Every time an atrocity or a deprivation of human rights takes place, Ireland should oppose it. We have an honourable history in terms of our support for those under pressure. Many might say that this is only because we were not big enough to be a colonial power and do what other European countries did to what is now commonly called the Third World. What difference does it make to us if the Indonesian Government kills 200,000 or 300,000 people? I believe we must think, react and use whatever pressure we can to ensure the East Timorese live as we live. Despite our economic, personal or political problems, we must give them our support in their fight against the residue of the colonial powers.

The Indonesian Government is the power we are opposing on this issue. Indonesia emerged as a country because of European colonisation over many years. Timor was governed by the Portuguese from 1702 to 1975; a period of over 250 years. The Portuguese left a similar residue to that left——

They did not leave; they were kicked out.

——in northern and southern Africa, by the British, the Germans and the Italians. All our current friends in the EU colonised what is now called the Third World and left behind them a residue of poverty that is impacting on all of us. These people are not going to sit still.

John Pilger's recent programme, "Death of a Nation", concentrated our minds on what happened in East Timor. It showed the number of people who had been killed but it did not show the depth of degradation which the Indonesians had gone through to go into that country and eliminate the population of East Timor. The Portuguese, our partners in the European Union, are to blame for what happened there, in the same way as the Dutch, the Germans and the British are to blame for what is happening in the world at present.

There is no country where one cannot buy French arms, French planes, British planes, American armaments and armaments from the former Soviet nations. These are now being used to eliminate small nations, and we are doing nothing about it. The London Independent of 6 April 1993, as reported by Reuter, stated that “The Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said yesterday he had raised concerns about the relatively light sentences given to Indonesian soldiers tried in the shootings of protesters demanding independence for East Timor.” When did one hear Mr. Douglas Hurd commenting on the “light sentences” passed on British soldiers in the North of Ireland when they committed similar atrocities to what happened in East Timor?

"On Her Majesty's Bloody Service" is the heading of an article on Mr. John Pilger's magnificent report on what happened in East Timor. Anyone who has read the Alan Clarke diaries will know that he said it does not matter if a Minister tells a lie in Parliament because it is expected of Ministers to tell lies. He was not talking about the situation in the North of Ireland or in Europe, but in East Timor. Mr. Alan Clarke will not be remembered for anything except the diaries he published and the insight he gave into what government is about. If one compares the Alan Clarke diaries to the programme, "Yes Minister", one will see the similarities between the two. Mr. Alan Clarke was being honest when he suggested that British Ministers tell lies when it suits them.

I hope Senator Lanigan is not suggesting that Irish Ministers would do the same.

I am not suggesting that; I am talking about the Alan Clarke diaries. It is nonsense to say he was defence procurement Minister because he was a man who bought airplanes and armaments for the British Government, not for the defence of the United Kingdom, but for export. In his diaries he said:

I put it to him that ministers had talked about guarantees from the Indonesians that the Hawks would not be used in East Timor. I asked what exactly these guarantees were.

"Well I never asked for a guarantee", he said" ...a guarantee is worthless from any government as far as I'm concerned."

This is what Alan Clarke said about East Timor, not about domestic policy in the United Kingdom.

We must be careful about our colleagues in America or in the European Union who sell armaments throughout the world. Each time a plane is sold to Indonesia we must ask if it can be used for military purposes. If someone tells me a plane cannot be used for military purposes I am a Dutchman rather than a Kilkenny man. There is no such thing as a plane which cannot be adapted to military purposes.

The armaments industry in Europe and the United States is thriving and we have a so-called cessation of East-West conflict. We have concentrated our minds on nationalistic enterprises in which the major nations are supplying the armaments and these are being used to kill people in East Timor and elsewhere. There are 17 wars taking place in what was formerly Eastern Europe and the armaments are coming from Holland, Britain, Spain, and the area of which we are members and support.

After 250 years of domination by the Portuguese, the East Timor people are being decimated by the Indonesians. This is not a decimation of small proportions but an absolute elimination. We should not support any government which supplies arms to kill a nation and this is happening in front of our eyes.

The people who shouted loudest for this debate are not here, but the Tánaiste must be complimented.

I ask the Senator to conclude and I remind him that he should not refer to the absence of Senators.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, to the House. I am glad this debate has taken place.

I thank the Leader of the House for making time available for this debate and I also thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, and the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy O'Shea, for facilitating us. I welcome the debate on the atrocities perpetuated by the Indonesian regime on the people of East Timor since it invaded the country in 1975.

It is important to discuss the level of atrocities committed in East Timor. Until recently, there was a conspiracy of silence by the western world towards the atrocities in that country. East Timor has endured this suffering, despite the brutal killings of a third of its population; men, women and children have been annihilated. We must condemn unreservedly the destruction of the nation and people of East Timor. We must also condemn the open support for the Indonesian Government by prominent nations throughout the world. These nations have continued a lucrative trade with Indonesia, including arms sales to the military by France, the United States and the United Kingdom in particular. Arms have allegedly been used to kill and maim the Timorese people and I have no doubt these arms and planes are used to annihilate innocent people.

Recently I saw a special report on RTE, "Death of a Nation", by Mr. John Pilger produced by ITV. This was a frightening exposé of how ethnic cleansing at its worst is carried out. Although Ireland is a small nation involved in peace-keeping throughout the world, we must do everything in our power to stop this slaughter. We must use our position as a prominent member of the United Nations to highlight and object to what is happening. A solution to the plight of the people will not be forthcoming until international pressure forces an end to all trading with Indonesia and full economic sanctions and a total embargo are imposed on Indonesia, similar to that imposed on Iraq and which proved successful in South Africa. Only then will we see an end to the massacre of this peaceful people.

Such a cessation of violence seems far off at present. As already stated here, Australia has provided military training for the Indonesian armed forces and Britain has recently sold 40 Hawk military jets to Indonesia. It was said that the `planes would not be used against civilians but as Senator Lanigan said, and as John Pilger proved in his programme, this is not the case; the `planes have been used for military purposes against civilians. The Indonesian Trade and Industry Minister, Mr. Habibie, clearly stated: "The 'planes will not only be used to train pilots but also for ground attacks". What kind of morality allows governments to turn a blind eye to atrocities in their hunger to exploit economic opportunities? Lethal weapons should not be used without legal guarantees that they will not be used to kill innocent people.

I quote from a report of Amnesty International:

When governments pretend not to notice suffering, to whom can peoples like those of Indonesia and East Timor turn for help? The United Nations? Alas, the deeper you delve, the redder the faces. The cynicism of realpolitik extends even to the UN Commission on Human Rights, of which Indonesia is a member. When Amnesty attended the commission in Geneva recently to urge action on Indonesia and East Timor, we met only embarrassment. The governments to which we spoke repeated what they have been promising us for 30 years, that they will pursue a policy of quiet diplomacy. They might as well go fishing.

Indonesia became a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1991. As such it bears a special responsibility to implement recommendations enumerated in that body's statements and resolutions. Yet with some minor exceptions it has not done so. Indeed it has indicated it does not feel bound to abide by the provisions of those resolutions.

If the Government of Indonesia trusts the role of UN bodies, particularly the UN Commission on Human Rights, to discharge its mandate to promote and protect human rights, it should comply and co-operate fully with the suggestions and recommendations of that body. To do so selectively raises questions about the sincerity of the Indonesian Government's commitment to those principles and institutions. That Government has also failed to become a party to the most important international human rights conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The principal responsibility for improving human rights in East Timor rests with the Indonesian Government but member states of the United Nations also have a role to play. By encouraging Indonesia to allow international monitoring of human rights and insisting that the Government abide by international human rights standards, the international community has recently begun to have an impact on Indonesian Government policy and practice, although it has been limited. That success, however modest, is one of the strongest arguments for the reiteration of international concern for the situation. It also points to the need for broadening the focus of UN concern from East Timor to Indonesia.

Amnesty International made recommendations to members of the UN Commission on Human Rights which should be endorsed by this House. We should urge the Indonesian authorities to account fully for the dead and disappeared from the Santa Cruz massacre and its aftermath and to establish durable mechanisms to ensure that the victims of other serious human rights violations in East Timor have an effective avenue through which to seek redress and compensation. The House should express its concern at the Indonesian Government's failure to bring to justice all those ultimately responsible for the Santa Cruz massacre and at the disparity in sentencing between members of the security forces and their civilian victims. We should also call on the Indonesian authorities to ensure that all those believed to be responsible for human rights violations in East Timor are tried by a civilian court and punished in accordance with the severity of their crimes.

This House should express its concern about the unfair treatment and unfair trial and imprisonment of the government's political opponents in East Timor and call for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience throughout that country. We should call on the Indonesian authorities to implement the recommendations of the UN special rapporteur on torture and urge them to take immediate steps to ensure the recently created national commission on human rights meets the standards of impartiality and independence enumerated in the UN's principles on the status of national institutions for the production and protection of human rights. We should demand that the Government of Indonesia further improve access to East Timor for human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, and put an end to the legal and other obstacles that continue to impede the work of international and domestic human rights and humanitarian bodies in East Timor.

We should also welcome that Government's decision to invite the special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions to visit East Timor in 1994 and suggest that it also extend invitations to the special rapporteur on torture, the working group on advisory detention and the working group on enforced and involuntary disappearance. We should urge that Government to invite all four monitoring mechanisms into East Timor. Finally, we should seek a full report to the UN Commission on Human Rights at its next session from the UN Secretary General, regarding the result of the two visits to East Timor by his personal envoy, Mr. Amos Wako.

It is only fair to say that the issue of East Timor has been pursued in this House by Senator Norris for a long time. We should pay tribute to him for pressurising to have this debate. The Tánaiste was anxious to come to the House and issue a statement on the matter and for that reason the debate was delayed by at least a week until time became available for him to do so. I know of his interest in and concern for the matter.

Like everyone else, I feel a sense of powerlessness in dealing with the issue. I saw the television programme and one would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by it. It was a shocking programme, which showed history repeating itself — it reminded me of the Nazis and the Jews, or the Americans in Vietnam. People were being killed and a small population was being destroyed. There were 600,000 people in East Timor and 200,000 have been murdered already. The scale of the killing is awesome.

Senator Lanigan referred to the role of Britain. Britain is not alone in this and I would be slow to indulge in anti-British criticism, but they certainly took a cavalier approach to selling Hawk aircraft to Indonesia. They blatantly lied about its capabilities and in saying that it was solely a training aircraft. They were guilty of gross duplicity because there is no doubt Hawk aircraft have been used to slaughter people in East Timor; there is independent proof of that.

The British, especially under Lady Thatcher, courted Indonesia which has a population of approximately 190 million, in order to get a share of its economy. It is a shame that a country like Australia, a former penal colony where besieged people, including the Irish, who were badly treated by administrations in their native countries were sent, gives succour to this regime for economic reasons. It is hypocritical for the Australian Government to suggest that by legitimising the seizure of East Timor by Indonesia, it can influence the rate of killing by Indonesians. It is a grotesque and convoluted way of thinking on the part of Australians.

Senator Neville outlined a number of ways the Government could proceed and I agree that everything possible should be done. We must look at this from all angles, including the human rights angle. As regards UN or EU sanctions, I believe it will be impossible to get a decision from the EU on sanctions against Indonesia on economic grounds. The EU wants to trade and some countries, including Britain, put the shilling and the pound before other considerations. I despair of some of our friends in the EU to take a stand on this issue.

Senator Neville said that in addition to the economic damage sanctions cause, they also influence how a country is perceived by the rest of the world. The sanctions imposed on South Africa brought about the situation which exists today. With the transition from white to majority rule, and now that the ANC, Inkatha, and the National Party have reached an agreement, I hope South Africa will have a bright and peaceful future. Sanctions made South Africa an international leper and they shook the confidence of whites and made them more amenable to the ANC's realistic demands. The only way Indonesia will back away from its policy on East Timor is if similar measures are applied so that it becomes a leper.

We must convince the EU to adopt that policy because that is where our influence lies, if it lies anywhere. I fear that so-called market forces will prove stronger than political ones, particularly when one examines the recent history of the UK Government in relation to trade with Indonesia. One becomes confused as to where the political and the economic barrier was crossed, because it seems Lady Thatcher on the one hand and her son on the other were hawking arms to Indonesia. As she said "batting for Britain", but in effect she was killing for Britain. The Hawk aircraft has been one of the main weapons used in trying to exterminate a race.

Nothing divides the House on this issue and I concur with opinions expressed by parties on the other side. We must keep the pressure on the Government and it in turn will keep the pressure on those it can influence internationally in order to end this dreadful situation as quickly as possible.

While I welcome the Minster to the House, I regret the delay in debating this matter. I am not sure if the Tánaiste was as anxious as he might have been to debate this. We pressed for this debate since Christmas on every Order of Business, but it has taken until now to discuss it at a time in the evening when it will attract little attention. In that context, I wonder if there may be embarrassment about what might be said about our efforts in regard to the situation in East Timor.

We owe a debt to the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International, Mr. John Pilger and other courageous people like him. It is important to underline the courage of such people, given that six journalists were killed in the early days of this conflict while trying to report it. The most effective way the Indonesian authorities can ensure these matters are not brought to public attention is to prevent journalists and parliamentarians from covering what is happening. That is a measure of Mr. Pilger's success.

I saw Mr. Pilger's programme twice and, like all Members, I was impressed and disturbed by what I saw. The evidence presented is incontrovertible and it is supported by people of distinction, including Bishop Belo of East Timor. At last there is an awareness of the scale of the human tragedy in East Timor. I will not repeat the facts and figures presented by other speakers other than to say that despite the terrible nature of the conflict we experience in terms of the loss of human life, it pales in significance compared to what has happened in East Timor. It is an indictment of the international community that it can stand back and remain powerless purely on the basis of economic expediency. We are balancing 200,000 lives against the economic benefits of trading with Indonesia, where trade has increased and the economy has grown.

I refer to what happened in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. According to whatever report one reads, approximately 250 to 300 people were wiped out during a peaceful protest. That is the type of regime we are dealing with. We must not presume that we are dealing with a sanitised military junta, we are dealing with military thugs who do not understand the language we use; it is not part of their vocabulary and we must be aware of that.

One might ask why should we worry about East Timor. We should worry because we are members in good standing of the international community and our opinion carries weight in the EU and the UN. We must continue to press in those fora for this matter to be given the attention it deserves. If we do not show that we care, how can we ask the international community to show concern for our problems? International awareness must be converted into concrete action which will benefit those affected by this human catastrophe.

The Minister referred to meetings which have taken place. I thank the Department of Foreign Affairs for the briefing material I received before visiting the UN Secretary General with parliamentary colleagues from the UK, Australia and Sweden. It was evident from the briefing I got that meetings took place between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Indonesian Embassy last September. I know that the matter was raised by the Taoiseach with Mr. Keating when he was here and that there have been subsequent meetings, but no response has been recorded in any of these documents. What have these people said in response to the queries that were legitimately raised by our Government? It is not to be seen anywhere.

On 3 February last I availed of the invitation of the East Timor Irish solidarity campaign to bring the case to the United Nations with parliamentary colleagues from the countries I mentioned. At that meeting we made all the points made here by speakers as to what should be done. In a memo which was presented to the Secretary General we called for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops and the holding of a referendum on self-determination for East Timor under international supervision. Pending the holding of the referendum, we urged the Secretary General to open an office in East Timor to oversee its demilitarisation, provide humanitarian aid and monitor human rights.

We asked the Secretary General to urge Indonesia to comply with the terms of the 1993 resolution of the UN Human Rights Commission, which we believed would be the most important confidence building measure that could take place. That resolution called on Indonesia to allow visits by two UN special rapporteurs and two UN working groups which investigate torture, extra-judicial killings, disappearances and arbitrary detention. It asked for free access to the territory by human rights organisations — this would be uppermost in my mind — and the release of political prisoners. We also asked the Secretary General to set up a commission to study the events leading to the invasion and annexation of the territory. The Secretary General, to be fair to him, received us very courteously and listened to our case. My sympathy is with the Secretary General, because without the support of the international community it is difficult to see what the Secretary General can do in practical terms to solve this human tragedy.

The other matter which impressed me greatly was meeting a student who had been forced to flee East Timor. It is again a measure of the regime with which we are dealing, and something difficult for us in Ireland to comprehend, that that person could not return to his own country and family. That was the fact of the matter and in one very isolated case showed what was happening.

I could speak on this for a considerable length of time but I know time is limited. The first priority is that there must be access for the human rights organisations. There has been one visit by Swedish parliamentarians and they came away very depressed because they could not see anything and were speaking to people who were living in fear. Therefore, there must be access for human rights organisations. Xanana Gusmao, who is the leader in the country, was jailed for life — his sentence has now been reduced — on a trumped up charge. That matter is one to which we must attend.

In May the Indonesian and Portuguese Foreign Ministers meet in Geneva and have been meeting on a regular basis. We have to bring whatever pressure we can to bear in order to achieve progress there and assist the Portuguese people. I want to contradict something Senator Lanigan said in respect of Portugal. He more or less suggested that they were to blame for this situation. That is not the case. They were there for 450 years and, like all colonial powers, I am sure they were not without blame. However, I am also quite certain that in the event of the Timorese people wanting self-determination it would have been granted to them at this stage because Portugal's record in respect of other countries is quite good.

There is the question of what should happen in Geneva in May and the other question is the arms sales. Hawk aircraft and arms from other countries are being sold to Indonesia and that is just appalling. I have a letter which was sent to a person in Dublin on 18 January from the British Embassy here and it states among other things:

On the specific question of defence sales, the British Government do not believe that abolition of defence sales to Indonesia would promote the cause of human rights in Indonesia or East Timor; [imagine that] rather, we believe that constructive dialogue is more likely to encourage the Indonesians to improve their human rights record.

There is a very interesting phrase there: "constructive dialogue". In the course of the Minister's address we heard that Australia are talking about constructive engagement. What do the phrases "constructive dialogue" and "constructive engagement" mean? I do not know what they mean. This letter goes on to state that:

...applications for export licences in respect of defence equipment are rejected (not "are likely to be rejected" as your letter suggested) [to the correspondent] in those cases where the equipment is likely to be used against civil populations.

Does the British Government support that statement or does it not? If it does support that statement there are no circumstances under which military equipment could be sent to Indonesia and they may need to be reminded of that.

We support the dialogue taking place between Indonesia and Portugal. The East Timorese should have access to that dialogue. The International Committee of the Red Cross should have access to political prisoners and the UN resolutions should be implemented.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I am delighted that the Minister and the Government saw fit to respond to this issue because it is one of fundamental human rights. The situation in Timor is a problem for the Portuguese national conscience to some extent. It is also an embarrassment for them due to the lack of conscience with which the major powers defend their own interest for which they still invoke the Communist threat.

The regime in Indonesia, which is the aggressor in Timor, is one of the few surviving examples of a national security state. The army holds power, Communism is identified as the enemy and tentative attempts have been made at liberalisation. The need for security against aggression from external forces is assumed. When Indonesia was attempting to take over western Papua New Guinea, it announced that it would submit to the rule of colonial self-determination and expressly denied having pretensions to Portuguese Timor in order to strengthen its claims. However, having won its case in Papua New Guinea, which had been independent since 1975, it then started to pursue insurgence. Indonesia invoked the usual pretext of enemy of the state and of national security, as in the case of East Timor at the time of the Portuguese revolutionary decolonisation, focusing on the danger of it becoming a sanctuary for guerrillas or a source of subversion. In this way everything could be justified in terms of national security. It was really a police action which became terribly abusive and they just took over the country.

Since 1961 the United Nations had considered Portuguese overseas territories, including East Timor, as non-autonomous territories; but after 1974 the Portuguese state itself assumed the status of administering power under the regime of trust territories. Although it is not stated explicitly, it is patently undeniable that relations between the UN, the Portuguese state and Timor developed in the usual framework of trust territories and Portugal was acting under the mandate of the international community. One of the functions of the General Assembly of the UN under the authority of its custodial council in Article 87 is to make periodic visits to trust territories on dates agreed with the administering power.

There is nothing in the UN Charter which allows one of its members to boycott the complete application of the decolonisation programme. On the contrary to act against this objective violates the Charter, and thus the Security Council would be authorised to act upon it. I know the Security Council has not got a great record and one only has to look at the problems in former Yugoslavia to see that they do not always act as quickly as they should. The UN is directly responsible for decolonisation, the repudiation of aggression and the struggle against genocide.

The problem in Timor is that it is still one of the territories that does not have and is not recognised as having self government. As such it is possible to invoke resolutions 1514/XV and 1541/XV ordering that the people of East Timor be allowed exercise the right to independence and self-determination and that these be respected. The occupation by the Indonesian troops has, for nearly 15 years, constituted an extremely grave violation of fundamental principles of international law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights. Portugal in its laws, including law 7/74, and its constitution recognises the inalienable right of the people of Timor freely to choose their political, economic and cultural future.

A number of conditions are necessary for the achievement of peace. The first, as has been called for by a number of Senators, is a ban on arms sales to Indonesia in addition to whatever other economic sanctions are required or judged appropriate. The second is to recognise clearly that the Timorese people must have a part in any negotiation process. It has been said that only Portugal and Indonesia are involved but that is untrue. They are two interested parties but the Timorese people are the main negotiators.

The legitimate representatives of the people of East Timor must be heard and called upon to intervene actively in decision making. This implies the strengthening of Timor's capacity to intervene, both at international and national levels, but they should be provided with the means which would allow them to do that. Everybody has mentioned the terror and death of 200,000 people but without any major political changes in Indonesia and its policy of annexation and extermination, which is supported by democratic countries such as Australia and the USA and other western countries, no peace effort will be successful. Legality, self-determination and decolonisation will only be possible if human rights violations end, Indonesian troops and administration are withdrawn, citizens in exile return and contracts regarding the mineral wealth of the Sea of Timor are declared invalid.

A Senator mentioned the BBC TV film about East Timor. I saw that film as did the Australian Foreign Minister, Senator Gareth Evans and the former Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ali Alatas. They concluded an agreement on the Timor Gap Zone of Co-operation Treaty which was signed in mid-air over the oil fields owned by East Timor. It has been hailed by both countries as a creative and peaceful alternative to a protracted delimitation dispute. In fact, it is only the annexation of wealth that should rightly belong to the East Timorese.

What will become of the East Timor and what should we do? As democratic countries we must speak out against the horror that has happened. A number of other things could happen. Independence must be the final goal for East Timor and a number of phases could lead to this. The first is the withdrawal of the Indonesian forces; the second may not appear correct but at some level there must be a reconstitution of the Portuguese Administration in the intervening period; third, there must be a referendum; and fourth, independence.

Law 7/75 of the Revolutionary Council of Portugal states that the Portuguese State will confine the definition of the political future of Timor to a representative popular assembly, to be elected by universal, direct and secret suffrage in obedience to the principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Once elected, the popular assembly will define by simple majority and by direct secret vote the administrative and political status of the territory of Timor. The Portuguese Administration must for some time be returned to East Timor before independence because they can act as mediators. They have knowledge of the situation and before independence there are always a number of warring factions, even within the Timorese.

I agree with Senators that this horrific situation must be brought to an end. If one saw that film, one saw the actions taken by people, such as Henry Kissinger and Senator Daniel Moynihan to prevent it reaching the UN. This is horrific when one considers it. Perhaps they did it because the Indonesians are against Communism or a perceived Communist threat and Australia is counted as a western country against Communism. However, there are people in this small country who are suffering and dying — although I agree that is not due to the Portuguese — who are being exploited because they have oil wealth. If this oil was a little closer to home, as in Kuwait, there would be no trouble. The oil will go to Indonesia and Australia while the Timorese just get death.

At all levels we must keep up the fight for these poor people; I do not mean poor in a condescending sense but poor because nobody seems to be on their side. We should at least do that. We know what it means to be colonised because we were colonised for a long time. It is up to us and other countries to insist that this issue is repeatedly brought before the United Nations, to ensure that East Timor is made a trust territory and that the Security Council is given authorisation to go in, monitor and demand that free elections take place which will lead to independence.

I am delighted this matter has come up for discussion. In 1989, former Senator Brendan Ryan and I first raised the issue of East Timor. I recall that not one Member at that time was aware of the situation there. I have had a number of experiences in dealing with this issue and the article written by Mr. Hugh O'Shaughnessy in the Observer, which was carried by The Irish Times, in April 1991, raised awareness to a great extent in the same way as the documentary by John Pilger.

I wish to put in context the type of difficulties one encounters in East Timor. In January 1993, I arranged for the question of civil rights in East Timor to be discussed in Stockholm by a gathering of a representative group of 25 million teachers worldwide. I arranged to speak in favour of a motion put forward by the Portuguese teachers' union which was in favour of the restoration of human rights in East Timor. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but the president of the INTO made a contribution in favour of the motion, which was passed almost unanimously. A small number of teachers from Australia and Indonesia opposed it.

A month later I received a glossy publication, entitled "East Timor, The Rising Province of Indonesia". One part states that the people of East Timor are free and united and that East Timor is the 27th province of Indonesia. It goes on to state:

We praise to God that the people of East Timor, as well as the people of Indonesia's other provinces, have the opportunity to live as a free country and are able to take part in the national development programme to elevate their welfare and prosperity in an equally balanced and just way.

This is the tone of the whole publication. It includes a number of photographs of East Timor in 1976, one of which shows a ramshackle house, East Timor girls with a dim future and traditional farms with a low productivity rate in a very faded picture. On another page, in full colour, a photograph shows East Timor in 1989 where everything is rosy and there is no sign of a bullet, a gun or deprivation of human rights, etc. It is important to recognise that the Indonesian teachers' union could not afford to send that document all over the world. It went to every teachers' union, probably to the members of the executive of each union, and that involved a huge cost. This is the limits to which the Indonesian Government will go to put a spin on the publicity and discussion of what is happening in East Timor. In every walk of life we should try to raise this issue. We should recognise that this country can have an impact. Countries such as Ireland, which is considered neutral, should speak out and make its views known.

I know that the Minister of State, as a teacher, is aware of the fact that the concern of teachers was with the suppression of culture and language. The difficulty is that the main language of the East Timorese people is banned from the education system, they are not allowed to develop their own culture. A new generation of children is being told that the reason for Indonesian rule in East Timor is that in 1975 the East Timorese people invited the Indonesian Government to look after the country.

There seems to be a very wide understanding of the level of human rights violations in East Timor. Portugal was a colonising state and like any other colonising state over the period of 400 years of rule, it was guilty of many actions which it would not be proud of today. It is important to state that as soon as the Portuguese people in Europe managed to rid themselves of the dictatorship that trammelled that country for many years, they moved to give independence to what were until that time the colonies, including East Timor. At that point the Indonesians were not prepared to let the newly declared State of East Timor achieve viability. It is also important to state that East Timor, with its indigenous wealth, has the potential to be a viable state and to take its place among the nations of the world.

In terms of how we are approaching this issue tonight, it is easy to make statements. I would have preferred a clear motion stating our opinion for the record. I would like this House to call on the Government to support at the United Nations the right of East Timor to self-determination; to condemn the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia and to further condemn the continuing human rights violations by Indonesia. This House should press the Irish Government to put pressure on the Indonesian Government to invite to East Timor the UN special rapporteurs mentioned by a number of speakers already, those dealing with extra-judicial execution or torture, to satisfy themselves as to the condition of that country. This House should ask the Irish Government to call on the Indonesian Government for the release of all political prisoners in East Timor. I would like the Irish Government to immediately express publicly on behalf of the Irish people its moral revulsion at the continuing atrocities being perpetrated in East Timor. It is important that we, as public representatives, make this statement.

It is my intention over the next number of weeks to put together a petition stating our support for the UN on the self-determination of the people of East Timor, the condemnation of the invasion and human rights violations by Indonesia, supporting pressure for the facilitation of the UN rapporteurs, the release of political prisoners and expressing our revulsion at the atrocities being carried out in East Timor. I intend writing to every Member of both Houses and asking them to sign a petition, in other words to put their money where their mouths are on this issue. Let us show clearly on the record that elected Irish parliamentarians are prepared to express their opposition and revulsion on behalf of the people they represent for what is going on in a tiny, far away, forgotten country in the furthest corner of the globe from us. We should be clear in our condemnation and a very clear signal should go out from this House.

It is easy to restate lists of atrocities. We are talking about a small country, half a million people, who could be wiped out and their culture completely suppressed. They need our support and we need to give our Government the confidence to know that our public statements and position on this issue will carry weight. We need to move on it. I ask the Minister to take this view to the Government. I hope the House will clearly express its position not just by statement but by resolution of the House and action of the Government.

I concur wholeheartedly with the last speaker on the last point he made. It is very significant that this debate is taking place. It is informative, constructive and shows the solidarity of the representatives of the various parties who have spoken on the East TimorIreland solidarity campaign. Solidarity is what this is all about.

It is shocking to say that we have no media presence to report on this debate tonight. I do not care whether they quote me, but each speaker has made a very constructive and significant contribution in Seanad Éireann tonight and not a line of it will be reported. I wish to put that on the record. It is a dereliction of duty by the media, the print media especially, not to take that interest because, whether it is American foreign policy or British foreign policy, there is no reason we should not castigate them for their involvement in the sale of arms to Indonesia. If we are sincere we should not hesitate to do so.

Reports on events in East Timor are scant because of the iron fist approach of the military. I wish to record our appreciation of the efforts by John Pilger and the film he made which brought the situation home to the Irish people in no uncertain manner. The massacre of over 250 innocent mourners in the Santa Cruz cemetery by members of the Indonesian army was particularly shocking. It was an atrocious attack on defenceless people and, since Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, they have followed a policy of systematic genocide against the indigenous population. It has been stated that in excess of one-third of the population have died at the hands of the Indonesian military and if the Indonesian military are supplied with arms by any other country we should condemn and never fail to mention those countries.

We should impress upon the United Nations Secretary General that the people of Ireland are concerned about the conflict in East Timor and expect the UN to do something about it. The majority of East Timorese reject their forced integration with Indonesia and continue to call for international support, particularly from the United Nations. The UN which is the appropriate body to address the gross injustice inflicted on a small, relatively defenceless people has condemned the actions but they did not apply any pressure.

The failure of the international community to secure the implementation of UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian forces is deplorable but the decision of Australia to recognise the illegal incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia is particularly shameful. The Indonesians have been guilty of well documented severe abuses of human rights since the invasion in 1975 and, despite successive UN resolutions, Australia has not only offered economic and military support to Indonesia but is now co-operating by occupying a position of power in oil exploration in East Timor waters.

The United Nations Security Council has neglected its duty to the people of East Timor. Human rights abuses continue and I refer again to the lack of media attention. I support the call by Senator O'Toole that we should pass a resolution which might gain some attention. That is what is needed if we are to show the solidarity which the people of East Timor need from us.

I regret that I had to go back to the Dáil on other business but I will take on board the strong views articulated by Members of the Seanad in relation to the continuing abuse of human rights in East Timor. They will strengthen me in my resolve to see what efforts can be made. We will continue our efforts with the Australian Government and the Indonesian Government. As has been said, it is time we had a strong position and it has been well articulated in the Seanad. I will continue in my contacts, in particular with my Portuguese colleague in the European Union, who, along with the Portuguese Government, has a particular interest in the matter under the auspices of the UN Secretary General who was given his role in 1982.

It is a difficult and complex situation, but nobody can stand over the abuse of human rights which we have seen over the last ten years, all of which were highlighted in Mr. Pilger's film. It has struck a chord with the world. I had the opportunity of seeing it and, although it was absolutely horrendous, it gave everybody a clear summary of the situation. I assure the Members of the Seanad who contributed to the debate that I will take strength and further resolve from what they have said and continue with my efforts on behalf of the Irish Government to see if any progress can be made, however small, to end the massive abuse of human rights and restore dignity to the people of East Timor.

I thank the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, for his attendance.

On behalf of the Members of the Seanad I thank the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, for being here for the debate on a human rights issue which is of immense importance in the world. What has been said this evening might not be listened to by many people but the presence of the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs has added strength to the debate.

I would also like to record the importance of the debate which has taken place and to express our thanks to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, for speaking on this important matter and outlining the views of the Irish Government on this issue. We have raised this matter before in the House and, regrettably, it is a situation which will not terminate in the near future. It is ongoing and we will have to return to it regularly. I thank the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, for his contribution.

I join in thanking the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, for his interest in this matter and for his attendance this evening. I remind him that I would be interested in the responses of the Governments to which he has spoken, in addition to our representations.

Before we conclude may I say that I regret that Senator Norris is unavoidably absent this evening. He has shown a great interest in this problem and I am sure he will regret missing this debate.

When is it proposed to sit again?

It is proposed to sit again at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.