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East Timor

Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to protect human rights in East Timor.

Together with our European Community partners and bilaterally, we maintain a regular dialogue on human rights with the Indonesian authorities and raise particular issues— including East Timor—with them as necessary. European Community partners co-sponsored a resolution on East Timor at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva earlier this year.

Fine words, but since the invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1979, one in three of its population has died and Indonesia has been in breach of two Security Council resolutions and eight General Assembly resolutions. Is not it wholly unacceptable for the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence to visit Indonesia and to give both political and material support to a regime whose record is on a par with that of Pol Pot in Cambodia?

Neither my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has visited East Timor. Maintaining good relations with Indonesia, which is the chairman of the non-aligned movement and an important member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, is much the best way of increasing its observance of human rights.

Whatever may have been Indonesia's human rights record over the years, it has improved a great deal—but instead of the regime being given credit for that, wildly exaggerated attacks are made by Opposition Members. Instead of indulging in the wild exaggeration that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), would not the interests of the people of Indonesia and of this country be better served if the regime were given credit for the real steps that it is taking to improve the situation?

My hon. Friend makes some extremely valid points. As I said, our best chance of helping to improve human rights in Indonesia and for many in East Timor is through the processes that we undertake.