Govt must tell Indonesian navy chief to stay home

Green Defence Spokesperson Keith Locke says Indonesia’s navy chief should be told he is not welcome here.

“He shouldn’t be coming here when Indonesian soldiers are still arming and training militias in West Timor,” said the Green MP.

The naval chief is due to attend a Western Pacific naval symposium, beginning in Auckland on November 8.

“We’ve cut off bilateral military contacts with Indonesia. To be consistent we should have told the naval chief he is not welcome.

“Every day our soldiers in East Timor are risking their lives to stop the infiltration of Indonesian-trained militiamen. One soldier, Private Manning, has already died. We’re not helping our soldiers by hosting a top Indonesian military man.

“The Indonesian armed forces are the main barrier to that country’s democratisation. In West Timor, Maluku and West Papua they have been defying President Wahid’s peace efforts.

“Blocking Indonesian officers from attending regional meetings shows how much we object to what they are doing. It also helps the democrats in Indonesia.

“The Government argues that it can’t, on its own, cancel the Indonesian invitation to the symposium. That may be true, but it still should say the Indonesian military is not welcome here, even if that affects our hosting of the meeting.

“The second government excuse is that the symposium only discusses ‘good’ types of military co-operation, like search and rescue and combating piracy. However, this symposium will be like the past ones and also range over military co-operation in naval exercises, tactical procedures, surveillance, and the supply and maintenance of naval equipment. These are called ‘confidence building measures’.

“We shouldn’t be building any ‘confidence’ in the Indonesian military right now,” said Mr Locke.