NZ must not repeat Timor mistake, says Locke

Green MP, Keith Locke is warning that the Government risks another Timorese tragedy if it doesn’t press Indonesia to halt its military campaign in Aceh.

“The same military machine and the same generals that colluded in the rape of East Timor are again involved in the brutal crackdown of the Aceh liberation movement,” said Keith Locke, the Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“There was no real reform of the Indonesian military following its excesses in East Timor. Now, if countries like New Zealand stand aside or don’t protest strongly enough, the Acehnese can expect the same treatment as the Timorese.

“The Prime Minister’s comment that Aceh ‘doesn’t have that history of an identity separate from Indonesia to draw on’ indicates that she is being poorly briefed on the situation.

“Aceh was an independent political entity for centuries. It was occupied by the Dutch long after the rest of what is now Indonesia, and administered separately. It has a distinct language and culture.

“If New Zealand — and other countries — had acted more forcefully in 1975, it would have spared East Timor many years of agony. The time to act is before the tragedy has occurred.

“One positive action New Zealand could take would be a direct appeal to the Indonesian president to return to peace talks, and avoid any more bloodshed,” said Mr Locke. “We’re disappointed that Helen Clark has expressed her reluctance to make that approach.”