NZ should not be resuming military links with Indonesia

Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke has challenged Defence Minister Phil Goff’s reasons for allowing a “limited defence re-engagement” with Indonesia.

Ties have been broken since the devastation of East Timor in 1999, during which the Indonesian military played a major role. Now, an Indonesian staff officer will be invited to attend this year’s course at the New Zealand Defence Force staff college, and members of the course will travel to Indonesia.

“I contest Mr Goff’s assertion, in a newspaper on Saturday, that the Indonesian military ‘has undergone significant change and reform’, sufficient to justify the limited re-engagement,” said Mr Locke.

“I challenge the Defence Minister to provide evidence of this reform. The military are still violating human rights in places like West Papua, and are not being held to account through the court system.

“Previously Mr Goff argued that military ties had to be suspended because no Indonesian military officers had been held legally responsible for the killings in East Timor. However, since that continues to be the case, why should military links be resumed?

“It seems more likely that diplomatic pressure on New Zealand has brought about this step towards a full resumption of military ties. We know that Indonesia was pressing the government strongly on this issue, and was probably backed by Australia, the US and Britain, who have all resumed defence relations with Jakarta.

“The Greens appeal to the government not to repeat the errors made during the occupation of East Timor, when human violations were downplayed in the interests of good relations with Indonesia, including military relationships.

“We should not turn our backs on the people of West Papua who are still suffering under the heel of the Indonesian military, which largely operates with impunity in the territory,” said Mr Locke.