Arms Sales To Indonesia


Sir, - Some time ago I expressed the view that people should view with a certain degree of scepticism the sentiments of the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, that human rights would be the cornerstone of British foreign policy.

Unfortunately, it seems that my concerns have proved to be well founded. The Irish Times reports (July 29th) that Mr Cook is not only going to allow the sale of a further 16 Hawk fighter jets to the regime in Jakarta, but also is intent on supplying British-made armoured cars.

Against the background of a recently adopted resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, a new peace initiative by the South African President, Nelson Mandela and, sadly, a marked increase in Indonesian military oppression in occupied East Timor, Mr Cook's decision is deplorable.

Earlier this month, following a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, the co-laureate of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, Bishop Carlos Belo, spoke at a meeting in Westminster. I quote his words:

"My people have suffered terribly from the effects of armaments made in countries far from our shores. I appeal to the government of the United Kingdom and its allies to consider the dreadful consequences of this so-called defence industry. Please, I beg you, do not sustain any longer a conflict which without these sales could never have been pursued in the first place, nor for so very long."

I do hope that Mr Cook has the opportunity to reflect on the words of Bishop Belo. Will he feel shamed by his decision? I doubt it.

What can one say? Well, some might say at least the Tories were more honest about arms trading. No hiding behind the smokescreen of concern for human rights. Alas, no doubt Mr Cook will continue to evade pertinent questions in relation to human rights as his speech writers use all their dutiful sophistry to make the unconscionable more palatable.

A bad day for New Labour. An even worse one for the beleaguered people of East Timor.- Yours, etc., Tom Hyland, East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign,

Dame Street,

Dublin 2.