Seanad Éireann - Volume 148 - 19 June, 1996
East Timor: Motion.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: I move:
That Seanad Éireann compliments the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs on his repeated condemnation of the atrocities perpetrated against the East Timorese people, commends the Tánaiste's and the Irish Government's commitment to an internationally acceptable solution to the ongoing occupation and human rights abuse in East Timor and urges the Government to make this one of its priorities during the upcoming Presidency of the European Union.
This important motion has two elements to it: first, to congratulate the Tánaiste and the Government on the work they have done and their stance to date on  this issue. In a signed article in The Irish Times on 13 July 1995, the Tánaiste made this very clear. It is worth quoting from the article which succinctly outlines the Government's position. In his article the Tánaiste said:
Ireland has consistently condemned Indonesia's policies in East Timor. Our policy goes beyond condemnation to include active international engagement on the issue with clear objectives. We want Indonesia to end its illegal occupation of the territory. We want to see a political solution on the basis of international law and justice. We want to see the people of East Timor enjoy their full human and political rights. We want to stop the supply to Indonesia of arms that could be used as instruments of oppression in East Timor. We want to see the release of Xanana Gusmao and other political prisoners. We want Indonesia to co-operate fully with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and with international NGOs.
That makes the Government's position distinctly clear; it is unique in Europe, apart from Portugal. We want to congratulate the Tánaiste on that but, as we assume the EU Presidency, we ask the Government and the Tánaiste to make this issue a priority in their international activities. Ireland has a unique opportunity to promote, influence and raise the profile of this important human rights issue.
Human rights abuses, including torture, have been going on for over 20 years since Indonesia occupied East Timor. Because of our international track record and the fact that we will assume the EU Presidency on 1 July, we now have a unique opportunity. It is unfortunate that the European Commission failed to accept an arms embargo but during our Presidency we should actively seek to have such an embargo adopted. We should also use our influence in the United States, Australia and throughout the free world to  see that the issue is raised at international level thus putting pressure on Indonesia to cease the bloodshed in occupied East Timor.
The Indonesian Government has killed, tortured and jailed its opponents at will for almost three decades under the guise of fighting communism and instability. For most of that time the international community has remained silent. There is a simple reason for this. From its inception, Indonesia's new order government was seen as an important friend and ally of the West. It has been spared criticism by its Asian neighbours and member states of the non-aligned movement. With the fourth largest population in the world, a vast store of natural resources and a huge supply of cheap labour, Indonesia has always been seen as an economic prize.
I welcome the fact that some governments have now begun to voice concerns about the situation in East Timor. A handful have backed up their words with action. The first major expression of outrage was over the Santa Cruz massacre and the series of UN resolutions in 1992, 1993 and 1994 which openly criticised Indonesia for its poor human rights record in East Timor.
Nevertheless, the international community's response to Indonesia's human rights violations leaves much to be desired. Many governments which have expressed concern continue to supply Indonesia with military equipment which could be used to commit human rights violations. In the past three years the UK has approved the sale of 40 jet fighters while Germany has sold three submarines and 39 other naval vessels, some with missile launchers; Switzerland approved the sale of ammunition and parts of anti-aircraft guns, and the Australian military conducts joint exercises and training with Indonesia's counter insurgency unit. In addition, as I stated earlier, the European Commission has rejected proposals for an arms embargo.
It is a brave thing to be a human rights activist in East Timor or in Indonesia. It can mean putting the basic  principles of the right to life, freedom from torture, freedom from hunger and freedom of speech and association before one's life and liberty. Thousands of people in Indonesia and East Timor have put human rights first and they need our support. The best way of supporting them is to publicise the grave violations of human rights for which the Indonesian Government is responsible.
In this respect I welcome this debate and I thank Fine Gael for giving its Private Members' time. The international community has focused almost exclusively on the most dramatic incidents in East Timor, such as the Santa Cruz massacre which was a watershed. However, human rights violations have taken place both before and after that massacre.
We tend to look only at dramatic events, but grave acts of violence committed by Indonesian forces throughout the area have gone virtually unnoticed or else have been treated as isolated incidents rather than as part of a pattern of systematic human rights violations which have unfolded over more than a quarter of a century.
Trade union activists have been arrested, harassed and sometimes tortured. Scores of trade unionists were arrested during the wave of strikes in early 1994 and several were charged with political crimes. The government does not depend on force alone to suppress dissent, it also relies on a system of political control based on the state ideology of pancilla, the constitution and officially defined national goals such as security, order and development. Any opposition to these, however peaceful, is illegal and dealt with by “firm measures”.
Each year dozens of books, plays, lectures, films, meetings and poetry readings are banned. Prisoners of conscience are serving long sentences because they were found in possession of banned books. Farmers who resisted the appropriation of their land, writers who challenged the state's interpretation of history, Moslem preachers, labour activists, activists for democratisation, human  rights lawyers and advocates of independence for East Timor all risk being accused of subversion by being communists, terrorists or traitors. They can suffer imprisonment or death which are powerful deterrents to all but the most courageous who are prepared to take a stand.
Archbishop Belo bravely stood up and risked his life by making statements. He is now seen as a champion of his people and he deserves to be mentioned in this or any debate on East Timor.
We should call on the Indonesian Government to resolve and provide redress for human rights violations, investigate political killings and disappearances, release all prisoners of conscience, provide fair trials and release all political prisoners. We should also call on that Government to compensate victims and their relatives, bring those responsible for abuses to justice, introduce clear policies which will provide for the cessation of the violation of human rights, abolish the death penalty, prohibit extra-judicial executions, torture and the use of evidence obtained under torture and ensure that all detainees have access to lawyers of their choice as well as doctors and relatives. The anti-subversion laws should be repealed.
Our Government, in the course of its Presidency of the EU, must urge the Indonesian Government to invite the relevant UN bodies to visit Indonesia and East Timor. There have been such visits in the past but they have been limited and ineffective. As holders of the EU Presidency we should also urge the Indonesian Government to implement UN recommendations on the prevention of torture and extra-judicial executions.
I thank the Minister for attending and I look forward to his reply.
Mr. Hayes Mr. Hayes
Mr. Hayes: It gives me great pleasure to second this motion and to agree with Senator Neville's outline of the violations that have taken place in East Timor.
 We have often heard it said that if the world had known about what was taking place at Dachau or Auschwitz it could have been prevented. The genocide taking place in East Timor is similar to that which took place during the Second World War. We know of the systematic torture and murder which the East Timorese have suffered at the hands of Indonesia. East Timor, while relatively small and insignificant to the international community, represents one of the worst cases of violations of human rights this century. The distinction is that we know these violations are taking place and we have known about them since the occupation of that country by Indonesia in 1975. However, the response of the international community has been poor even though the genocide is comparable to the genocides that have taken place in other countries in this century, particularly that which took place in Germany against the Jews during the Second World War. The violations in East Timor are on record and it is the responsibility of the international community to respond accordingly.
In the 21 years since Indonesia illegally invaded and annexed East Timor an estimated 200,000 people have perished. The population of East Timor is 700,000 so over one-third of that country's population has been lost through genocide. One need only look at the population ratios in Ireland to assess the impact of the genocide in East Timor. It is the equivalent of the population of Dublin being removed from the Irish Republic over a similar period of time. The scale of the genocide means that the scale of our response should be more significant than it has been to date.
This debate could be an opportunity to ask many questions why the Indonesian Government carried out such atrocities during its occupation of East Timor. Was it because East Timor is rich in oil and gas while Indonesia is not? Was it because the population of East Timor is overwhelmingly Roman  Catholic while the population of Indonesia is Islamic? These are some of the questions that could be asked by an international observer who has looked with disbelief at what has taken place in East Timor over the past 20 years. However, asking questions without supplying a practical response will not help the people of East Timor overcome the difficulties they face.
The United Nations has never recognised Indonesian control over East Timor. The international community, through a variety of channels, has attempted to use its influence to stop Indonesian brutality and to restore East Timor to its people. However, the fact that these atrocities have been allowed to continue signals a failure on the part of the international community to restore the democratic legitimacy and independence of East Timor.
While the killings in East Timor have been widespread, the news of the atrocities has not. Unlike many other international hotspots of violence, such as Rwanda, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, the press has been banned from East Timor since the invasion of 1975. Only a few journalists daring to sneak in and out of the country have been able to bring news of these atrocities to the world. It is worth pointing out the great efforts of one of the Members of this House, Senator Norris. He went as far as he could last year in his attempts to enter East Timor, to expose the brutality of Indonesia before being instructed to leave that country. He would like to have been present for this debate but he is not in a position to attend. However, his contribution in exposing this issue is noteworthy.
It has been proven time and again that the way to stop genocide is through international attention. However, this is virtually impossible in the case of East Timor as long as journalists are banned from the area. The few journalists who have been able to enter that country and experience the reality of life for its people speak of the abominable cruelty and terror the East Timorese must suffer. Such reporting, when it has taken  place, has been clouded in a cloak and dagger atmosphere as the Indonesian secret police use a variety of methods to apprehend the reporters.
It has recently come to the attention of the international community that more than 100 young people have left East Timor in recent months after taking refuge in several European embassies in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Many of these young people are the future leaders of East Timor and one commentator recently described the area as a society being bled of its youth and talent by the Indonesian occupation. Members of the House will be aware of the Roman Catholic bishop, Carlos Belo, and his tremendous work to reduce the obvious tension between the occupiers and the East Timorese and his efforts to tell the international community about what is taking place there. He tells of innocent children being slaughtered as they lay sick in hospital. He has been the driving force against the Indonesian Government and the international community owes him great tribute for his work in highlighting this international scandal. In this regard I would welcome his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
As Senator Neville said, the primary focus of this debate is to draw attention to the role Ireland can play during its six month Presidency of the EU not just by concentrating on this issue but by ensuring that an EU initiative is taken to bring peace and order to East Timor. As a small country in a large world, we have a responsibilty to do whatever we can to help defend the interests of other small countries. We can play a positive role in this regard during our EU Presidency. Sometimes we have to be totally straight and honest with our friends, even if they do not like being told the truth. Many of our friends in the EU do not like being told the truth when it comes to trading arms with Indonesia. I hope some initiative could be taken in that regard.
We owe gratitude to the East Timor-Ireland Solidarity Campaign which, more than anyone else, has brought this  issue to the political establishment. After the end of apartheid in South Africa people there rightly pointed to the efforts of organisations in this country to highlight what took place. When East Timor is given its liberty, this country will stand out as one who supported it throughout.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: I join with the proposer and seconder of this important motion, first, in the condemnation of the Indonesian Government and, second, in the hope that the expression of solidarity will have some effect on the situation in East Timor.
We are talking about murder and genocide here, not human rights violations. It is not about somebody not getting their human rights in Ireland because they do not know their social welfare entitlements. We are talking about major human rights violations and murder and genocide on a huge scale. The genocide is supported by countries who are supposed to be friends of ours, specifically Australia. The Australian impact on East Timor is enormous and unfortunately they are on the wrong side.
I have subscribed to National Geographic for many years, a magazine which I always felt was fair, generous and informative. Earlier this year it had a two page supplement of a map of Indonesia. There was no mention in it of East Timor, only Indonesia and Irian Jaya. In last month's edition there was a letter asking why the East Timor situation was not mentioned. National Geographic said the maps are recog-nised internationally and they take the political situation as it is and not as they would like it to be. I was disgusted with the attitude of the editorial staff of National Geographic, which was absolutely wrong.
There are parallels in the East Timor situation with a film called Missing — many might have seen it recently — about Chile and the involvement of the American Government in a coup there. When one gentleman went to find his son, he found the American Embassy  and the new Chilean dictator were colluding to kill anybody who had anything to do with opposition to the Government. It did not make any difference where that opposition came from. The film showed what happened in Chile is happening in East Timor and other places around the world.
I agree with Senator Hayes that we must do what we can during our EU Presidency to eliminate the genocide happening in many places in the world as a result of colonial powers leaving those areas. If at the end of the six months there was a better understanding of what is happening in the world in terms of genocide, murder and violence, the Presidency would have been successful.
It is a nonsense to suggest there is an international observer report on what has happened in East Timor since the 80s, because international observers are not allowed in. I agree with Senator Hayes and Senator Neville in praising Senator Norris. I do not often praise Senator Norris, but I have to say he has been eloquent on the issue of East Timor and has tried his best, at every level, to get as much information disseminated about what is happening there — even to the stage where he was not allowed into the country.
East Timor has the potential to be a hugely economically viable country because of its natural resources. Unfortunately, natural resources in most countries in the world are not controlled by the indigenous people but by outside interests. The Indonesians have put a stranglehold on the huge potential of East Timor, with the collusion of Australia and other countries. Recently, we have seen the influence of companies such as Shell on the Ogoni people in Nigeria. We have seen that the oil industry in Angola is controlled from London. We have seen Mozambique thrown to the wolves by the Portuguese. Much of what has happened in Africa is controlled by international, multinational and cross-national companies.
 Two hundred thousand out of 700,000 people have died as a direct result of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, two out of every seven people. This is real genocide, because the people killed were of reproductive age. There are no young children because there are not enough parents to produce them. There is an older age group. We must cry out against the sin of genocide, whether in East Timor or anywhere else. We must ensure that what has happened in East Timor is not allowed to continue.
An article in Reader's Digest discussed the issue. Reader's Digest is a populist magazine with a worldwide circulation which condenses news and tries to be popular. If it has taken up the case of East Timor, the case must be just. I think it is a just case.
I compliment the proposer and seconder on tabling this motion. I hope that the Government will inform the EU during the next six months that the East Timorese are important to us. Their plight is symbolic of events occurring throughout the world.
Mr. Maloney Mr. Maloney
Mr. Maloney: This is a very important debate. I commend Senator Manning and his colleagues in Fine Gael for bringing the motion before the House. The fact that this debate is taking place is a testament to the hard work of the East Timor solidarity group in recent years to bring the situation in East Timor to the attention of the public. It is a credit to the Irish people that the State, with their full support, has been able to adopt a strong line on the illegal occupation of East Timor by the Indonesian authorities. For historical reasons, Ireland, as perhaps the only formerly colonised state within the European Union, tends to have a better understanding of the plight of the people of East Timor than former colonial nations.
This motion draws attention to the strong role adopted by Ireland within the international community on this issue. I welcome the support it offers to my party leader, the Tánaiste, on his  efforts to highlight one of the most brutal military regimes remaining in the world. However, I do not want to make a political point. The Tánaiste is also Minister for Foreign Affairs of this State and has the support of all Members and the Irish people.
There is a lesson to be learned from this issue, which is expressly recognised in the motion. Ireland's voice in international affairs is all the more audible because of the country's record of participation, not only in the United Nations but also within the European Union. We will only be successful in pursuing the goals of our foreign policy by committing ourselves fully to the international process and supporting that voice, with resources when necessary. I fully support the idea that we should use our Presidency of the European Union to highlight this issue. I have no doubt that the Tánaiste intends to do so.
The situation in East Timor is totally unacceptable. The illegal and brutal occupation of that country by the Indonesian authorities has lasted over 20 years. During that period, systematic violence and oppression have been directed against the people of East Timor. The atrocity at Santa Crux in 1991, when 250 innocent East Timorese were slaughtered in full view of the media by the Indonesian military, is an indication of the lengths to which the Indonesians are prepared to go to prevent any flowering of democratic or national sentiment in East Timor.
That kind of atrocity however is unique in the amount of international attention it received. Similar atrocities against individuals and their families occur daily. We must give credit to those in East Timor who, like Bishop Belo, work tirelessly, at grave risk to themselves, to prevent the repetition of genocide on this scale. As an aside, I welcome also the increased support recently given to Bishop Belo from the Vatican. It is critical that he and others are seen to be supported by powerful non-governmental international agencies such as the Church, which has an  obvious interest in the protection of human rights.
People like Bishop Belo can only do so much. Unless the international community can exert sufficient pressure on the Indonesians, the tense situation in East Timor will eventually explode. Large scale riots in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in 1995 are an indication of the extent of feeling among the East Timorese people. This growing unrest, seen in the increased activity of resistance groupings, placed those seeking to prevent a wholesale escalation of the existing position into full hostilities into an unenviable position in which they do not deserve to be. Irish people are aware of the results when extremes dominate the agenda. Those caught in the middle become powerless to prevent the eventual bloody outcome.
These people rely on the international community to protect them from this fate. There must be an internationally acceptable solution to this problem and we must bring pressure to bear on the Indonesians to enter negotiations. Without that pressure, and without the participation of countries like Australia which has been ambivalent in its attitude to this problem, the Indonesians will not enter such negotiations voluntarily. Information I received from friends in Australia indicates that the Australian authorities will not do very much to end this problem. Ireland has excellent relations with Australia, and we must do everything possible to bring about a more sustainable situation than that currently in place.
Again, I thank the Fine Gael Senators for putting down this motion. I commend the Tánaiste on his work to date, short of declaring war, to bring pressure to bear on the Indonesians. I know he is determined to continue down this path. There is a need for more debates of this kind in the House. For example, the situation in Burma is another we should explore and declare a position on. However, that is another day's work. I support the motion.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
 Mr. O'Toole: I welcome my fellow union member, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea. I am delighted by his interest in this issue. It is an impressive and progressive step that the Government has provided time for this debate.
This matter was first raised by Senator Brendan Ryan and myself a number of years ago. At that time, with the exception of Senator Lanigan, Members were not familiar with East Timor and its problems. I discussed this matter seven to eight years ago with Hugh O'Shaughnessy who wrote an extraordinary article about East Timor in The Irish Times and raised many people's consciousness of the issues involved. In succeeding years many individuals have shown great interest in the situation in East Timor and it has captured the imagination of the Irish public. This is attributable to the efforts of Mr. Tom Hyland, who raised the issue in the media and kept politicians informed of progress relating to it. The work of Mr. Hyland and others like him throughout the country has been extraordinary.
In 1993 I organised a petition of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas which was signed by 75 per cent of Deputies and Senators. The motion stated that we supported the United Nations call for the right of East Timor to self-determination, had asked the Irish Government to condemn the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia and press the Indonesian Government to invite the special UN rapporteur on torture and extrajudicial execution to report on East Timor, had called on the Irish Government to seek the release of all political prisoners in East Timor and expressed the moral revulsion of the Irish people at the recent reports of further atrocities. Earlier speakers referred to many of these atrocities.
One hopes that this problem can be solved. It should be placed high on the agenda during Ireland's Presidency of the European Union. The people of East Timor have suffered appalling hardships, oppression, torture, displacement and exile in the past 20 years. The  irresponsibility of the main western powers in refusing to address this matter is disgraceful. During the 20th century we have come to know of many atrocities, including those perpetrated by Pol Pot and the elimination and massacre of Jews during World War II, after the event. Such atrocities continue to occur. In the region of 25 to 33 per cent of the population of East Timor has been murdered or gone missing, but no one seems to be able to do anything. The position of the Indonesian Government has been protected by successive governments in Great Britain and Australia.
On the other hand, successive Irish Governments have a proud record of drawing European and world attention to East Timor. The current Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, has shown extraordinary energy and commitment on this issue and has not been afraid to grasp the nettle and to stand alone. I hope that, during our Presidency, he will be able to draw the European partners together, as he must in order to make this an issue.
Members of both Houses have recognised and regularly expressed support and concern at the plight of the people of East Timor. It is now time to go a step further. This must be made a priority issue during our Presidency and Europe must insist yet again that UN human rights officials have full and uninhibited access to East Timor and be allowed to open an office on the island; that Amnesty International be allowed access to East Timor, as it needs to be there; that all human rights infringements or accusations and allegations of such infringements be fully investigated; that sanctions be imposed on Indonesia until such time as it agrees a process for granting East Timor independence and that, in the meantime, no arms, small or large, of whatever type, should be sold to the Indonesian Government or army by western powers. The last should be implemented immediately because that will hurt them most.
We have seen how Indonesia treats people, and this will continue. Ireland has a unique opportunity during its  Presidency to ensure East Timor receives the protection of Europe. The global support Indonesia has bought on this issue has been astonishing. In 1992, I raised this issue at the World Confederation of Teachers — the largest body of educationalists which meets on a two-yearly basis — in a motion put down by ourselves and the Portuguese teachers' union. I have never seen anything like the level and quality of documentation circulated by the Indonesian teachers' union. It was full of inaccuracies and misleading statements but it did show that every discussion on this matter is dealt with and considered.
It was good to see that some Oireachtas Members took part in a candlelight vigil outside Dublin Castle on the night of the visit by the former Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Paul Keating, although it is a pity there were not more. It was impressive to see many Irish people hold candles for the people of East Timor. We should do it more often and we should ensure that the murder in that country is stopped. We must find occasion to raise these problems constantly and regularly. It is good to see the Vatican taking an interest in this at last because for many years it simply ignored it. This shows that international pressure can work.
East Timor is unlike Iran or South Africa in that it does not have oil or other resources. It is a country without much wealth and for that reason the world seems prepared to stand back and let it meet its fate. The UN has granted these people the right of self-determination and we must insist that this is carried out.
Mr. Doyle Mr. Doyle
Mr. Doyle: It is appropriate that we discuss the gross wrongs committed against the people of East Timor just a day after the publication of the annual Amnesty International report, which once again highlighted the abuse of human rights in that country. The last 20 years of Jakarta's iron fist rule in the former Portuguese colony has resulted  in the murder of one-third of the indigenous population through a state policy of carefully planned and ruthlessly executed genocide. Not only has this barbaric policy involved the murder, rape and torture of the civilian population, the burning of their crops and the destruction of their livelihoods, it has also taken the form of a cultural genocide, a systematic and pernicious attempt by the Jakarta authorities to destroy the rich culture and traditions of the East Timorese people. Television and radio are now broadcast in Bahasa-Indonesian and not in the East Timorese native language, Tetum. Jakarta has also tightened its firm grip on East Timor by luring in more than 100,000 migrant workers with the inducement of free land confiscated from the indigenous population.
Whatever power political motivations were behind Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975 — whether it was from an alleged concern for the security of President Suharto's authoritarian regime or in an attempt to secure rich oil and gas reserves, nothing can excuse or justify the barbarism inflicted on the East Timorese people in their struggle for self-determination. Those people know only too well the hypocrisy of power politics in that the force employed by the state machinery brutally to suppress them came, more often than not, from those countries whose Governments are the first to condemn human rights violations.
The response from inside and outside East Timor to the politics of power — in terms of the politics of shame — is instructive. There are lessons to be learned which should guide the Irish Government when it takes over the EU Presidency. Through the work of non-governmental organisations and Senator Norris, the ruthlessness of the Indonesian regime has been exposed. Pressure from NGOs has belatedly pushed politicians around the world into action. The US Congress has passed legislation to bar the sale of lethal crowd control equipment and small arms to Indonesia pending “significant progress” in  human rights conditions in East Timor. The Australian Government has also recently taken a more pro-active policy.
Reacting to international outrage, the politics of shame, the Jakarta regime set up a 25 member national commission on human rights to monitor abuses. Last year, when soldiers executed six unarmed civilians near Dili, the commission found the killings unlawful and a court martial jailed two soldiers for four and a half years. While the terms were inadequate, one hopes they represent the emergence of accountability.
I congratulate the Tánaiste and the Minister of State, Deputy Burton, for our policy but I wish they were here for this debate — that is no reflection on the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, who is present. This is an important discussion in which Ireland has played and must continue to play a significant role. The Irish Government should support Bishop Belo's call for a referendum on East Timorese independence. Furthermore, during our EU Presidency, it should suggest a common code of conduct for trade in arms which are used in torture. Unfortunately, the European record on arms sales to Indonesia is disgraceful, with our next door neighbour, Britain, being the worst offender. Our Government must raise this issue at the EU conference.
I end with Bishop Belo's simple plea: “We beg the outside world not to forget us.” I hope his call will not fall on deaf ears.
Mr. Lydon Mr. Lydon
Mr. Lydon: I have spoken on this subject in the House on a number of occasions. I have attended conferences on East Timor and, like other Senators, I feel passionately about it. It could be said that talking about it in the Seanad will not change anything. I do not agree; if we continue to debate the issue in our Parliament we can slowly but surely effect change in the attitudes of others. We may thus gradually bring about an attitudinal change in a sufficient number of nations to bring pressure to bear on Indonesia.
 I do not need to list the problems and atrocities. It is sufficient to point out that 200,000 people out of a population of 700,000 are dead. If that happened in a European nation we would be screaming from the rooftops. We must join with nations who are opposed to the regime in Indonesia, such as Portugal, an ancient and noble nation, which was once the colonial power in East Timor. Portugal has behaved honourably; it has made a number of constructive suggestions for solutions to the problems. However, the Indonesians have not made a single proposal.
The Portuguese have continually called for a constructive attitude; for debate and mediation and they have offered help. There has been no constructive response from the Indonesians. Many say that Portugal bears some responsibility but that is not the case. The Portuguese behaved honourably when the invasion took place and there was nothing more they could do. Since then they have requested and entreated the world community to turn its attention to the plight of the East Timorese.
Senator Neville pointed out that some of our European partners and other so-called “developed civilised” nations sell arms to Indonesia. He mentioned the Swiss and some of our EU partners. As a member state of the EU, how can we not vociferously oppose these arms sales? We must highlight these facts at every opportunity. I call on the Government to avail of the opportunity presented by the EU Presidency over the next six months to highlight what is happening in East Timor. The Government should make this cause one of its priorities for the duration of the Presidency.
There is an old Chinese proverb which says “Constant dripping wears the stone”. It is only by continued effort that we will slowly wear away injustice. The rape of East Timor is one of the worst human rights violations of this century. The Government must call for a complete ban on arms sales to Indonesia and for the establishment of a UN office in East Timor. It must also call on  Indonesia to allow independent observers to visit that sad occupied country so that once more the people of East Timor may live in freedom and decide their own destiny.
A call from the Irish Government to Indonesia to withdraw will not make it happen. However, it may have an effect if we complain enough to the Australians, who have a major role to play. The Indonesians and the Australians divided up the oil fields which rightfully belong to the East Timorese. We are a small nation up against large nations, but the EU Presidency gives us an opportunity to ask our European partners to join in an EU effort. The Portuguese are most eager to see a resolution of the rape of East Timor and the abuse of human rights there.
I make an impassioned plea on this issue to the Government to which I am sure it will respond. I commend the work of the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring. I hope this effort continues. We are a small nation which is and has been occupied and we can empathise with the people of East Timor. We have partners in Europe who would support us. The Government must make a special effort in this regard during the EU Presidency. Indonesia is a huge nation and it can do without East Timor. Even if the East Timorese never get the the oil fields back, at least they might live in freedom, self-determination and peace.
I hope the Government will respond positively as it has done in the past. I commend the Senators who have spoken on this issue and who keep up the fight for a small nation on the other side of the world with which we have little connection.
Mr. Dardis Mr. Dardis
Mr. Dardis: I support the motion, particularly in urging the Government to make it a priority during our Presidency of the EU to find a solution to the ongoing occupation and the infringement of human rights in East Timor. On 14 June 1995 I moved a motion on East Timor in the House which was supported by all parties. Ours  was the first Parliament to endorse the declaration reached at the interparliamentary meeting in Lisbon — a significant event in that more than 30 countries were represented there. That motion stated:
That Seanad Éireann endorses the declaration made in Lisbon at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on East Timor; and calls on the Irish Government to take all necessary steps to ensure the implementation of the declaration in order to secure freedom and the right to self-determination for the people of East Timor.
It is to underestimate our influence to suggest that adopting motions of this nature is in some way irrelevant in the international community. It is relevant, particularly at a time when we are about to take over the Presidency of the EU. Hopefully, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs will use his influence to have our European partners exert pressure on the Indonesian Government. The EU has a considerable capacity to speed up the resolution of this problem.
I am not as pessimistic as I was 12 months ago about the future of East Timor. The issue has been the subject of several articles in international publications and has received coverage on television. We owe a debt of gratitude to the courageous journalists who have gone to East Timor at considerable risk to themselves and brought back a message that could not be controverted by any Indonesian propaganda. Six journalists laid down their lives and it is encouraging that the Australian Government is prepared to investigate the deaths of Australian journalists in East Timor.
I share some of the criticisms made of the Australian administration in respect of its attitude to the problem of East Timor. However, that is changing as well and there is a greater consciousness in Australia of the degree of the problem and possibly greater determination to deal with it on a realistic basis.
 I was honoured in February 1994 to meet with the Secretary General of the United Nations, along with several other parliamentarians from various countries, to press the case of East Timor. We were very well and sympathetically received and the Secretary General had a substantial understanding of the problem. However, he and the United Nations are just as good as the international community's determination to effect a solution to this problem. Without that international determination to effect a solution the resolutions which were adopted by the United Nations in respect of self-determination will not be exercised or brought to fruition.
There is a key point which relates to self-determination and it is something with which we as a small country should be able to identify readily. The absolute right of a people to self-determination has been categorically denied to the people of East Timor. I will not catalogue the deaths that have taken place as they were well catalogued earlier this evening. When we recorded the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz I said that what we had in East Timor was the equivalent of that holocaust. That might seem to be an exaggeration but it is not. It was well described by Senator Hayes that, proportionately, the loss of one-third of the population in a small country equates in relative terms with what took place there.
It is astonishing to believe that the international community can stand aside. The major powers have stood aside for purely economic and selfish reasons, because Indonesia is a rapidly expanding economy. It is an important market for consumer goods and that is why international determination is not as evident as it should be.
I heard something quite significant on the radio last week. It was in relation to the environment, but we could make an analogy with East Timor. It was a statement by an American chief, Chief Seattle, who said that we had stopped  living and begun surviving. There is an important message there in the sense that our regard for life seems to have diminished at every level and we have reached the point where it is a question of survival.
It is my fervent wish that the Government would use the EU Presidency to maximum effect, both to convince our European partners of the need to solve this problem and to convince the international community of the need to progress things. Condemnation is easy. The question we must ask ourselves is: what are we going to do to address the problem and alleviate the suffering of the people within East Timor?
I join in the tributes paid to Bishop Belo and other people who have kept the flame alight. It is important that organisations such as Amnesty International and the UN High Commission for Refugees should be able, not just to go into the country to investigate what is happening but should be able to have a permanent presence there to verify that human rights abuses have taken place and enable them to stand over their reports. The thanks of the House has already been expressed to Tom Hyland and his colleagues in the Irish-East Timor Solidarity Campaign. Without them it is questionable whether we would have debated this matter so regularly in the House and whether we would have returned to it this evening.
Senator Lydon made reference to a Chinese proverb and it brought to mind another saying, which is that all that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to stand idly by. That is very appropriate when we consider East Timor. In addition to a holocaust which has taken place there, we have now reached a Bosnian type situation of ethnic cleansing. Many people who are in fear of their lives have to go and seek refuge and asylum in other countries. In addition we have the importation of Indonesians to colonise the country so the influence of the indigenous population is diminished.
UN Resolution 37/30 of 1982 upholds the right of the East Timorese people to  self-determination. It is a critical aspect that people have the right to decide for themselves how and by whom they will be governed. That is at the core of what we believe in as a democracy and it must be emphasised at every level through our contacts at European and UN level and elsewhere. That message must be brought home and made clear to the Indonesians.
I am pleased to see it recorded in Link, the magazine of the East Timor campaign in England, that the EU Foreign Ministers effected a common position committing the EU to encourage the Indonesian Government to improve the situation. That is a step in the right direction. It is a fairly minimalist step in terms of committing the EU to encourage the Indonesian Government, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction and I hope to see more of them. I renew the call for the release of Xanana Gusmao. A condition of that release should not be that he would have to go into exile.
The arms trade is not just morally indefensible, it is also illegal. I hope the Government will bring that matter to the attention of our European partners, some of whom are responsible for that trade. I understand that some of the navy apparatus of the old east German regime has found its way to Indonesia and British arms have also found their way out there. That should not happen and I hope the Government will use its influence in that direction as well.
Mr. Sherlock Mr. Sherlock
Mr. Sherlock: I support the previous speaker in his compliments to Tom Hyland, David Connolly and all those associated with the East Timor campaign for keeping the matter very much to the forefront. I support the motion and it is difficult to see how one could oppose it.
The Irish Government, and the Tánaiste in particular, are wholeheartedly committed to finding a solution to the current situation in East Timor and achieving an end to the multiple human rights abuses, not only in East Timor but also in Iran and in  Indonesia itself. The stand taken by the Tánaiste on this issue has been both principled and courageous and is in marked contrast to the stand adopted by certain other EU member states who are more interested in their arms exports than in safeguarding human rights.
The forthcoming Irish Presidency provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the plight of the East Timorese. I hope it will be possible to press for the following action to be taken at EU level. The first item is the establishment of an EU human rights office in East Timor to monitor the human rights situation on the ground. The second is an examination of the possibility of the EU establishing a sworn commission of inquiry into events in East Timor over the past two decades. Such a commission of inquiry would for the first time enable evidence to be gathered in a quasi judicial manner and would provide the international community with a factual basis from which to operate.
Concerted action on the part of the EU is especially urgent in view of some of the more recent reports of atrocities coming from East Timor. East Timor is not the only place where human rights are being trampled underfoot, either by domestic regimes or occupying powers. Some 51 years after the establishment of the United Nations the international community seems as powerless as ever to secure the most basic civil and political rights of people living in large parts of the world. Human rights abuses are commonplace in areas ranging from Nigeria to Chechnya, and in too many cases those abuses take place with the military or economic connivance of elements in the developed world.
As well as addressing the specific concerns relating to East Timor which I outlined, I hope the EU will finally grasp the nettle in relation to arms exports. Let us not forget that the people of East Timor may find themselves looking down the barrel of a Belgian gun, while a farmer in Angola may step on a land mine, wholly or partly, manufactured in the UK. In  today's global economy we must be prepared to assume global responsibility. The EU could make a start by taking a close look at the European arms industry and devising stringent mechanisms to ensure European arms are not used to perpetrate rights abuses elsewhere in the world.
Dr. Henry Dr. Henry
Dr. Henry: I support the motion and what other Senators have said. We have a moral imperative to pursue this issue. While we hold the EU Presidency, it is essential that we bring it to the fore. It is important to remember that we can promote the East Timorese problem in the EU and, as other Senators have said, that we have a voice in Australia. It is important to make our grave concerns known to Irish Australians about Australia's involvement in the situation in East Timor.
I would like the Government to pursue two things immediately. In February President Suharto met with the Taoiseach in Bangkok during the Europe Asia meeting. I believe President Suharto agreed to allow an Irish delegation to go to East Timor. This should be followed through immediately. If he said it was possible, why have we not sent such a delegation? The delegation would not need to be large, but could comprise a few Deputies, Senators and human rights experts who have been involved in this problem. I would like to hear what the Minster has to say about that.
We should insist on an immediate UN mission of inquiry into the treatment of women in East Timor, where women are forced to have abortions, forced to use Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive, and where the forced insertion of interuteron devices occurs. These abuses have been reported internationally and we should at least insist on a UN mission of inquiry to discover the extent to which this is happening. According to reports from East Timor, it is hard not to believe that this is happening to some extent. While I agree most of the deaths have been male,  there has been considerable abuse and some genocide of women. I ask the Minister to follow this up as a matter of urgency. The Government should ask the UN to institute a mission to investigate the abuses against women on a massive scale.
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. O'Shea) Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. O'Shea)
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. O'Shea): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the issue of East Timor. The Government has been committed to helping to find a just solution to this issue for some time. It remains deeply concerned at the continuing violations of human rights in East Timor. Last week, Ireland, through contacts at official level in the Department of Foreign Affairs, alerted our EU partners to information we had received relating to widespread arrests and clashes between the Indonesian military and protesters in Baucau, the second city of East Timor. Unconfirmed reports have since then been received of two protesters having been killed and ten more reported missing.
Overall, the situation in East Timor remains a cause of grave concern. The increased presence of Indonesian military forces in East Timor is still creating a general climate of fear, mistrust and intimidation and contributes to an ever-growing sense of anti-Indonesian resentment and to heightened nationalistic East Timorese feelings, especially among young people.
The difficult economic and social situation in East Timor, which is characterised by high unemployment rates as well as by social tensions created by the influx of newcomers from other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, provides a sense of hopelessness about their future for the indigenous population of East Timor which is especially acute in the case of young people there.
The Government remains concerned at the situation of East Timorese political prisoners, in particular that of Mr. Xanana Gusmao, and of all those who have been convicted for their participation in non-violent demonstrations. Earlier this year, in April, at the 52nd  session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the commission, by way of a chairman's statement on East Timor, regretted the lack of information concerning the number of people killed and those persons still unaccounted for as a result of the Dili massacre on 12 November 1991 and called upon the Indonesian Government to honour fully its commitments on this matter which were undertaken in earlier declarations agreed by consensus at previous sessions of the commission.
The Government welcomes the visit to East Timor by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. José Ayala-Lasso, last December and, while taking note with concern of the contents of his report, would urge the Indonesian Government to implement the report's recommendations in full without delay. In this context, the Government hopes for the early implementation of an understanding between the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Indonesian authorities.
Earlier this month, on 6 June, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burton, held discussions with the exiled East Timorese leader and Special Representative of the East Timor National Council of Maubere Resistance, CNRM, Mr. José Ramos-Horta. Mr. Ramos-Horta was of the view that the next two to three years would be a critical time for East Timor. Parliamentary elections will take place in Indonesia in March-April 1997, and these will be followed by presidential elections in 1998. Mr. Xanana Gusmao has called for an effective challenge to the elections to be mounted in East Timor. However, it has not yet been decided whether the National Council of Maubere Resistance will boycott the elections or will support the pro-democracy movement in Indonesia.
Ireland has and will continue to be an advocate for the cause of East Timor. At the Europe Aisa Meeting, ASEM, held in Bangkok last March, the Taoiseach met with President Suharto and raised the question of East Timor in the  substantive and friendly discussions which took place. The Taoiseach conveyed the concerns of the Government and the people at the situation in East Timor. The Taoiseach also indicated that Ireland was prepared to do everything possible to help resolve the problem during our forthcoming EU Presidency.
Senator Henry raised two specific questions on East Timor. One was the possibility of a delegation visiting there, something which is being kept under review. The question the Senator raised in relation to the abuse of women will be conveyed to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs after this debate.
Last year he had an opportunity to contribute an article on East Timor to The Irish Times. In that article the Government's objectives for East Timor were clearly set out. These objectives remain equally valid today. Ireland wants to see a political solution for East Timor based on the principles of international law and justice; Ireland wishes to see the people of East Timor enjoying their full human and political rights; Ireland calls for a halt in the supply of arms to Indonesia which could be used as instruments of oppression in East Timor and Ireland calls for the release of Mr. Xanana Gusmao and other East Timorese political prisoners
Overall, we wish Indonesia to cooperate fully with the United Nations, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Commission on Human Rights and with the relevant international non-governmental organisations. These objectives have overwhelming public and political support in Ireland, where the plight of the people of East Timor has evoked a concerned and sympathetic response.
I hope the meeting held between the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, and President Suharto of Indonesia in Bangkok at the Europe-Asia meeting in March and the breaking of the ice at the highest level after a period of 20 years between Portugal and Indonesia will eventually lead to an  improvement of the situation in East Timor and that the proposals put forward on that occasion will eventually contribute to the fostering of the ongoing dialogue between the two countries with the aim of achieving a peaceful and just solution to the question of East Timor.
The Government has supported and continues to attach importance to the ongoing talks between the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal under the auspices of the Secretary General of the United Nations. The next round of these talks is scheduled to take place in Geneva on 27 June 1996. This will be the eighth in the series since the resumption of the trilateral talks in 1992, the most recent of which took place in London on 16 January 1996. In between these ministerial sessions, discussions have continued between Portugal and Indonesia at the permanent representative level, with the participation of the representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations.
The Government also welcomes the convening of the intra-East Timorese dialogue, the second session of which was held from 19-22 March 1996 at Burg Schlaining in Austria. This dialogue does not represent a parallel negotiating track to the Foreign Ministers' meetings but a forum for continuing the free and informal exchange of views to explore ideas of a practical nature and to establish a conducive atmosphere for the achievement of a solution to the question of East Timor.
In discussions with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burton, Ramos Horta expressed the view that it was overall a very useful forum for discussion. To further encourage the dialogue, the Minister of State indicated to Ramos Horta that Ireland is willing to contribute financial support for the next round of talks, which are expected to take place in Norway.
Within the EU, Ireland has encouraged the definition of an EU common position on East Timor. Ireland will continue to work with our partners in the European Union during our forthcoming  EU Presidency in pursuing a just and equitable solution to the issue of East Timor. As I have already said, the Taoiseach, when he met President Suharto in Bangkok in March, indicated that Ireland would do everything possible to help resolve the situation during our forthcoming Presidency of the EU.
I commend Members of this House for their continuing interest in the problem of East Timor and the plight of the indigenous population there. I assure the House that the Government will do all in its power to assist in bringing about a fair and just solution to this issue.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: I thank the Minister for his reply and the Senators who participated in the debate. The Minister reiterated the Government's position as outlined by the Tánaiste last July and at the start of our EU Presidency and also pointed out that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have committed the Government to pursue this issue positively during the course of our forthcoming EU Presidency. I am pleased that this commitment was given to this House by the Minister — it is important that it would be given to a House of the Oireachtas. We look forward to the role we will play when we hold the EU Presidency in making progress on this issue.
This House has committed itself over a number of years through the interest of its Members, especially Senator Norris, who has a considerable interest in this area, in raising the profile of this issue. I agree with Senator Lydon. We have a strong role to play and we can be effective in this regard. Several Governments have listened to us and taken our views on board. It is not right to say we do not have an influence. We do have an influence; we have used it to its maximum level and we are doing so again tonight.
It is important that last July's Irish Times statement in regard to this Government's policy towards the atrocities being committed by Indonesia on the East Timorese people and that the Taoiseach's commitment and statement to President Suharto of Indonesia that Ireland would do everything possible to  help resolve the problem during its forthcoming EU Presidency are on the record of this House. The genocide in East Timor, the rape, torture and inhuman and degrading acts against the East Timorese, the issues raised by Senator Henry about the ill-treatment, abuse, torture and inhuman acts perpetrated against women and killings like the Dili massacre, where even children were summarily executed, should be stopped.
I again congratulate the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach for their approach and commitment to this issue. I particularly congratulate the Tánaiste for his strong stand last September when he met Ali Al Alitas, the Indonesian Foreign Minister. The Tánaiste firmly told him of our Government's view on the East Timor situation. I join with others in thanking the East Timor solidarity group and Tom Hyland and David Connolly for constantly reminding us of the importance of raising this issue, their concern about it, the influence this small country can have in ensuring the profile of the atrocities and suffering of the East Timorese people is raised throughout the international community and that concerned and good thinking people throughout the world will support and express their concern for these people's plight. The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights should have a constant presence in East Timor; we should press for this.
The country should be opened up to the international community. The freedom of the press, which is a stalwart of any democratic country, should be reintroduced and foreign journalists should be welcomed and get the opportunity to fully report on the developing situation there. We will not fully accept that any improvement has taken place until the media have access to East Timor. I congratulate Mr. O'Shaughnessy, Mr. Pilger and others who have brought back information and opened the eyes of the western world to the atrocities being committed there. They deserve a special vote of thanks for risking their lives and some, even losing their lives, in an  endeavour to report to the world what is happening to the gentle and resilient East Timorese people. As previous Senators have said, they are entitled to the right of self-determination, a right that this country defended for 700 years and still defends. We should condemn any country who will remove that right from any nation and condemn Indonesia for removing it from the East Timorese people.
I thank everybody who contributed to the debate. I agree with Senator Hayes that Bishop Belo should be nominated and seriously considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. It would have an enormous effect on the situation in East Timor if he were to win it. It would raise its profile on the international stage. I thank the Minister of State for his contribution. We have had a positive debate. We know where we are going for the next six months and we wish the Government, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs every success in putting the plight of the East Timorese at the top of its agenda.
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
Mr. O'Shea: The Government hope for the early implementation of the understanding between the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Indonesian authorities with regard to the stationing on a permanent basis in the UNDP in Jakarta of a UN human rights liaison officer who will be able to visit East Timor whenever instructed to do so by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Government has also noted the undertakings by the Indonesian authorities to issue an invitation to the special rapporteur on the question of torture and to submit a report to the 53rd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1997.
Question put and agreed to.
Seanad Éireann 148 East Timor: Motion.