Van Bommel: 'EU treaty with Indonesia much too soon’

30 September 2011

Van Bommel: 'EU treaty with Indonesia much too soon’

For SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel, the new agreement between the EU and Indonesia has come far too soon. The European Union has signed the accord in an attempt to draw the two sides closer together. “The bond between the Netherlands and Indonesia is, it’s true, already age-old, but is also extremely sensitive,” says Van Bommel. “As long as there is corruption in Indonesia and human rights abuses continue there, it makes no sense for the EU to reward that country with a favourable agreement. This accord is aimed principally at putting the EU on the map in Asia.”

Harry van BommelThe SP spokesman argues that the Netherlands and the EU will not put sufficient pressure on the government of Indonesia, because of the amount which can be earned by European corporations in the country’s fast growing economy. Profit comes before human rights. For the EU, moreover, the treaty represents an opportunity to develop an independent politically unified foreign policy in Asia. In the SP’s view, however, too many questions remain unanswered for the treaty to be worthy of the party’s endorsement. The Dutch government admits that much remains to be improved in the fight against corruption, in relation to the freedom of expression for ‘minorities’ and compliance with other aspects of human rights in Indonesia. Finally, not a single ministry has as yet taken any anti-corruption measures. Despite all of this, the Dutch government is asking Parliament to approve the EU’s agreement.

The debate regarding the agreement between the EU and Indonesia presented Harry van Bommel with an opportunity to raise questions related to human rights abuses and weaknesses in democracy in Indonesia. At the same time, he attempted to redress the imbalance in relations between the Netherlands and must be erased before such a beneficial and large-scale agreement can again be concluded. Old villagers in Rawagedeh and elsewhere have never in sixty-five years been commemorated with a decent settlement. I call on the minister to make such a promise.” Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has announced that the government is considering appealing the court’s ruling. The SP is urging a change of heart.

For Van Bommel the oddities surrounding the bond between the Netherlands and Indonesia don’t stop there. Indonesia is a member of the G20, the grouping of the world’s twenty most important economies, yet at the same time it continues to receive development aid from the Netherlands. “This is a very strange situation,” says Van Bommel. “A country which belongs to the G20 and at the same time receives its former colonies. The SP has on a number of occasions put parliamentary questions regarding the misery brought about by the Netherlands’ police actions which followed the Indonesian declaration of independence in 1945. Every effort has been made to obtain redress for the victims of the Dutch massacre in Rawagedeh in December 1947. A breakthrough came recently when the court in The Hague ruled in favour of surviving relatives from Rawagedeh, declaring the statute of limitations inapplicable in such a case. This represented immense progress but may yet be challenged, as Van Bommel explains: “The scandal of Rawagedeh and all of the villages whose inhabitants were slaughtered development aid from a former coloniser. And then Indonesia has for the past ten years been buying warships in our country and a section of its population is oppressed. None of this hangs together.”

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