Arms for Indonesia immoral

26 December 2011

Arms for Indonesia immoral

Christian Democrat MP Henk Jan Ormel was way off target with his argument that the sale of tanks is completely compatible with a dialogue on human rights, writes SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel.

In common with the rest of the world the Netherlands has little insight into the extent of the violence being perpetrated against civilians in Papua in Indonesia. Foreign journalists and international human rights organisations are not allowed into the area. The Dutch government does acknowledge that people have died and others have been driven from their homes as a result of the actions of the Indonesian army. Local journalists and religious organisations report that dozens have been killed, twenty-six villages have been destroyed and 130 deserted as more than 10,000 people have been put to flight.

According to persistent reports the Indonesian anti-terror unit Densus 88 has been involved in the attacks. American and Australian firms mining gold in Papua allegedly made their helicopters available for attacks on the villages from the air. What’s happening on Papua gives every appearance of ethnic cleansing. Under these circumstances it is unacceptable for the Dutch government to carry out its intention to deliver tanks to Indonesia, even if the chance that these will be used against the Papuans is ‘minimal’, as Ormel writes in his article. Delivering armaments to a country which is guilty of grave human rights abuses is in my eyes immoral. The Netherlands should be arguing at EU level in favour of the imposition of an arms embargo against Indonesia for as long as such abuses continue.

It should be forcefully impressed upon the Indonesian government that the Special Autonomy Law for Papua must be complied with. This law states that a peaceful dialogue should be conducted between Papua and the Indonesian government. Also, progress must be made towards the release of all political prisoners. The denial by Indonesian coordinating minister for political, legal and security issues Djoko Sayanto that there are any political prisoners in Papua is ridiculous, as well as being in complete contradiction of the pronouncement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Finally, a demand should be made that the lengthy prison sentences imposed on the Papuans who hoisted the Morning Star Flag, a symbol of national aspirations, be annulled as being in conflict with internationally accepted standards of justice.

Next year a visit to the Netherlands by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is planned. This offers a good opportunity to continue the relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia on the basis of mutual respect with respect to the burdens of the colonial past. It also gives us a chance for an open discussion of the human rights issues in which Indonesia is implicated in Papua, Molucca and other parts of the country.

This article first appeared in the original Dutch on 24th December 2011 in the regional daily Eindhovens Dagblad.

You are here