Government sought to conceal arms sale from Parliament

26 April 2012

Government sought to conceal arms sale from Parliament

‘A scandalous strategy from Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal’ was how SP Member of Parliament reacted to the announcement that the government had sought to conceal the sale of tanks to Indonesia from the national Parliament. According to national daily De Telegraaf, Rosenthal wanted to reveal the tank deal only at the moment that the government had successfully negotiated an accord with other parties to enable budget cuts to go through, the so-called Catshuis Agreement, named for the Prime Minister’s official residence, where it was signed. The hope was that the announcement of the agreement would distract any possible attention away from the sale of the tanks. As Van Dijk says, ‘this is a well-known trick of lying politicians. Bring bad news out when the country is busy with other matters. We deserve an apology for this devious way of going about things.’

Jasper van DijkAs a result of cuts in defence spending, numerous weapons have become surplus to requirements. The government is allowed to sell these weapons, provided they comply with the criteria governing the export of arms. None must be sold to countries which abuse human rights or which are undemocratic. Following human rights abuses in Aceh, East Timor and West Papua, Parliament explicitly forbad the sale of tanks to Indonesia.

According to De Telegraaf, the government nevertheless sought to do just that, with tanks to a value of €200 million being involved, but Rosenthal did not dare announce this to Parliament, seeking instead to delay making the news known until ‘in the wake of a Catshuis agreement, attention would be elsewhere.'

‘If this is true,’ says Van Dijk, ‘then it’s extremely damaging to the minister’s reputation for integrity. In relation to weapons sales in particular you are entitled to expect the greatest possible care to avoid blood on our hands.’

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