Selling tanks to Indonesia is immoral

24 June 2012

Selling tanks to Indonesia is immoral

According to SP Members of Parliament, selling tanks to Indonesia and the Dutch government is trivialising the human rights abuses in the Indonesian province of West Papua.

By Harry van Bommel, spokesman on foreign affairs, and Jasper van Dijk, spokesman on defence for the SP group in the Dutch national Parliament.

In a letter to Parliament sent at the beginning of the year, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal called the violence of security forces in the Indonesian province of Papua “incidental”. Since then numerous reports reveal another side of the matter.

From articles in the Indonesian press it has emerged that deadly violence is the order of the day in West Papua. Security forces are regularly involved in this, both as perpetrators and as victims. In fact, the extent of the violence is so great that you could say that an armed uprising of the local population against the central authority is taking place in West Papua.

The violence in West Papua regularly takes a greater form. For example, two weeks ago, Indonesian soldiers ran over and killed a Papuan youth. Shortly afterwards reports were emerging that the Indonesian army had killed more than thirteen people, that many others may have been violently attacked, hundreds arrested and some five hundred houses put to the torch, that at least an entire battalion of Indonesian soldiers and the notorious anti-terrorist unit Densus 88 may be involved in widespread violence.

In the midst of this violence Human Rights Watch is calling on the Indonesian authorities to allow NGOs and journalists access to the area. As things stand it is hermetically sealed, creating a great deal of uncertainty. Human Rights Watch says that as long as the government keeps the province closed off, it will give a free hand to the army to act with impunity.

In addition, there is at the present time no sign of progress with the implementation of the special autonomy law for West Papua. This law provides for a peaceful dialogue between West Papua and the Indonesian government. As long as its implementation remains undone, violence in the province will almost certainly not decline.

In these circumstances anyone who can say with a straight face that the human rights situation in Indonesia is sufficiently improved to enable the selling of tanks to the country is trivialising the reality. As long as West Papua remains closed to journalists and the Indonesian army can operate there with impunity, the sale of tanks will be completely immoral. It is precisely for this reason that our Parliament has expressed its views unambiguously in a motion opposing the sale of tanks to Indonesia. A democratic government would submit to this and not attempt to force through the sale with a lot of fine words.

This article originally appeared in Dutch on 22nd June in the regional daily Eindhovens Dagblad.

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