British riot controls used in Indonesia

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The Independent Online
Indonesian security forces are using British riot control vehicles and water cannon to suppress riots in the capital, Jakarta, and are equipped with electric "cattle-prod" shock batons supplied by a South African company associated with a British firm, the Independent has learned.

The equipment is part of a range of British products for police and internal security, including a powerful police computer system called Generics, supplied by Plessey. Indonesia was the first customer - before British police forces. The riot control vehicles are Tactica armoured personnel carriers built by Glover Webb of Hamble, part of the GKN Defence network.

The Foreign Office last night had no evidence the vehicles and water cannon had been used against "peaceful" protests, but were continuing to monitor the situation. So far no trace has emerged of an export licence for the cannon.

It has emerged that the Indonesian police are also equipped with electric shock batons manufactured by a South African associate of SDMS Security Products of London. A letter obtained by the Independent dated 8 February 1996 says the batons had been ordered by police and army units in 30 countries, including Indonesia. In some of those cases SDMS had supplied the equipment.

Many British businessmen remain bullish about investing in Indonesia. A spokesman for ICI said: "This happens every time there is unrest anywhere. You get a lot of questions at first, but people stop asking when it dies down. That's life for a multi-national company."

The British public may think differently. Four women were acquitted by a Liverpool jury this week after causing pounds 1.5m of damage to a Hawk jet fighter destined for Indonesia.

Jakarta was mostly quiet yesterday, after the government ordered protesters to be shot. A legal challenge by the opposition leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was cancelled because a judge had toothache.

Reports of British-built Scorpion 90 tanks on the streets have not been confirmed. The Foreign Office said it had received assurances from the Indonesians - understood to be at ministerial level - that the tanks would not be used for internal repression. Foreign Office sources said Britain would take a "dim view" of the Indonesians reneging on that understanding.

Paul Leavis, director of Saferworld, an arms control think-tank, said last night: "This shows how ridiculous the UK policy is that we will export security equipment as long as we have assurances that it will not be used for repression. If a country is committing human rights abuses the only answer is a complete arms embargo."

Further reports, page 9