Britain backs Jakarta denial of Timor terror claims

THE GOVERNMENTS of Britain and Indonesia have joined in an attempt to discredit a report in the Independent on Sunday of 12 November that British-built Hawk war planes were used on a mission to bolster Indonesia's savage occupation of East Timor.

The Government's action comes as protesters world-wide prepare to mark the 20th anniversary on Thursday of the Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese colony.

The Indonesian government has issued to the Foreign and Commonwealth office a formal denial that two British aerospace Hawk war planes flew low over Dili, capital of East Timor, on the morning of 10 November.

I saw the Hawks make their pass as I stood near the Red Cross compound in a tense and frightened Dili at 8.50am on 10 November while armed troops and police were filling the streets. The military activity was aimed at preventing demonstrations on the anniversary of the killing of 271 armed Timorese protesters at the Santa Cruz cemetery on 12 November 1991. I was expelled from East Timor a few hours later.

Jeremy Hanley, Minister of State at the Foreign Office and former Conservative Party chairman, said: "We have no evidence to support [the] claim that Hawk aircraft flew over East Timor."

Mr Hanley was replying to a letter from Lord Avebury, chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, who had complained to him of the Indonesians' use of Hawks, quoting this newspaper's report. Lord Avebury accuses the Government of having breached the 1993 agreements of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which bans the export of arms to areas where they exacerbate existing tensions.

Lord Avebury has put down a question in the House of Lords asking Mr Hanley why he "prefers to believe the denial by the spokesman of the Indonesian occupation forces in East Timor ... rather than the word of a British journalist".

The Indonesian occupation of East Timor, estimated by Amnesty International to have claimed 200,000 lives, has been condemned by the UN Security Council. Our report also embarrassed Downing Street. Whitehall has maintained that General Suharto, the Indonesian dictator, has promised not to use the Hawks to bolster the occupation. When he was Foreign Secretary in 1989 John Major, against the protests of his Cabinet colleagues, stopped the sale of Hawks to Iraq because they could have been used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

In 1991 after the first of my four visits to East Timor, the Foreign Office attempted to discredit my eye-witness report of Indonesian forces using British military vehicles in Dili. It claimed there was "no evidence". The Indonesian air force, with 44 Hawks on order or in service in two counter-insurgency squadrons, is the largest foreign customer for the aircraft, outstripping even the Saudi Arabians. A BAe spokesman said his company hoped Indonesia would buy more; the Indonesians hint they may buy 100. They bought the first eight Hawks in 1978 in a deal blessed by James Callaghan's Labour government. This order later rose to 20. In 1993 an additional 24 Hawks were purchased in a deal worth pounds 500 million.

The Indonesian embassy yesterday had nothing to add to its denial and would not comment on my expulsion. Meanwhile the UN, recognising the erosion of its prestige represented by Indonesian chronic defiance of the Security Council resolutions demanding the withdrawal of its troops, is increasing its activity on the Timor question. Jose Ayala Lasso, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, arrives in Dili this week and, if the Indonesian troops permit, will learn at first hand the views of the Timorese. Next month Portuguese, Timorese and Indonesians gather in London under the aegis of the UN Secretary- General for further talks about the territory's future. Lord Avebury and Ann Clwyd MP have invited me to give evidence to the parliamentary Human Rights Group in the House of Commons on 11 December.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all