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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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 Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence