Letter: Cancellation of Indonesian arms sales

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The Independent Online
Cancellation of Indonesian

arms sales

Sir: When the Bishop of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dom Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, was in London last month to deliver the first Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) Millennium lecture, he spoke eloquently about the terrible effects of UK-manufactured weapons in his country: "Please, I beg you, restrict still further the conditions under which such trade is permitted. Do not sustain any longer a conflict, which, without these sales, could never have been pursued in the first place."

In the aftermath of the Government's long-overdue review of British arms sales to Indonesia ("Britain accused of arms-sales betrayal", 29 July) we believe that Bishop Belo's appeal should be heeded by cancelling the invitation, issued by the Ministry of Defence, to three of Indonesia's top serving officers, to attend the Royal Navy and British Army Equipment Exhibition at Farnborough from 1 to 5 September.

The officers in question, Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief General Feisal Tanjung, Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Kushariadi, and Army Chief of Staff General Wiranto, have all been involved - directly or indirectly - in the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, where upwards of 200,000 (out of the original pre-1975 population of 700,000) perished in the first four years. It was during that period, when the heaviest losses of civilian life took place, that General Wiranto (then a Company commander and logistics officer) served in East Timor.

Clearly, it is in British interests to have good relations with Indonesia, the world's fourth largest country. But these relations must be informed by a sense of responsibility and have the interests of both the Indonesian and East Timorese peoples at heart. Indeed, if the present Labour Government is to give substance to its commitment to a "moral foreign policy" then a clear message must be sent to Jakarta.

What better place to start than by putting the Indonesian military on notice that, until the illegal Indonesian occupation of East Timor is ended and its long-suffering people allowed to exercise their legitimate right of self-determination, then it can no longer be "business as usual" in terms of arms sales or any other form of defence-related assistance?

PETER BROWN (Trinity); Dr PETER CAREY (Trinity); Professor G A COHEN (All Souls), Dr CSL DAVIES (Wadham); Professor MICHAEL DUMMETT (New College); Dr JOSHUA GETZLER (St Hugh's); Dr ROGER GOODMAN (St Anthony's); Dr BARBARA HARRELL-BOND (Lady Margaret Hall); Professor ROY HARRIS (St Edmund Hall); Dr BARBARA HARRISS-WHITE (Wolfson); Dr ANTHONY LEMON (Mansfield); Dr PATRICK MCGUINNESS (Jesus); MIKE MORRIS (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology); Dr ANTHONY PILKINGTON (Acting Principal, Jesus); Dr ALISON SALVESEN (Wolfson); Dr STEVE TSANG (St Antony's); BRYAN WARD-PERKINS (Trinity); DEREK WOOD (Principal, St Hugh's); Dr JEREMY MONTAGO