Letter: Embassy let us down

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The Independent Online
Sir: I returned from Jakarta several days ago amid the rush of expatriates frantically trying to leave the violent and deeply troubled city. Being British was a severe hindrance in trying to escape because, for some unexplainable reason, our embassy refused to accept that there was a significant problem. Right up until the point at which I left, the advice from the embassy was "Stay at home." Amongst my expatriate friends and colleagues this became a laughing matter as the Indonesian crisis steadily deteriorated. The joke was that the Brits has been told by their embassy to stay at home and have a cup of tea.

When the Americans decided to evacuate their nationals, the British embassy's advice was still to stay at home and drink tea. That was of no comfort at all to British people stranded amidst the horrors of Jakarta.

I eventually made my exit in the dead of night helped by New Zealand and American friends who chartered an aircraft with the aid of a multinational company to airlift us to Singapore. When I arrived in Singapore the feeling of relief was overwhelming. By this time the British embassy had changed its advice to, "Leave the country if you feel that it is safe to do so," or words to that effect. The problem, of course, was that by that time it was not safe to do so!

I hope the British ambassador might learn from this fiasco and perhaps in future try to be just a little helpful to concerned Brits under his jurisdiction.

Professor IAN SHAW

Hambleton, Lancashire

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