Letter: Why sanctions won't work

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The Independent Online
I WAS pleased to see in the Independent on Sunday (19 September) an article "Is it time to boycott ...?" focusing on the issue of sanctions against Indonesia. However, I was concerned to see that the article misrepresented Cafod's (Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) position.

Cafod is not calling for economic sanctions against Indonesia. There is little evidence that economic sanctions have been effective in the past and there is, as yet, no concerted call for economic sanctions from a representative national body within Indonesia itself, such as there was in South Africa (ANC) and is in Burma (NLC). Cafod believes that the political impact of economic sanctions would not outweigh the harm those sanctions would inflict on Indonesia's poor. The people of Indonesia have themselves suffered long and hard under a corrupt and repressive regime.

Furthermore, the economy of Indonesia, so hard hit by the recent economic crisis, is in a very fragile state, and sanctions may cause further economic damage and, ultimately, political unrest. There are two nations here who are on the verge of democratic transition, and Cafod wishes to support the emergence of political stability in both Indonesia and East Timor.

However, we do feel that sanctions can usefully be applied to the Indonesian military. Past arms sales by British and other governments have contributed to the scale of the horror in East Timor. Moreover, the Indonesian military has played the key role in human rights violations in East Timor, and should be the point of maximum international pressure. To this end we are appalled to see that the British Government insists on going ahead with the delivery of three Hawk fighter jets currently in Bangkok awaiting delivery. Cafod is calling for an international embargo on arms sales to Indonesia until the transition to Timorese independence and the democratic transition in Indonesia are completed.

CATHERINE SEXTON

Cafod

London SW9

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