West Papua discussed in House of Lords, UK Parliament

West Papua discussed in House of Lords, UK Parliament




Within political philosophy, and for 21st-century Europe, there may even be quite an easy and natural opportunity to strike a better balance between state and citizen. At first sight it could appear inconsistent that the state should serve the citizen rather than the other way around, yet if the state chooses to asses the quality of its performance not solely on its national GDP but also on included measures for improved welfare and well-being, to that extent its priority may become serving the citizen.

Nevertheless, the corollary of that points in the other direction. Those improved conditions of citizens will in turn elevate the reputation and integrity of

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individual states, hence achieving a new form of give and take between state and citizen in Europe. Be that as it may, well-being and welfare are obvious goals to seek to promote. What plans do the Government therefore have to assist Europe to develop standard measures which are not just confined to those of GDP?

In summary, on Europe as it is now and comparing it with previous times, we are fortunate indeed. It affords us opportunity to strengthen security in a wide sense and in one which includes an enhanced quality of life. It should be judged not so much on the presence or absence of its administrative complexities, but instead on its ability to protect and advance simple values. In that way it can prove to be a triumph for peace, for our history and for humanity.

9.08 pm
Lord Gilbert
: My Lords, it is always a melancholy occasion to be a member of a party which has been defeated in a general election, but it is an experience I have had several times over the past 60 years. Therefore, I am slightly inured to it and there are always compensations, one of which is to see some of one's old friends appointed to ministerial positions. Although I am not allowed to call them my noble friends in your Lordships' House, I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Astor of Hever and Lord Howell, will acquit me of impertinence if I say that I like to think of them as great personal friends. I have always admired their patriotism, competence and courtesy. I wish also to extend that to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who is not in his place. It may surprise your Lordships that he was the man who frightened me most when I was at the Dispatch Box a few years ago, for reasons that I have no intention of disclosing.

I have to say that I am rather pleased with some of the ministerial appointments. I was delighted that our new Foreign Secretary made it absolutely clear that he thought that the special relationship was extremely important and that our best friends and closest allies were in Washington DC, which has always been my view and I have no hesitation in saying so. I know that in your Lordships' House the mention of the special relationship can produce toe-curling embarrassment on the part of some of our euro-fanatics, particularly those who are closest to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am glad to say that it is alive and well.

I shall give an illustration. I have always said that the most important parts of the special relationship were invisible, and I still think that. They repose mainly in the relationships between our sets of intelligence services and our technical people and engineers-I am glad to see that the former Minister, my noble friend Lady Taylor, is nodding her head in agreement-which are of frightful importance to this country.

I will refer, if I may, to the quite quixotic remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, who, if I heard him correctly, was saying that we should get much closer to the French. I am glad to get his acknowledgment. I wonder if the noble Lord noticed what happened to a certain Admiral Blair in Washington last week. No? That is a pity. Admiral Blair was director of national intelligence in the United States until very recently, but

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he has just been fired. It is sad; he is a very able man. Why was he fired? There were a few reasons-there have been certain mistakes and imperfections in the intelligence services of the United States-but the thing that apparently provoked the final breakdown was that Admiral Blair wanted to introduce between the United States and France a system of agreement by treaty that neither would spy on the other, a system that the United States has with this country. The person who prohibited Admiral Blair from doing that was President Obama himself.

There are lots of people who like to say that our special relationship is a fragile thing, built on superstitious little icons. They love to jeer at the fact that Winston Churchill's bust is no longer in the central office in the White House that the President uses. I do not know what the room is called-

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: The Oval Office.

Lord Gilbert: The Oval Office, is it? Thank you. Actually, the relationship between our intelligence services is rather more important than where Churchill's bust is. The reason why Admiral Blair was not allowed to proceed is perfectly simple: the United States does not trust the French but it trusts us. There, I said it. That is the fact of the matter, and that is wherein reposes a considerable part of the special relationship. I am delighted that it continues to be in the forefront of Her Majesty's Government.

I was pleased with the appointment as Defence Secretary of Dr Fox, whose Atlanticism is beyond question. I was also pleased with what the Prime Minister had to say on his visit to Europe.

Unfortunately, two of the three people who made the best speeches in today's debate are not in their places, but I am glad to say that the noble Lord, Lord Owen, is. It always worries me when I agree so much with the noble Lord. I hope that I do not embarrass him when I say so, but on reflection I think I agree with everything that he said today, particularly his commentary on the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell.

The noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, makes brilliant speeches here of immaculate, impenetrable logic-I should say "irrefutable" rather than "impenetrable"-and I could not agree with him more. There is no place for British schadenfreude in what is going wrong in the Eurozone; on the other hand, that should not lead us in any sense to be prepared to give any more of the sovereignty of this House to European institutions. We should help them but we should remain fiercely independent. Thank God-this is one of the few things for which I am grateful to the previous Prime Minister-he kept us out of the euro.

I hope that there will be one change in this Government from what was the practice in the Government that I supported. When people went to see Mr Blair about defence expenditure, he would say, "You have persuaded me, now you have to go and persuade Gordon"-I see that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, has come in; I have been saying some nice things about him, but he can read about them tomorrow-to which the answer should have been, "No, Prime Minister, it's your job to go and persuade Gordon", but I am afraid that none of them ever had the guts to say that.

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I shall say one or two things about the noble Lord, Lord Burnett. He gave a very good speech. I disagreed with only one thing in it: he seems to want to live in a nuclear-free world. I have no desire whatever to live in a nuclear-free world. I am very grateful that nuclear weapons were invented, that they were invented when they were invented and that they were invented by the Americans and not by the Germans. I have got that off my chest. If you like to think of a world without any nuclear weapons whatever-where no one has cheated-try living in Israel and see how comfortable you feel. I could think of one or two other places. As Jim Schlesinger says, nuclear weapons are in use every day of every year and they are keeping the peace. I, for one, was extremely glad when India and Pakistan both acquired a nuclear capability. The result we have seen: for the first time the Pakistani Army has been prepared to pull back considerable sections of its troops from the Indian frontier to go and deal with the Taliban threat in the north. You cannot ask for more convincing evidence of the stabilising effect of a nuclear bounce.

Baroness Flather: Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Gilbert: No, I do not have time. I am sorry.

I was going to talk about C-17s, C-130s and the A-400M. Your Lordships will know my views on the A-400M and I merely say that this a marvellous opportunity to cancel the damn thing. I also have some views on the last tranche of the Eurofighter but I shall not detain your Lordships on that subject. I hope-this is a question for the Minister-that we can have a guarantee that the contract for the seventh C-17 will go ahead because I consider that to be extremely important. I hope also that, if the Government cannot get out of the A-400M contract, they will at least look very carefully at flogging off the aeroplanes as soon as we get them so as to minimise the penal cost to us.

My complaint about the A-400M is not that it is several years late, not that it is up to 20 tonnes overweight, not that it is millions of pounds more than its original cost, not that its engines are unsatisfactory and not that it does not meet its original specifications; it is quite simply that we do not need the thing. In a Written Question, I asked Her Majesty's Government,


"whether they have asked the United States Air Force how it performs the roles that Her Majesty's Government envisages being performed by the A400M aircraft".
I received a brilliant Answer from the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, which stated:

"The US Air Transport requirement is satisfied by various marks of C-130"-

that is the Hercules-

"C-17, C5"-
the old Galaxy, which is going out of use anyway-

"and the recently introduced C27J"-
which is a very small tactical transport aircraft. It continues:

"While the MoD has not undertaken detailed analysis of the US fleet mix, our understanding is that the capabilities we envisage A400M will provide are largely met through use of C-130s and C-17s, albeit using C-17".-[Official Report, 25/1/10; col. WA 288.]

I rest my case.

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Baroness Flather: I would like to point out that the India-Pakistan fighting has stopped because, first, Pakistan has realised it cannot win a war with India because of the difference in size. Secondly, Pakistani terrorism in India is still going on. Noble Lords will remember that just recently we have had two incidents.

9.18 pm
Lord Weidenfeld:
My Lords, three daunting challenges, inseparably linked, face our country and must be treated conjointly: first, the economic crisis; secondly, the inevitable political and social fall-out following austere fiscal and economic policies; and, thirdly, the existential threat that the whole of the free world still faces from rogue states and from worldwide interstate terrorism. I cannot, I am afraid, agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, because of the distinction between fighting individual terrorists and not terrorist states or terrorist movements worldwide.

Iran is still a state that gives us enormous worry because if it were to have an atomic weapon, it would not only be a deadly threat to its neighbours but also to Europe. It is the fashionable concept that Israel is the main target and not Iran's immediate neighbours or Europe, but the arch enemies of Tehran are, in descending order, the Saudi royal family, guardian of the holy shrines; the apostate Sunni clergy, wherever they may be; the great Satan, the United States; and, only fourth, the state of Israel and the Jewish people. Yet it is this fourth foe which allows Ahmadinejad to engage and incite the Arab Street.

We in Europe are in just as much danger as Israel-we should take note of this basic fact. I do not believe that Iran would throw a bomb at us, but it can, by use of blackmail, reverse the balance of power in Asia. Already the Government of Turkey, one or other of the Emirates in the Middle East and Brazil in Latin America-long-standing friends and allies of Washington -are shifting their stance, covering their flanks and shaping new alliances with former foes, because of the perception that the United States and President Obama are in retreat and that Europe is anxious, indeed impatient, to withdraw, even haggling over exact dates for withdrawal of its troops. It is that which tempts; it is an open invitation to our enemy to adjust their own timetables for redoubled offensives against us.

How does the West reunite to face these dangers? The Prime Minister was right to pay visits to Paris and Berlin. Warmer relationships with Germany are a priority and it is satisfying to note that the Cameron/Merkel talks seem to have been successful. The early dispatch of Mr Simon McDonald, one of Britain's leading diplomats, as ambassador to Berlin was an excellent move. Having served successfully in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he has a unique knowledge of the Middle East and has made friends on both sides.

Relations between this country and Israel are at a very low ebb. In terms of the attitude of European Governments to the Israel/Arab conflict, Germany is best positioned by being respected by both sides at the same time as being Israel's best friend. It is followed by Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and Holland. Even France, once one of Israel's sternest critics and still very critical of her Arab policies, is in the forefront of fighting cultural and scientific boycott.

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It is the common view in Europe that Britain, especially towards the latter stages of the defeated Labour Government, was the most unfriendly of all European countries, followed only by Sweden and Norway. There have been academic boycotts; speakers have been jeered and hauled down from platforms in elitist universities; a ludicrous law that would permit the arrest of a moderate Israeli politician such as Mrs Tzipi Livni as a suspected war criminal with the prospect of extradition to The Hague has not been repealed in spite of assurances by the outgoing Government. It is hoped that the new British Government will make amends. The Liberal coalition partner, both in the other place and in your Lordships' House, has been distinctly cool towards the Israelis. In my 36 years of listening to debates in your Lordships' House, some of the roughest tones have come from the Liberal Benches. I hope that we may not hear more malevolent tongues from a party with such a long-standing tradition of fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination.

Perhaps I may conclude with an up-to-date example of how ruthless propaganda taken up in our most illustrious media, including the BBC, can distort the truth. At this very moment, the so-called "Freedom Flotilla", a nine-ship strong convoy, is heading to Gaza from Turkey with hundreds of passengers and claiming to carry more than 10,000 tonnes of supplies. I gather that it is due to arrive this weekend. It is almost certain to be turned away, for sadly very necessary security reasons. We have, of course, the opportunity to hear choruses of condemnation of the heartless, ruthless, warmongering Zionist enemy. It would perhaps interest noble Lords to learn what actually entered Gaza legally from Israel in the first quarter of 2010, January to March-94,500 tons of supplies transferred in 3,676 trucks. Just this last week, there were 637 truckloads containing 14,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid and 810,209 litres of heavy-duty diesel fuel. I could go on for a long time, but I am aware of the time. However, I am certainly happy to supply details to any the noble Lord who wants to know them, as well as details on the exact sources.

Noble Lords may readily see that mischievous and dangerous propaganda can also sometimes misfire and yield to defensible truth.

9.26 pm

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, several thousands of miles away, in a country most people have never heard of, in the remote highlands of that country, people have been celebrating. Dressed in the local costume, they were filmed holding up a large poster of David Cameron. The reason is that the new Prime Minister has met Benny Wanda, a West Papuan leader who was granted political asylum in this country, and because of this meeting these desperate people have raised their hopes.

We know from this debate that the new Government have many very serious issues facing them on their foreign policy agenda, but I hope that they will not forget minority groups and indigenous peoples, including the people of West Papua, whose hopes have been so raised by the election of David Cameron.

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I remind noble Lords, if I may, of the situation of these people. West Papua, which is the western half of the island whose other half is Papua New Guinea, was once under Dutch control. At the end of 1961, West Papua held a congress at which its people declared independence, and raised their new flag, the Morning Star. Indonesia then invaded and, to cut the story short, held a forced vote. This so-called act of free choice consisted of 1,026 people being forced at gunpoint to vote for integration with Suharto's Indonesia, and that being taken as the voice of the people. In a historic statement in this House, the then Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, acknowledged that,

"there were 1,000 handpicked representatives and that they were largely coerced into declaring for inclusion in Indonesia".-[Official Report, 13/12/04; col. 1084.]
That crime has not been forgotten, even though many would like to forget it, because Indonesia is rightly seen as a relatively stable and vital partner in the struggle against terrorism. Furthermore, West Papua is rich in natural resources, which are being exploited to the benefit of Indonesia and the large international companies that are operating there, although not to the benefit of the West Papuan people themselves.

A brief word is necessary about the name. The Indonesian Government, on the old principle of divide and rule, have divided the country into three provinces, one of which they have called West Papua. But for the indigenous people, West Papua is what they call the country as a whole.

There are other reasons why so little is heard of West Papua in the rest of the world. One is that journalists and human rights observers are not allowed into the country, so little of the abuse gets reported. But it has been estimated that since 1969 more than 100,000 West Papuans have been killed and there are now some 9,000 refugees in Papua New Guinea. The Catholic Church's Papuan Peace and Justice Secretariat reported that students who had been arrested after a peaceful demonstration had been interviewed without access to legal representation and had suffered physical and mental torture.

There are more than 100 political prisoners there, including Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, who were jailed for 15 and 10 years respectively for raising the West Papua national flag, the Morning Star, on 1 December 2004. They have been recognised by Amnesty International as international prisoners of conscience. More recently, Buchtar Tabuni and Victor Yeimo have been imprisoned for exactly the same offence. Expressing their desire in an entirely peaceful manner means that they are liable to 10, 15 or 20 years imprisonment. In the highlands at this very moment, there are sweeping military operations in which villages are burnt, people killed and livestock destroyed.

Another feature of the situation that is very distressing to the indigenous population is the way that the island is being repopulated. Apparently, the city's hotels and shops are now being dominated by people who have been brought in from outside.

Despite the clampdown on news, the world is gradually becoming aware of what is happening. Amnesty International is campaigning. This very afternoon, I handed in a petition on its behalf at the Indonesian

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embassy in Grosvenor Square with more than 3,000 signatures. The embassy received us very graciously. There are now two significant bodies in existence, the International Lawyers for West Papua and the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.

The new Government believe in freedom. I very much hope that they will carry that conviction with them into the international sphere and in their dealings with minority groups and indigenous peoples, particularly the people of West Papua. A significant step would be to press for proper access to West Papua and elsewhere for journalists and human rights workers so that the world can become fully aware of what is happening. I am well aware of the necessity of realpolitik when there is a significant moral dimension. But there is a historic wrong. A people who made it clear that they wanted self-determination were denied it in 1969 and are still being denied it today. As a result, they are still trying to make their voices heard and are being suppressed. A large poster of David Cameron, our new Prime Minister, has been raised in the remote highlands of West Papua. I hope that the voices raised there will be heard in Downing Street and the Foreign Office.

9.32 pm

Lord Maclennan of Rogart
: My Lords, I have listened to this debate from the very beginning to this predetermined hour. It has demonstrated the great strength of this House in bringing to the discussions a wealth of opinion and knowledge from sometimes unexpected quarters. It has not been a partisan debate. We have heard a number of people agreeing with those sitting on different Benches. It is entirely appropriate that a coalition Government should be backed by that kind of a Chamber, which brings constructive recommendations and does not react in a purely dogmatic way to the great and troubling issues of the present.

In one sense, I welcome the coalition's ending of what might have been seen as an increasingly presidential system, with policy too much dictated from the top-from No. 10. We are not seeing that replaced by a duumvirate, but rather by a recognition that the voices of those elected to Parliament and those with the responsibility of participating in these debates should be heard and taken fully into account.

I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, who has on a number of occasions thought it right to focus on the negative about the European Union, giving a rather positive suggestion that we should cast our eyes more widely and not simply focus on the European Union. As someone who, shortly after I entered political life at the age of 29, became the PPS to the last Commonwealth Secretary, the late Lord Thomson of Monifieth, who went on to become our first Minister for Europe, I have never thought that these things were inconsistent.