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Wednesday, 30 June 1999
Page: 8037


Mr Andren asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 7 June 1999:

(1) Has the Australian Government taken steps to (a) prevent the Indonesian military arming para militias in East Timor and (b) disarm para military groups in East Timor; if so, what steps.

(2) Is he satisfied that the undertakings on disarming militia given by the Indonesians at the recent Bali meeting are being honoured; if not, why not.


Mr Downer (Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Australian Government has repeatedly registered its concern with the Indonesian Government about the security situation in East Timor, including at Head of Government level, most notably during the Prime Minister's meeting with President Habibie in Bali in April. Since the paramilitary groups emerged as a prominent feature of the security environment in East Timor in early 1999, Australian officials have made over 50 representations to Indonesian Government representatives in Jakarta and East Timor, ranging from the Chief of the Armed Forces and the Foreign Minister to local government officials and military commanders in the field. Our representations have routinely included references the matter of the Indonesian Government's support for paramilitary groups, the need to rein in paramilitaries, and the need for disarmament.

(2) At the Bali Summit, the Indonesian Government did not make specific undertakings on the matter of disarming militia. President Habibie did announce publicly that Indonesia was prepared to commit itself to the agreements then under negotiation in New York. These agreements include in the Agreement Regarding Security a paragraph that states ". . . (the Commission on Peace and Stability), in cooperation with the United Nations, will elaborate a code of conduct, by which all parties should abide, for a period prior to and following the consultation, ensure the laying down of arms and take the necessary steps to achieve disarmament". It is disappointing to note that so far the Commission on Peace and Stability has had difficulty becoming fully operational, and has not made progress on the question of disarmament. We are further concerned that not enough has been done by the Indonesian Government to address the question of disarmament, and that the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) has not been playing the neutral role called for by the 5 May agreement.