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Tuesday, 22 February 1977

Mr McLEAN (Perth) - I wish to speak this evening about the most recent bout of atrocities committed in Uganda by the regime of President Amin. I recognise that what I say tonight will do little to alleviate the suffering of the Ugandan people. Unforunately there is little any of us can do. But I cannot sit back and say nothing. It is incumbent upon me and all of us to speak out against this tyrant and the cruelty and inhumanity that he perpetuates in his country.

If speaking is the only weapon open to us, let us all speak. We can let the people of Uganda know that somewhere outside the borders of their country there is a widespread concern and dismay at their lot. We have a responsibility as members of the Parliament of a free country representing a free and responsible people to put their views. We have a responsibility to speak up for the cause of human rights in all countries, and nowhere are these less respected than in Uganda. We cannot any longer compromise our views by the dictates of diplomatic pragmatism. I was therefore pleased to hear today that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) intends to communicate directly to the Government of Uganda this Government's abhorrence of the continuing reign of terror imposed by the regime of Uganda on the Ugandan people.

PresidentAmin, since he came into power in 1971, has been responsible for the widespread slaughter of his own people. He has expelled all Asians from Uganda. He has presided over the disintegration of his country's economy. He has allowed his country to become a refuge for international hijackers. He has abolished all political freedoms and remains in office by exterminating all possible challengers to his authority and creating an atmosphere of terror in all his subjects. He has executed university students at will, obviously because he realises that people with some intellectual capacity will not take long to recognise him for what he is. Estimates of people executed in Uganda range from 30 000 to 300 000. Grisly accounts of how these people were executed do not bear repeating here as they are well documented elsewhere. Most of the evidence, unfortunately, appears to be quite credible.

The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) referred in this House last year to the report of the International Commission of Jurists of May 1974 which showed evidence of a massive and continuing violation of human rights in Uganda which suggested a planned campaign of systematic liquidation. These are the kind of things that have become commonplace in Uganda today. I think that we would all be remiss in our duty not to register our protest in this Parliament, regardless of whether or not it will contribute to a solution of the problem.

As I have said, I am pleased that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is conveying this Government's protest about the recent atrocities in Uganda to the Ugandan Government. But I think we can do more than that. As Uganda is, in terms of the Minister's comments today, quite obviously not a member of the British Commonwealth in good standing, I hope that the Australian Government will now seek the views of other member nations with a view to dissociating themselves from the present regime in Uganda before the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I would like to think that the Prime Minister of this country, or of any country interested in the preservation of human rights, would be seated at the same conference table as President Amin. In my opinion no member of this Government, let alone the Prime Minister, should ever allow himself to be present in the same forum as President Amin. He is not worthy of our presence. Perhaps in this way our view will become known to him.

I think our view can be made known to President Amin in other ways also. Let us also take action to bring Amin and his regime before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Let us also cease to give official recognition to his regime. Finally, if any Australian citizens are in peril let us take the appropriate action before the International Court of Justice on thenbehalf. It is time for us to express our views in a frank, honest and direct way not only in relation to Uganda but also in relation to all countries which suppress human rights and prostitute human dignity. I think we would all be negligent in our duty to our constituents and this nation if we failed to speak out on this and similar issues.

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