HC Deb 12 April 1989 vol 150 cc903-5
12. Miss Lestor

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress in implementing United Nations resolution 435 on Namibia.

Mrs. Chalker

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear in Windhoek on 1 April, we are actively supporting the United Nations operation in Namibia. It is vital that the parties abide strictly by their obligations under the United Nations plan for Namibian independence.

Miss Lestor

In order to counter the feeling among many that South Africa is having far too great an influence on the implementation of independence, can the right hon. Lady tell us whether she supports the call made on 8 and 9 April at the Mount Etjo conference that the full United Nations transition assistance group force should be implemented, and whether she would also endorse the United Nation's view that South Africa should not be allowed to interrogate SWAPO guerillas? Will she recommend that in future SWAPO should be involved in discussions of the implementation of the resolution?

Mrs. Chalker

It may interest the hon. Lady to know that the Mount Etjo declaration is being placed in the Library. The full UNTAG troops will get there as soon as possible. I was pleased yesterday to be able to announce that we have given a gift to the United Nations of the use of 55 Land Rovers and 12 four-wheeled trucks to try to help, while other equipment is on the high seas. In talking to those concerned about whether returning SWAPO guerillas to Angola will be interrogated, we have been assured that any information from the SWAPO forces will be sought by UNTAG and it will be solely directed towards the implementation of the Mount Etjo plan.

Mr. Gardiner

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the essence of resolution 435 is that fair and free elections should be held in Namibia to determine its future? Will my right hon. Friend investigate allegations that British taxpayers' money is going through the European Community to give a preponderant advantage to SWAPO, despite its recent violations of the peace accord? Will she do her utmost to ensure that all parties can participate in those elections on an equal basis?

Mrs. Chalker

Of course, there must be free and fair elections and everything must be done through the United Nations, whose responsibility it is, to ensure that that is so. We have no evidence of my hon. Friend's accusation that funds are being given to SWAPO and, in fact, I have written about that only this morning, or last night. In addition, I believe that it is absolutely vital that we do all that we can to support UNTAG in its most difficult task of maintaining the peace and proceeding towards those free and fair elections.

Mr. Boateng

Does the Minister agree that it would be highly damaging to UNTAG, and to the implementation of resolution 435, if elements of the Koevet unit—the notoriously murderous unit of the South African army —were to be in any way engaged in the policing of the withdrawal of SWAPO? Does she further agree that that is likely because that unit now comprises almost half of the South African police force in Namibia?

Mrs. Chalker

I am certain from what I have heard this morning that the task of the fully deployed contingents from the United Kingdom and Australia, who will be manning the nine assembly points, accompanied by UNTAG military observers—but, indeed, with the police and the Angolans alongside, as agreed under the Mount Etjo declaration—will be to see that the SWAPO forces return north of the 16th parallel in Angola. It is clear, too, that those members of the South African forces who may be alongside will be under the direction and supervision of the United Nations forces there and, indeed, our own forces.

Mr. Ian Taylor

Was my right hon. Friend able to discuss with the Soviet delegation in London last week the situation in Namibia and Angola, especially as President Gorbachev had recently returned from Cuba, which is well known to be heavily involved in the activities in that area?

Mrs. Chalker

My right hon. and learned Friend talked with Mr. Shevardnadze last week. Our efforts, especially those of the Prime Minister and her decisive intervention in Windhoek on 1 April, have been warmly welcomed by the President of the Soviet Union, by the President of Angola and by the Cubans. I regret that Opposition Members should seek to try to bring party politics into such a subject.

Mr. Anderson

Is not the Minister being just a little naive about the cease-fire assembly points? Apart from members of the South African forces who may be present, is it not correct that the South African militia—the South West Africa Territorial Force—is in the majority at those cease-fire assembly points and that a South African spokesman has said that UNTAG would be permitted to be present during interrogations? Who gave the Government those assurances? Will the Government ensure that visiting parliamentarians from western Europe are given visas to be present to monitor the electoral process and that SWAPO is given reasonable facilities for access to the media during the electoral process?

Mrs. Chalker

I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the British Government are not in charge of what is going on in Namibia, but the United Nations. Many of the questions that he has posed are questions for the United Nations. We are working in support of the United Nations' transition assistance group to get those free and fair elections. That will obviously mean all parties to the election wanting access to put their points over.

I further say to the hon. Gentleman that, of course, at the present time—with South African forces on the ground —the United Nations has not been able to get all its forces there, because there was a filibuster after the United Nations Secretary General put his plan to the Security Council. That was not by this country, which warned again and again that, if there was a delay in coming to a conclusion in the Security Council, and then the General Assembly, there would not be full deployment on 1 April.

Those responsible for the filibuster are responsible for the fact that United Nations forces were not there. Others had to be used under United Nations supervision. They are being used only in support of UNTAG until other forces arrive.

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