§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Ainger.]9.30 am
§ Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)
I must say at the outset that I take no pleasure in being here this morning to talk about Indonesia and its role in combating international terrorism. The Bali bomb was a shock to the world. It was a barbaric, mindless, Godless and faithless atrocity. It displayed among the perpetrators no concern for humanity and the human condition. For any normal person, it is still difficult to come to terms with the fact that people can perpetrate such atrocities against their fellow human beings.
It was cathartic yesterday to be at the Indonesian embassy, which held an inter-faith memorial service. Leaders of the Anglican community, the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths participated in a service of remembrance.
Rather like last year's September massacre in the United States, the Bali bomb took us totally by surprise. I say that as someone who only a month before—at the end of July and beginning of August—led an inter-faith delegation to Indonesia. We visited Jakarta and the island of Sulawesi, a part of which has experienced inter-faith violence between Muslim and Christian communities for about three years. Our delegation contained four each from the Muslim and Christian traditions. My hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Mr. Cummings), for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood), and for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar), and the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) were there from the Commons, and Lord Bhatia, Baroness Cox, and Baroness Uddin came from the Lords for all or part of the visit.
Although the visit was partly to familiarise ourselves more with Indonesia, its Government and the general problems that it faces, we also specifically focused on the issue of inter-faith violence in central Sulawesi and Maluku, or the Moluccas as we have known them in the past. The Bali bombing put a totally new slant on our visit. It was undoubtedly perpetrated by Muslim extremists, and there have been a plethora of stories in the press about the information that allegedly was available to the security services. Stories in the press before then expressed concern about the possibility of Muslim extremists and al-Qaeda having connections in Indonesia and the potential to foment trouble there. That issue is relevant to the impression that members of the delegation formed on our visit.
Our visit was broadly based. We met a great variety of people, and I pay huge tribute to our staff at the embassy in Jakarta and the south-east Asia division in London for the superb programme that they put together for us. At our request, they even made changes at the eleventh hour and managed to slot them into the 74WH programme. We had a meeting alone with President Megawati—she had no officials there to guide her—for approximately three quarters of an hour, which was very interesting. We met the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament and the two Ministers responsible for implementing the Malino I and II peace agreements that cover central Sulawesi and Maluku. We also met members of the committee for security and politics in the People's Legislative Assembly, which is the most prestigious committee in that House. In a joint meeting, we met the leaders of the two largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia—Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. We also met the representative of the Catholic Church and the representative of the Protestant community in Indonesia.
That was at the top of the tree. We also had meetings with 20 Muslim and Christian rajas—village heads—from Maluku, and met representatives of local and international non-governmental organisations operating in Sulawesi and Maluku. In Jakarta, we met young people brought together by the British Council's connecting futures programme, people from the media who had been to Britain on a transition to democracy programme, and representatives of the British Chamber of Commerce. We then went to Sulawesi. We did not go to central Sulawesi, but to neighbouring south Sulawesi where we met the governor, the chief of police, members of the regional parliament, the signatories of the Malino I peace agreement covering central Sulawesi, members of an inter-faith communication forum in south Sulawesi, and staff and students from a Protestant theological college. We met all sorts of people, from the heights of the Government to the grass roots of local communities, who are directly involved in trying to resolve the problems of inter-faith violence between Christians and Muslims.
There have been three years of violence, during which we hesitate to guess how many people died. Although violence has been committed against Muslim communities, much more violence has been perpetrated against Christian communities in Maluku and central Sulawesi. At grass-roots level, local non-governmental organisations, signatories to the Malino agreements and the village heads in Maluku have made tremendous efforts to try to resolve problems and isolate extremists. They were most concerned about the lack of sufficient resources invested by the Indonesian Government in the peace process. Not enough troops were around to deal with incidents that broke out from time to time, which made it difficult to implement the agreement. While we were there, the Christian signatories of the Malino 1 agreement for central Sulawesi withdrew from the agreement committee until they were satisfied that the Government were responding more positively to the needs of the Christian community.
We gained the impression that the Indonesian Government were reluctant to talk in detail about Laskar Jihad, the main extremist militia on the Muslim side. In press reports about the Bali bombing, it is notable that Laskar Jihad barely gets a mention, perhaps because that organisation is principally concerned with an internal struggle through which it can impose its faith on the whole of Indonesia. Jemaah Islamiyah, which has had more publicity, has a wider aim in seeking with other groups to create a south-east Asian Muslim entity incorporating not only Indonesia, 75WH but Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. It carries out its work through terror and force. The Indonesian Government seemed reluctant to face up to that, but since we returned at the end of September they have created a new national security council. That shows that they are beginning to take these problems seriously.
The information on international terrorism provided to the Indonesian Government—the same point applies to the intelligence services of the British and American Governments—raised general concerns, but did not allow them to identify a specific incidence of violence. We could argue that the Indonesian Government should have responded to such generalised warnings, but that would have meant virtually shutting down the country, or at least the important parts of the country relating to the Indonesian economy and its citizens' way of life. When we look back at it, the surprise of this event stands out. Jemaah Islamiyah has been fingered as the most likely candidate for perpetrating the event, but it is not on the United Nations list of banned terrorist organisations. It is no wonder that the Indonesian Government were reluctant to act. They are in an incredibly difficult position.
I have read all the academic accounts saying how the Indonesian Government should have done A, B and C in moving against the extremists, but the warnings that they received were generalised rather than specific, so it was difficult for them. It may be salutary for us in the west to compare the position of the Indonesian Government with that of Russia or Yugoslavia.
We must remember that democracy in Indonesia is only three years old. It is struggling to maintain over 17,000 islands, half a dozen of which contain most of the Indonesian population. As they are islands, it is easy to talk about separation. Indonesia is struggling to keep the unity of a state, which, apart from its colonial experience, has not had any common statehood in the past. It is trying to keep the principle of a secular state where religious practice is protected and tolerated—"Unity in Diversity" is the Indonesian motto—while emerging from a barbaric dictatorship which kept order until its corruption and barbarities were such that the people eventually revolted.
That strong man Suharto, who had been in power for over 30 years, was removed and yet many of the heads of the army and the political establishment were part of that set-up. They had been involved in the corruption. The present Government is led by a woman in a Muslim state. The Vice-President, Hamzah Haz, at one time said that women should not be involved in politics, although he now happily serves under her. President Megawati does not have a majority for her party and is working in a coalition. There are separatist movements in north Sumatra, Kalimantan and to some extent in Papua. There was a separatist movement in Maluku, but most people on either side of the argument agree that that is totally insignificant now.
The Indonesian Government had an appalling human rights record under Suharto, but are now trying to keep the state together. They are trying to develop a democracy. They are trying to develop a state in which there is due process of law, yet they are told that, because of the potential danger from Muslim extremists, people should be rounded up. The two Ministers 76WH responsible for the two areas where there had been violence have to take action while at the same time respecting human rights and the due process. That juggling act is extremely difficult, bearing in mind the fact that human rights organisations within Indonesia and outside have complained bitterly about the fact that human rights have not been respected in Aceh, for example.
Vice-President Hamzah Haz certainly did not want to recognise that there were terrorists in Indonesia. In May of this year he was quoted in The Jakarta Post as saying:There are no terrorists here. I guarantee that. If they exist, don't arrest any Muslim clerics, arrest me.We know that Abu Bakar Bashir has been arrested. On 18 October, Hamzah Haz said:The alleged existence of an international terrorist network in Indonesia cannot be detected until legal process shows it … People should not think negatively about the move to summon Bashir.So the Vice-President of Indonesia is still in denial about the possibility of there being international terrorists operating in the country. Is it any wonder that the Government of Indonesia have been grappling with more balls than a juggler would throw into the air in trying simultaneously to deal with extremism and to maintain the reform process and the efforts to create a democracy, justice and human rights, along the lines that we in the west would wish?
We might consider for a moment what happened in the old Russian empire and in Yugoslavia when the rule of dictators was removed and people were allowed to develop their own Governments. It was total chaos. In Yugoslavia, it was so bad that we and other states had to intervene to protect Muslims from genocide, and we need consider only briefly the current problems with regard to law and order and terrorism in some of the old satellite states of the Soviet Union.
In that context, we might think that the Indonesian Government are not doing so badly. Nevertheless, we should not just wipe the slate clean and tell them that. compared with Yugoslavia, they are not doing a bad job. That would not reflect what I have told the Indonesian Government over the past few years, by word of mouth and in letters, about their failure to deal sufficiently strongly with Muslim extremists.
We may regret the fact that the Indonesian Government did not take stronger action, but there are understandable reasons why they were not in a position to do so. Laskar Jihad is an example of that. Even before the disbandment of that group—on 15 October, fairly soon after the Bali bombing—there had been allegations about connections between the group and the military. The group officially disbanded in a very disciplined way. Without looking into the possible reasons for the disbandment, I can tell hon. Members that there seems to have been a strong element of military direction within it, or from those in the military who were involved with it, to ensure that it was disbanded, at least for the time being. Although I do not believe that Laskar Jihad were implicated in the Bali bombing, the investigation of Muslim extremists might well have drawn the investigators' attention to some elements in the army that were involved with Laskar Jihad. That illustrates the difficulties that the Indonesian Government face in trying to deal with those extremists.
77WH Are there any grounds for hope in fighting international terrorism? I believe that there are. Towards the end of September, the Indonesian Government began to take seriously the need to deal with international terrorism and Muslim extremists in the state by setting up a national security council. In addition, we should not forget that, in June, they handed over Omar al-Faruq—a Kuwaiti involved in international terrorism—to the Americans. He is still, I believe, in Guantanamo bay, and has been questioned. Some of the information received from him appears to have credence, but some does not seem to accord with what the intelligence services have. That, again, is one of the problems in dealing with the international terrorist threat. There are pages and pages of information, but they often contain contradictions. I shall not go into details, but I have seen the names of at least four or five Muslim extremists credited with responsibility for masterminding the Bali bombing. Who was it, or were they all involved? To what extent were Muslims in Indonesia involved? The impression is that the whole escapade was planned and developed by outside forces, although there could have been some help from local extremists in planning and preparing for the attack.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)
I am listening to the hon. Gentleman with great interest. He has intimated that until the very recent past the Indonesian Government, although perhaps not the present democracy, have been involved in internal terror and used terror against their own citizens. He also said that some of those individuals have carried on in the military and in the current Government. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied from his talks with the Indonesian Government and other parliamentarians that the present Government have woken up to the reality of that? Surely they need to rid themselves of those elements in their military and Government as well as tackle international terrorism. The two go together, as I think he is moving on to say.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The two do go together. We did not discuss in detail whether the military were implicated or whether senior people in the political establishment were involved in past wrongdoings. However, the Speaker of the People's Legislative Assembly has, I believe, been charged with and found guilty of corrupt practices. In the past week, President Megawati has asked the Attorney General to resign because of his failure to maintain high standards in political life, in that he has kept back information about the sources of his wealth.
The Government are, therefore, aware of these matters and are trying to sort them out, but there are tremendous difficulties because many people in leading positions in the military and the political establishment were enmeshed in what happened in the past.
§ Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
I am very interested in what my hon. Friend has to say. In his discussions, did he get a handle on any current relationship between the military and the militia, particularly in West Papua and Aceh? Appalling acts of violence are being perpetrated there by the militia, and it is said that many of those militia are close to the army.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I think we can be fairly certain of that in the case of Laskar Jihad, although that is speculative 78WH because we do not have the evidence in chapter and verse. However, it is fair to assume that some of the military have connections with some of the extremist groups operating in various parts of the Indonesian state. That is one of the Government's great difficulties.
Nevertheless, the Indonesian Government are trying to tackle the problems, although not with the alacrity that we would like. They have set up the national security council and now recognise that there are problems with al-Qaeda and other international terrorists making links with local Muslim extremists. They dealt with Omar al-Faruq and have arrested a number of other people. Indeed, while we were there, the leader of Laskar Jihad, Jafar Umar Thalib, was on trial, although the trial was proceeding slowly. According to the latest information, there are recordings of him calling on Muslims to kill every Christian in Maluku. A local police commander attests that Thalib made that statement on the radio and that it is his voice on the tape recording, but Thalib denies that it is him speaking on the tape. The Government have rounded up several other groups involved in, for example, attacks on nightclubs. Some of the leaders of the Islamic Defenders Front have been arrested. Action is being undertaken.
The Malino I and II accords are meant to try to solve the problems of local inter-faith violence. The main grass-roots Muslim organisation, Nandlatul Ulama, has come out strongly against such violence. Its leader, Hasyim Muzadi, was in Britain under the auspices of the British Council only a week or two ago, and I and one or two other parliamentarians met him. He made it plain that moderate Muslims must stand up to Muslim extremists. He has created the national moral movement, which includes NU and Muhammadiyah, the other large Muslim organisation. Between the two, they have about 70 million members.
The head of the Catholic Church and representatives of Protestant Churches are included in the national moral movement, as are intellectuals, the non-religious political establishment, Hindus and Buddhists. All those elements have leadership roles in the movement, which is trying to ensure on a national level that clear guidance is given to Muslims in particular. It also deals with some extremists involved in unsavoury gangs in the name of Christianity. As with the IRA in Northern Ireland, perhaps there is a residual Catholic connection, although we know that there is really no connection with religion. However, I do not want to get into that issue.
The movement is trying to set a national example so that most ordinary people will be prepared to stand up against the extremists. We met 20 village heads, Christian and Muslim, who were clear that they had to stand up to Laskar Jihad and other extremists in their communities. Plenty of positive work is taking place, but undoubtedly the Indonesian Government need help and support.
The British Government have provided advice to the army and police in Indonesia on how to work in a publicly accountable way, which they have not had to do in the past. Our Government have also started aid programmes to deal with some longer-term problems of poverty and economic development. The non-governmental organisations there try to work positively. With the support that the Indonesian Government are receiving from outside, there is the prospect that 79WH extremism can be dealt with in the incredibly difficult terrain of the Indonesian state. However, in a state of 17,000 islands, we should not underestimate the ability of Muslim extremists to set up camps and perhaps go undetected for a long time.
§ Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Does my hon. Friend agree that we should congratulate the ambassador to Indonesia, Richard Gozney, and his staff on their tremendous work? He has already mentioned it, but will he reiterate our congratulations? Does my hon. Friend agree that we should offer more support on the security and protection of small Christian and Muslim groups, to try to bring them back into the mainstream? The charities provide a lot of funding, but would the Minister not agree that the Government should provide funding for the existing security structures? It is a fledgling democracy, and we need to ensure that it has security support so that it can better establish itself.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have no hesitation in approving what my hon. Friend says; he was with me on the delegation.
Uli Ubhar Abdullah, an NU leader and a great scholar, said:The government should use the Bali attacks as a momentum to show the world that it is serious in its acts against extremism".That reflects what the leadership is saying. This tragedy gives the Indonesian Government the opportunity to re-establish harmonious inter-faith relationships and to tackle the problem of international terrorism in its own country.
One final thing came up in our talks that cannot be avoided, and it is doubtless being considered by our Government and by the United States. The Indonesian Government said that their efforts to tackle the problems of extremism would be made more difficult if Iraq were to be attacked without the support of the United Nations. That is something else that needs to be considered when trying to deal with international terrorism, and in particular with the situation that prevails in Indonesia.
§ 10.6 am
§ Bob Spink (Castle Point)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) not only on initiating this important and tragically timely debate, but on his efforts to seek an end to sectarian violence and terrorism in Indonesia, particularly in the eastern part of the country. His efforts are often spoken of in the House, and are much appreciated by all Members.
I worked in Indonesia in the 1980s; I was funded as a consultant by the tripartite organisations—the International Labour Organisation, the World Bank and the United Nations—on technology transfer projects. I worked closely with Pertamina, the Indonesian national oil company, so I know that the Indonesian people can be wonderful and gentle, how beautiful the country is and how much potential it has. However, I also know also how many problems remain to be solved in that part of the world. Again, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on introducing a debate on the subject.
80WH In two previous debates, and with much help from the Jubilee 200 campaign for debt cancellation, I have raised concerns about continuing sectarian violence and terrorist activity in Indonesia, especially in the Moluccas and Sulawesi. The violence and sectarian terrorism has been fuelled and perpetuated by the extremist Islamic group, Laskar Jihad, aided and abetted by al-Qaeda. I told the House on 17 July that the al-Qaeda terrorist network was joining Laskar Jihad in fighting Christians in Indonesia. I continued:The British Government should pressure the Indonesian authorities to ensure that there are enough police and troops in the Moluccas and Sulawesi to enforce the peace"—[Official Report. Westminster Hall, 17 July 2002; Vol. 388, c. 104WH.]I also said that failure to do so would give succour to Islamic death squads. I take no pleasure in saying that I have been proved right.
When I made that statement, I thought that terrorism would be exported from Indonesia to other nations; I guess that the British Government and Governments throughout the world thought so too. Little did I think that terrorism would be used in Bali—a serene and beautiful haven of peace. While our hearts go out to the victims of that terrible atrocity and to their families, our thoughts must also be with the Indonesian people, who will suffer tremendous trauma and take a long time to recover from this tragedy. We have a duty to help them to recover from it in every way we can, and to rebuild Bali and Indonesia as a strong country in the international community.
Over the past two years, the Jubilee campaign, the British human rights group, has called for Laskar Jihad to be removed from the Moluccas and Sulawesi, and for Jafar Umar Thalib, the organisation's leader, to be brought to justice. I heartily support that call. Laskar Jihad is responsible for killing thousands of Christians in Indonesia during its jihad, or so-called holy war. Moderate Muslims who disagree with Laskar Jihad's harsh, intolerant and improper interpretation of Islam have also been victimised and have suffered terribly. We must fight to eradicate all sectarianism, religious intolerance and violence, whether from the Muslim or the Christian community, whatever its source. In that part of the world, however, the source is the harsh interpretation of Islam perpetrated by Laskar Jihad.
The low-end estimate is that about 5,000 or more Christians have been killed in the Moluccas alone in the sectarian conflict that has raged there. In early 2000, the situation was relatively calm, but the peace was violently broken in May by the arrival of Laskar Jihad, when about 7,000 fighters—or terrorists, as some would call them—invaded the Moluccas. That extremist group is composed of fighters from other provinces of Indonesia outside the Moluccas and of terrorists from other Islamic countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Laskar Jihad's invasion caused unprecedented violence in the Moluccas and resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, simply because they were Christian. Killing in such a way is evil, but killing in the name of God compounds that evil, as people were told by a rabbi from Israel at the national prayer breakfast in Westminster Hall this morning.
Despite widespread destruction and violence caused by Laskar Jihad, the Indonesian Government did nothing to have those people removed from the 81WH Moluccas and Sulawesi. Indeed, elements of the Indonesian military supported Laskar Jihad with weapons and training. Throughout the Moluccas and Sulawesi conflicts, it has been commonplace for the Indonesian security forces to take the side of aggressive Islamic fighters against the defensive Christians. Despite the participation of Indonesian soldiers and police in numerous attacks on Christians, which have been well documented and witnessed, the Indonesian Government have not sought to punish such prejudiced members of their security forces.
As a result of the Indonesian Government's complacency, and their helpful attitude towards the violence of militant Islamic groups such as Laskar Jihad, the country has become a haven for Islamic terrorists. In December 2001, the head of Indonesia's national intelligence agency, Lieutenant-General Hendropriyono, publicly confirmed that members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network were joining Laskar Jihad in fighting Christians in Sulawesi. Due to pressure from fundamentalist Indonesian politicians, Lieutenant-General Hendropriyono later retracted that statement. However, as the Jubilee campaign and I have frequently pointed out, he did so only because of political pressure. The facts that he quoted about al-Qaeda were right, as we have now learned to our cost.
So far, the Indonesian Government have done little to crack down on militant Islamic extremists in Indonesia. Unlike neighbouring Governments such as those of Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, who have tried to apprehend such extremists, the Indonesian Government have until now practised a policy of accommodation with respect to Muslim militants, even at the expense of the safety and lives of thousands of Christians and non-fundamentalist Muslims in the Moluccas and Sulawesi.
Indonesia's reluctance to rein in Islamic extremists and detain suspected terrorists prompted much concern in Washington and in neighbouring Asian capitals about whether the world's most populous Muslim country could become a base from which to plot new terrorist atrocities. That concern proved well placed.
Omar al-Faruq was arrested by Indonesian police in 2002 and handed over to the United States authorities. Al-Faruq is reported to have confessed to being a senior al-Qaeda operative with responsibility for planning and co-ordinating attacks against targets in south-east Asia. Al-Faruq has also spent time fighting Christians for the Muslims in Ambon in the Moluccas, and he stayed in a Laskar Jihad stronghold, with its support, while he was there. That is strong evidence, if we needed it, of a link between Laskar Jihad and al-Qaeda.
The Indonesian Government's short-sighted policy of accommodating Islamic militants such as Laskar Jihad led to the devastating result of the terrorist bombing in Bali on 12 October, which killed at least 180 people. Until then, the international response, including that of the British Government, to the deaths of thousands of Christians at the hands of Islamic extremists in the Moluccas and Sulawesi was relatively low key. I say that with deep regret.
Western Governments and the world media have been slow to recognise the active role played by Islamic terrorists in perpetuating the sectarian conflict in the Moluccas and Sulawesi. Now, however, the world has 82WH finally begun to wake up to the dangers of Islamic terrorism in Indonesia, because, for the first time, Muslim militants have killed many westerners there.
Around the time of the terrorist attack in Bali, Laskar Jihad closed its head office in Yogyakarta and claimed that it was disbanding the organisation. Since Tuesday 15 October, Laskar Jihad fighters have been seen leaving Ambon in the Moluccas and Poso in central Sulawesi. There is widespread speculation that the timing of the closure of Laskar Jihad and its parent organisation, the Communication Forum for Ahlusunnah Waljamaah, is directly connected with the attack in Bali.
There is more than a possibility that the purported disbanding of Laskar Jihad is a strategic move, with a view to going underground to avoid attention in the event of a general crackdown on militant groups following the Bali bombing. It is also possible that Laskar Jihad fighters will simply re-emerge under a new name and carry on their violent activities in a different guise.
Close monitoring of Laskar Jihad and its former members is essential, and only time will tell whether its disbandment truly marks the end of the conflict in the Moluccas and central Sulawesi. That must form a main part of Indonesia's role in combating Islamic terrorism.
Some may question Laskar Jihad's capacity to carry out an attack as devastating as the Bali bombing and suspect that al-Qaeda played a key part in the atrocity, but we cannot claim to know the full capability of Laskar Jihad. Therefore, we cannot simply assume that the Bali attack was beyond its abilities. In any event, without Laskar Jihad, al-Qaeda would find it difficult to operate in Indonesia, so Indonesia must co-operate internationally to rid itself of such terrorists and their safe havens there. Others who have provided support to Laskar Jihad may have had prior knowledge of, or involvement in, the Sari club bombing, and thus planned in advance to dissolve Laskar Jihad in anticipation of a crackdown on Islamic militants following the bombing.
Furthermore, while the apparent withdrawal of Laskar Jihad fighters from the Moluccas and Sulawesi is to be welcomed, many remain in the northern Moluccas and in West Papua, where there are reportedly still more than 1,000 Laskar Jihad fighters. Since June 2001, Laskar Jihad in West Papua has been reported to be positioning itself for a Moluccas-style attack against the mainly Christian local population. I therefore again urge the Government to put strong pressure on the Indonesian Government to ensure that all Laskar Jihad fighters and other terrorists leave the Moluccas, Sulawesi, West Papua, and, indeed, Indonesia.
The Indonesian Government must ensure that the Laskar Jihad leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, who is on trial, is given a lengthy prison sentence if he is found guilty to prevent him from inciting violence, as he did before, or engaging in any further terrorist attacks. The Indonesian authorities should be encouraged to deal firmly with all violent Islamic groups in Indonesia. There also needs to be a tough, independent and transparent investigation of the links between Laskar Jihad and the Indonesian military. Only time will reveal whether Laskar Jihad has truly ended its war against 83WH Christians, and whether the Indonesian Government will diligently pursue and punish terrorists in their country.
Much closer and more serious scrutiny by the international community of the militant Islamic groups in Indonesia, such as Laskar Jihad and Jemaah Islamiah, is urgently needed, and continuing pressure must be put on the Indonesian Government to crack down on Islamic extremists. If the Indonesian Government continue to be complacent in their handling of extremist groups, the British Government and their European Union partners—and, I suppose, America and other countries—should seriously consider imposing sanctions, including an arms embargo on Indonesia.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
I agree with the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) that such groups may reorganise under another name. As we discovered in Northern Ireland, groups disband, or at least say that they are going down the road of peace, but then reorganise using names such as "continuity" or "real", and even continue as "provos".
However, it is important to bear in mind the fact that there are other issues as well. The hon. Gentleman referred to the possibility of Laskar Jihad moving into Papua. It is equally possible that it is regrouping in Aceh, especially given that President Megawati made it abundantly plain while we were there that she would use the military to stem the separatist movement in Aceh, which is trying to separate from Indonesia and set up a sharia state. It is possible that people are moving into that situation to advance that separatist cause.
Some people have persistently argued that the separatist movement in the Moluccas has been the cause of the problems. That is a red herring. The separatist movement in the Moluccas is small and has been around for many years. Some of us remember the incidents in Holland in the early 1970s, when some of its extremists were brought to justice. That movement is not the problem. The problem in the Moluccas has been those elements, such as Laskar Jihad and others, who are seeking to eliminate the Christian witness.
Just two weeks ago, Professor James Haire, the president of the Uniting Church in Australia, spoke on the "Sunday Sequence" programme in Northern Ireland. He pleaded with western powers not to take extreme and harsh measures after Bali, saying that they could be counterproductive. We were colleagues in the Presbyterian ministry, and his family would have been constituents but he went to the Moluccas, Halmahera and Darwin, and he is now based in Brisbane, where he is a professor at Griffiths college.
I think that James Haire has something to say. He returned to the Moluccas after the massacre to see for himself what was happening. He was walking across the ground, when he suddenly realised that it was very brittle. To his horror, he discovered that he was walking on the bones of people he had baptised and of students he had lectured. Those people had been brutalised, and their bodies had been left there without being interred. When a man of James Haire's ilk calls on us to react carefully, we should at least listen.
84WH I pay tribute to the leadership of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), who took our delegation to Indonesia. We were unable to go to the Moluccas, because people were trying to get foreigners to leave and they did not want our visit to act as an excuse. Ifdeed, Laskar Jihad issued a very detrimental and negative press statement about our visit. In fairness to the Indonesian authorities, however, they did expel six or seven people from Saudi Arabia, who were working in the Moluccas at the time. It was apparent that the authorities were trying to do something to tackle the problem.
The situation in Sulawesi was interesting. We regularly discovered that people were not prepared to say too much publicly: whether Muslim or Christian, they were very careful in the expressions that they used. Before we left, some of us had a private conversation with one of the Reformed pastors. We asked whether it was true that more Muslims than Christians had been killed in Poso, and I can still visualise him hanging his head. Earlier, he had not been prepared to say who was responsible, and people obviously did not want to name Laskar Jihad. However, we already had information to the effect that things had been going on for some time before they erupted and that outside forces were responsible. When we pressed the pastor, he told us, with his head held down, that more Muslims than Christians had been killed. When the Christians who lived in the area were attacked, they took to the higher ground. The folk who had come to exterminate them did not know the country and they suffered most as a result. We must put the record straight. We must understand that a community that is attacked has a right to defend itself, which, tragically, is what happened on this occasion.
Since our return, we have discovered another problem, to which hon. Members have alluded—the collusion between the military, elements of the police and the Muslim extremists. A Reformed pastor, who was a leader of the Protestant side in the Malino agreement, has been arrested on a false charge. It has been claimed that he had weapons and that he was the leader of the insurrection, but all the evidence is clearly to the contrary.
In Sulawesi, we gained another insight. Some argue that the United Kingdom should be doing more to help the people by supplying them with the necessary equipment. However, the police officer with whom we spoke told us that he did not need more equipment; he needed more intelligence. In other words, they need help to lead their police service out of its corrupt state because they are unable to do their work properly. Some people do not realise that the police service in Indonesia is working on the old pattern—officers pay to get in, and get very little pay in return. It is a do-it-yourself business. A police officer sets up checkpoints where he can catch people and imposes on-the-spot fines to help him to eek out his wages. That is one of the problems.
I discovered that an English police officer, who was in Indonesia on secondment for at least a year, if not two years, stuck it for only six months. The event that finally sickened him was when a senior officer, with whom he was working trying to raise moral standards and end corrupt practices, knocked at his hotel door and presented him with a bevy of beauties for his entertainment. He left Indonesia and returned to the United Kingdom.
85WH We pay tribute to those in the embassy who have done a great deal and are held in the highest respect. I say that specifically in the light of some criticism of one of the consuls in Bali. We formed an entirely different opinion, and observed the respect in which the ambassador is held because of his fluency in the language, among other things. It was fascinating. We had fine interpreters with us, but on about five occasions, when the ambassador realised that they had not understood the nuance of our questions, he politely interjected in Indonesian, and one could see immediately that the other authorities and interpreters understood what he was saying. I pay tribute to him and to those who have regularly gone out to Indonesia to try to help. However, until we marshal the moderate forces of Islam to work with the Government in Indonesia, there will be more difficulties.
The United Kingdom Parliament must raise these issues publicly and keep pressure on the Indonesian authorities, encouraging them when they are doing well. The hon. Member for Castle Point referred to the situation in the Moluccas. We recognise that the authorities tried to stop the Laskar Jihad. The naval forces stopped and searched the extremists, but as they found no weapons, they had no grounds for keeping them out, so the extremists landed. However, the military had already brought in the weapons, which were at the disposal of Laskar Jihad. Elements of the military co-operated with extreme Islamists in corrupt practices to try to exterminate not only the Christian population but moderate Muslims. The head man in the area around Poso, a Muslim who was involved in the Malino agreement, was himself a victim, so we must be careful not to see just one side of the argument but the deeper issue. There is an attempt to extend an extremist power block across south-east Asia, which has terrified even the Malaysian and Singaporean Governments.
§ Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
I shall be brief, as there is not much time and the Front-Bench spokesmen wish to reply. I apologise for missing most of the speech that was made by the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink), but I was attending the annual meeting of the all-party group on human rights.
I should like the Minister to reply to a few points. We are all appalled by the Bali bombing: the loss of life, the callous way in which the bomb was placed and the young people who were destroyed. I hope that the culprits are brought to justice.
Indonesia has serious problems of fundamental instability. Following decolonisation, disputes arose about Indonesia's territorial integrity. East Timor, where an international settlement was finally established, was the most obvious example of that. I was asked to visit as a United Nations observer during the referendum, and I thought that the situation was horrific. The UN did a good job in holding the referendum and the vote was fair, so far as I could tell. The problem was, however, that the Indonesian army and police did not provide adequate security for the UN staff who undertook the referendum. As soon as the result was known, the militia took over. I do not know the death toll for the period after the referendum, but it ran into thousands. That was in addition to the 200,000 people who died during the period of Indonesian terror in East Timor from 1974. One hopes that East Timor will have a peaceful and prosperous future.
86WH East Timor is not the only place in Indonesia where there have been huge problems. I attended a conference in this country last week with West Papuan representatives, some of whom had travelled from West Papua and Indonesia. The level of violence, killing and the consistently high death rates in West Papua are appalling. There is a demand for independence in West Papua, and the people point to the colonial history, which shows that West Papua was not part of the Dutch-administered colony. It was only after the hotly disputed 1969 Act of Free Choice that West Papua was brought into Indonesia.
We would do well to try to understand a bit more about the desperate situation in West Papua. Huge outside interests are involved there. That applies to most conflicts around the world that involve arguments about self-determination. Outside interests include those of the Freeport mine, which is a powerful, prosperous and deeply polluting mine, and BP, which is keen to exploit oil reserves. Will the Minister tell me what contact his Department has with Freeport mine and BP and what representations those companies have made regarding the activities of the militia and the behaviour of the army in West Papua? Many serious allegations of brutality have been made about them.
I will put my last two points quickly to the Minister, because I know that he needs time in which to reply. I recognise that a small amount of training has been offered to the Indonesian military. Indeed, I have had a parliamentary written answer about that matter. The fundamental problem is that the Indonesian military operates virtually independently of the civilian Government. The civilian Government have to negotiate with the military about what they want done, and whether the military does it or not depends on its current interests and mood. The military has its own independent sources of funding.
The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) pointed out that that problem runs through the police and other services. Pay levels are very low, and that becomes a laissez-passer to make money out of criminal or semi-criminal activities. Until there is civilian political control of the police and the armed forces, I suspect that there will be serious, long-term problems. It is clear that the militia are close to the military: indeed, in some parts they are exactly the same organisation.
I am concerned that this country has traditionally sold large amounts of arms to Indonesia during the period of oppression in East Timor. I understand that we are considering further arms sales to Indonesia. We have to think very carefully about that. It is no good complaining about human rights abuses by military forces that are out of control around the world, if we have provided the equipment that enables them to behave in that manner in the first place. I hope that, if the Minister cannot give an answer today, there will be further correspondence on British arms sales to Indonesia and support for the military. We need to know how many of those arms end up with the militia.
§ Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
This has been a sombre and serious debate, in keeping with the serious issues that we are discussing.
87WH I am conscious of the time and of the need for the Minister, in particular, to respond, so I shall keep my remarks brief.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) and his colleagues who recently visited Indonesia on their contributions and on securing the debate. We cannot let the appalling events of 12 October recede from our minds. It is important that we record our sympathy for the enduring pain suffered by those who lost loved ones and those who were seriously injured, from whatever part of the globe they come. We also have anxieties about the recovery of those in Bali and the future of those for whom tourism is their livelihood and a key source of income. The international reaction has been one of horror, condemnation and anger. That is entirely appropriate. Just one short year after 11 September, we are right to be anxious about what the events in Bali may signify.
We have heard discussions on different aspects of the crisis in Indonesia and on the importance of Indonesia tackling its own problems. It is important that outside observers tread carefully and try to understand the situation in the country and the wider region. There has been a series of bombings in the past year. They were believed to be the work primarily of local Islamic militants. Other countries, such as the Philippines, have also endured attacks. Careful scrutiny of the possible links between the country-based or region-based groups and international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda is under way. Clearly Indonesia and the international community must understand more about the possible links before jumping to conclusions. Any danger of complacency has been stripped away.
Many Members have remarked on the need to be sensitive to the religious and ethnic considerations within Indonesia. There has been heavy media emphasis on the militant Islamic groups, who are only a tiny minority in a large country. While being sensitive to the religious and ethnic composition of the country, we must also have an understanding of its recent history, including the fall of Suharto after 30 years of dictatorship, the south-east Asian economic collapse, and the endemic corruption. None of those things should be used as excuses, but they provide some insight into an element of the current difficulties.
Indonesia has, of course, taken action. Recently, decrees were issued to clamp down on terrorism. That followed a period in which anti-terror legislation had been gathering dust. We must understand that as a result of the Suharto regime there was strong political pressure to resist measures that could be interpreted as anti-Islamic. The country's human rights record, however, has not been good in the past and is now perhaps not as good as it should be.
The role of the military is critical. The military retains a strong position within the state. We need a better understanding of the links with terrorists, whether they are formed out of sympathy or with the aim of causing trouble, which can then be exploited. Tackling elements that want to undermine democracy must be a priority. I echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), who talked about the need for the Government to reconsider their links with arms sales to Indonesia.
88WH For those in Indonesia, denial of problems can no longer be an option. As the hon. Member for Bridgend commented, Vice-President Hamzah Haz has had to reconsider some of his recent positions. That is welcome, but needs to be more widely understood. There are obvious weaknesses in the country's infrastructure: a lack of a properly funded intelligence gathering force, poor quality policing and a lack of adequate resources for a country where vast geographical issues complicate the delicate ethnic and religious situation.
Clearly, Indonesia must tackle those problems, but the world must help. Fostering democracy, which is still so young and vulnerable in that country, is crucial. The technical assistance on offer from our Government is important, and I would particularly welcome the Government's support. Adequate development systems will also be fundamental. The weaknesses in Indonesia have exposed many problems. There is a duty on its leadership to tackle those issues, and there is a significant duty on us to support their efforts.
§ Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) on introducing the debate, which reflects his profound knowledge, understanding and sympathy for the situation in Indonesia. The contributions by my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) and the hon. Members for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) all showed a considerable knowledge and understanding of the situation in Indonesia.
I have been to Bali twice: I have been to Kuta beach and travelled around Java. It is worth remembering that if one goes back five years, Indonesia was regarded as one of the Asian tigers—an immense success story before its economic collapse. Huge investment went into the country. Since then, the meltdown in Asia has led to a very different economic situation from the potential that was there before. It has a huge level of unemployment, which stands at about 40 million out of 220 million people. Many experts acknowledge that the most important factor in the economic recovery that is crucial for Indonesia is for the country to put its own house in order on terrorism. Without that, vital external investors will stay away. It is becoming something of an unvirtuous circle.
Jusuf Wanandi of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies has said that the economy of Indonesia will "go down the drain" if President Megawati does not act against terrorism. The terrorist outrage in Bali is a dramatic example of how violence and human tragedy can lead to further economic disaster.
We have heard about the pattern of terrorist violence in Indonesia over many years. In the past few years, political and social instability has increased in Indonesia and old sores and divisions have opened up. However, one of the most prominent Islamic groups, Laskar Jihad, announced last week that it was disbanding. Hopefully, that is the case. It has particularly undesirable characteristics. On its website, it says that it will "deal" with Christian problems "by force". It is a most unattractive organisation. The United States 89WH Government believe that the announcement by Laskar Jihad that it will disband needs more study. The group should be judged on its actions rather than its words. It is also said that al-Qaeda has been heavily implicated in he tragic and murderous attack on the innocent people of Bali, and I hope that the Minister will comment on whether some link has been established.
The important thing is that Indonesia needs our support in curbing extremism and attacking terrorism. It needs all our skills to help the country to come through this difficult stage. That is why it is important that the President has taken steps to increase her powers to tackle terrorism. The two presidential anti-terrorism decrees on 19 October, combined with increased powers of arrest, are to be welcomed. I look forward to the further package of anti-terrorist Bills that are in the pipeline.
With hindsight, it would have been beneficial for the international community to place more pressure on Indonesia to follow the lead of Singapore and Malaysia in taking a robust stance against organised terrorism in the months preceding 12 October. However, any debate on Indonesia must also acknowledge the precarious political situation faced by President Megawati. She is walking on a political tightrope. Fringe extremist elements in Indonesia have strong appeal, and much of it is anti-American. However, she must guard against any action that might restore the army and its paramilitary allies to power in Indonesia, which is such a new democracy.
If anything good has come out of the truly terrible bombing in Bali, it is that the recent steps taken by the Indonesian Government show a willingness to act against terrorism that did not exist previously. That means separating the violent Islamic tributaries from the more secular mainstream that accepts democratic rules, and using the full force of law against those tributaries. Alongside the tough action already taken by the authorities in Singapore and Malaysia and the international community's collective will to tackle terrorism, there is now hope for a more comprehensive, robust and considered approach. I hope that that will reduce the chance of organised terrorists claiming yet more innocent lives in south-east Asia.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)
This has been a good debate, and I am especially grateful to the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring), for cutting his speech in order to allow me to reply to the points that hon. Members have made.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) on securing the debate and on his work in leading the delegation to Indonesia, which is part of this year's wide-ranging engagement with that country by British parliamentarians and Ministers. I congratulate other hon. Members on their contributions. I hope that the debate will be studied and read, because unfortunately our media—especially our broadcast media—find immense space for the antics of Swedish weather forecasters, but little space for such grave international problems.
The atrocity in Bali shocked us all. I also know Kuta beach; I went there when I worked in the region during the 1980s, and I was often in the company of American 90WH friends. I think of that haven of peace—the Hindu island of Bali, which is inhabited by the most welcoming people on earth—being scarred and destroyed, and I hope that the perpetrators of the atrocity are caught.
It is a little early to rush to judgment. The Indonesian and Australian authorities are working closely, and Britain has sent forensic experts. Although I do not doubt that a link with international terrorism will be established, let us not rush to too early a judgment today. The perpetrators of the atrocity should be brought to justice and Bali should be restored to its rightful role as one of the most wonderful places on the planet to visit. We mourn with Australia and we mourn the victims from many other countries, including the British people who were killed. One of my constituents from Rotherham was injured. We also mourn the workers in the club, the Indonesian citizens and the people of Bali who have suffered so horribly.
The debate is about international terrorism and Indonesia in general. Many points made by hon. Members do not need a reply because there is not much disagreement. We all acknowledge that Indonesia has found its way to democracy only during the past three or four years. Indonesia was ruled on an authoritarian basis from the time it left Dutch rule after the second world war until the first parliamentary elections several years ago. It has developed dramatically since the fall of Suharto less than five years ago. Indonesia is now a democracy. Its political prisoners have been released, its press is among the freest in the region and its Parliament has a strong voice. Surely it is our duty to try to strengthen the authority of the democratic state, not to weaken democracy by turning back the clock to an authoritarian state. If that means that loud, aggressive, sectarian and separatist voices make their views known, so be it, because the silence of an authoritarian state does not remove the causes of the anger of those voices.
Some of this debate—arguably a little too much of it—has focused on inter-religious strife. I do not seek to diminish the appalling religious and sectarian violence that has occurred in Indonesia. We have to face the fact that the notion of the secular state, and of secularism as the guiding force under which international relations are conducted and the rule of law is sustained within individual countries, is coming under challenge. Within the next 25 years, there will be 2.6 billion Christians and Christianity will be the largest religion on earth. More Catholics are being baptised in the Philippines than in all the traditional Catholic states of Europe. Alas, the rough edge that is created where one expanding faith meets up with another can give rise to considerable sectarian problems.
We must assert that Indonesia is essentially a secular state: its character has of course been influenced by Islam, but that has been one of many influences, and its history is marked by a moderate and inclusive form of Islam. The vast majority of Indonesians reject violence. The moderate Indonesian NGOs, Nandlatul Ulama or NU and Muhammadiyah—which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend—claim memberships of at least 30 million, so the two memberships together add up to 70 million. Those groups are central to the way of life in Indonesia; they are important, peaceful NGOs. This House must again affirm that Indonesia is not a radical Islamic state, and I believe that it will not become one so long as its people can choose their own leaders.
91WH Millions of Indonesians were reduced to poverty by the economic collapse of the mid-1990s, and that has inevitably led to an increase in social tension. The economic recovery has been slow. The Indonesian Government face a host of complex challenges. They must tackle the culture of corruption of the old regime, which has been referred to by hon. Members. They must reform the military and install a framework of democratic accountability for it. They have to deal with inter-communal violence and separatist threats. They also need to rebuild an economy that has been ravaged by the east-Asian financial crisis, and to loosen the old forces of control while building new frameworks for political expression.
I am unsure whether I can completely go along with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), who asked about the role of BP. I would welcome more foreign investment in Indonesia. In answer to another point that he made, I stress that we support Indonesian territorial integrity. The UN and the international community never recognised East Timor as part of Indonesia: it had been a Portuguese colony, whereas Papua was part of the Dutch East Indies, almost all of which the Indonesian Government inherited when they took power shortly after the second world war.
In addition to condemning sectarianism, we must look carefully at those who raise separatist flags, regardless of whether they are Christian separatists in the Moluccas or Papuan separatists. They can create a response from a democratic Government that want to hold their state together. We will work with the Indonesian authorities: we will urge them to take the measures in the campaign against terrorism that many hon. Members have called for, but we welcome Indonesia's commitment to the democratic path. While our hearts go out to its victims, the Bali bombing is a call to reinforce our international campaign to tackle global terrorism. We must tackle its causes and deal with the perpetrators to bring to justice those responsible for the Bali atrocity.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. John McWilliam)
I invite those hon. Members not wishing to take part in the following debate to leave quickly and quietly.