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Government refuses to allow Robin Cook to meet Pakpahan

Tapol - September 6, 1997

One of the most disappointing developments during the visit to Indonesia last month of the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, was the cancellation of his meeting with ailing independent trade union leader, Muchtar Pakpahan. Had this taken place, this would have been the only public display of support for a victim of human rights violations by the Indonesian regime.

Before leaving London for his visit to four South East Asian countries, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had told The Observer [24 August] that he would be meeting Muchtar Pakpahan, the leader of the independent trade union, the SBSI, who has been on trial for subversion since last December. Pakpahan's trial was adjourned in March, since when Pakpahan has been under treatment in hospital. Cook's meeting with Pakpahan was to have taken place at 5 pm on Friday, 30 August but it was cancelled on the insistence of the Indonesian Government.

The day before, on Thursday 29 August, Pakpahan had been summoned to attend the first court hearing in his trial since the adjournment in March but during the hearing, he had a severe attack of vertigo and the hearing was suspended after 15 minutes. The British embassy were certainly aware of this. They also knew that Pakpahan's request to be allowed to travel abroad for treatment that is unavailable in Indonesia has been rejected by the Indonesian authorities. This should have made Robin Cook all the more determined to meet the labour leader.

The meeting appears to have been cancelled at short notice and Pakpahan himself was not informed of the cancellation. Journalists in Jakarta, including those accompanying Cook, knew about the planned meeting and were present at the hospital hoping to cover the event, only to be told that it had been cancelled.

TAPOL has written to Robin Cook protesting at his failure to insist on meeting Muchtar Pakpahan despite Indonesian objections.