APSN Banner

Assurances about Hawks worthless

Tapol - August 3, 1999

[The following Memo was prepared by Tapol to reveal how the British Government continues to trot out totally misleading statements about the use of Hawk aircraft in East Timor.]

It has now been established beyond all doubt that British-supplied Hawk aircraft are being used in East Timor, despite assurances given over the years by the Indonesian authorities that this would not happen. There is no sign however that the British Government is willing to acknowledge this fact; it continues to adopt the same attitude to this question in its correspondence with MPs, as the following chronology shows:

16 July 1999: Sydney Morning Herald reported: "... Indonesia mounted a new show of force in Dili. An Indonesian Air force jet, one of three British-made Hawk 100 fighters based at Kupang in West Timor, made two low passes over the provincial capital, while a frigate appeared offshore."

16 July 1999: TAPOL wrote to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook drawing attention to the use of Hawk aircraft in this show of force and called on the Government to protest and to halt further deliveries of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia.

20 July 1999: Responding to a Parliamentary Question, Foreign Office Minister Geoffrey Hoon told the House that Robin Cook "has written to the Indonesian Government, voicing concern that Hawk fighter jets made in Britain may have been deployed over East Timor".

24 July 1999: General Wiranto, Indonesian Minister for Defence and Security/Commander Indonesian Armed Forces was quoted by the Jakarta daily, Berita Buana, as saying that the Hawk fighter jets flying over East Timor were involved in routine exercises connected with national reconnaissance. "It"s our national territory. Flights over our territory are only natural. The jets were not used in anti-guerrilla operations. The contract said that they would not be used in operations in East Timor. We haven"t done this."

29 July 1999: Tapol again wrote to Robin Cook drawing his attention to the admission by General Wiranto that the Hawks were being used in East Timor and again calling on the British Government to halt further deliveries of Hawk aircraft as well as other military equipment to Indonesia.

30 July 1999: Indonesia"s leading English-language daily, The Jakarta Post, reported: "... the military has placed a Hawk bomber (sic) in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, and an armed helicopter in Baucau, as precautions against illegal arms supplies – reportedly coming from Australia – to the Falintil resistance group in the troubled territory." In other words, the Hawks are being used for operational purposes in a counter-insurgency role in East Timor.

Government statements

Since the Labour Government came to power in May 1997, there are numerous references to Indonesian assurances regarding the Hawks supplied to Indonesia in correspondence with MPs and members of the public. The following are examples:

5 August 1997: Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett told Ann Clwyd MP in a letter: "In recent years, the Indonesian authorities have provided assurances that British-supplied military equipment would not be used in East Timor."

19 August 1997: A Ministry of Defence official wrote to Mr Craig Smallbone, saying: "We are confident that UK supplied Hawk have not been used in East Timor or, indeed, in a counter-insurgency role in Indonesia."

Similar quotations can be found in numerous letters since then. The wording has been the same throughout.

8 July 1999: Prime Minister Tony Blair, replying to a question on BBC Question Time about Hawk sales to Indonesia repeated these assurances, and said that "none of those aircraft are used in repressive action".

26 July 1999: Foreign Office Minister Geoffrey Hoon said in a letter to Gwyneth Dunwoody MP: "We have studied all the allegations about the use of UK-supplied Hawk over the years. We are confident that UK-supplied Hawk have not been used in a counter-insurgency role in Indonesia or in East Timor." [This was eleven days after a Hawk was sighted in Dili, five days after Robin Cook voiced concern to Jakarta that Hawk jets may have been deployed in East Timor and two days after General Wiranto had admitted that Hawks were being used in East Timor.]

Current delivery of Hawk fighters

In November 1996, the previous administration granted a licence to British Aerospace for the sale of sixteen Hawk fighter jets to Indonesia. After taking office in May 1997, the Labour Government rejected appeals for this licence to be revoked.

Delivery of these Hawks commenced in April this year, when it was announced by the Indonesian Air Force that two had been delivered and the other fourteen would be delivered monthly in batches of two.