House Resonant With Sincerity As Troops Farewelled

Published: Fri 17 Sep 1999 04:08 PM
Scoop House Coverage: Snippets of the debate. Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark, Jim Anderton, Ron Mark, Richard Prebble, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Peter Dunne on NZ's East Timor peacekeeping deployment.
Sincerity positively bubbled in the speeches in the house today during a rare display of complete unanimity over the commitment - made by cabinet yesterday to commit a full battalion of New Zealand infantry to East Timor for eighteen months.
Extracts from today's debate on sending a Battalion of NZ Troops to East Timor as peacekeepers.
Note: This is a mix of direct quotes - some marked - and paraphrased expression. The debate is continuing.
Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.
We anticipated these events. That we are able to mount a force so quickly is due to our commitment to have defence forces and to keep them funded well.
"East Timor will not be a soft peace keeping option. We cannot discount the possibility of casualties."
"Freedom is a delicate and fragile thing."
Scoop hopes to bring you a transcript of the PM's speech.
Labour Leader Helen Clark:
"We strongly support the decision. Our thoughts are with those who we are sending."
Special tribute must be paid to the Catholic church and Bishop Carlos Belo. Without their constant faith the attention of the world might have turned away.
The process of transition in Indonesia is, "far from settled" . "All eyes are on Indonesia now".
It is tragic that the Indonesian government proved "either unable or unwilling" to protect the people of East Timor after undertaking to do so.
"Historians will debate at length whether it was wise for the UN to have held the ballot."
"Reports from West Timor are not that encouraging. Oxfam is calling for access to the camps to assess the situation."
"In the next few days we know troops may well face resistance.
"I am confident we are sending world class professional soldiers.
"There remains the medium and long term relationship with Indonesia.
I trust the message from the New Zealand Parliament today will be that we must be good neighbours to both Indonesia and to the new nation of East Timor.
Jim Anderton Alliance Party
Made a parallel with the struggle in South Africa.
"While a foreign power committed genocide the world was powerless. It was a nation being wiped from the map while everybody stood by."
I think the UN has grown in stature by their actions. We saw NZers show extraordinary courage and it is not in doubt that their actions - Alliance constitutional lawyer Andrew Ladley received special mention - saved the lives of thousands of refugees. The publicity about the rampages led to the joint international effort.
There have been some attempts to make some cheap political points at the Alliance during this effort.
We have always agreed the UN is the appropriate agency to intervene.
And it is entirely appropriate for international efforts in relation dealing with evil.
East Timor must be made safe.
I note today there has been an air-drop but we can only be assured of the aid reaching its targets once peacekeepers have gone in.
Cost is not a factor in this matter.
The cost without this effort would be horrendous on a scale that we cannot even imagine.
I have heard we should make a priority of getting NZ businesses a share of the action when it comes to rebuilding East Timor. But in the rebuilding of Timor business advantage is not something that should be a consideration.
The rehabilitation of East Timor will be extensive and expensive. We have seen the destruction.
In conclusion our country must show leadership.
I would like to end by congratulating the PM for this debate. I hope this tradition is now so well established that it will be a permanent feature of future deployments of New Zealand forces abroad.
Ret. Major Ron Mark - NZ First.
I have three sets of notes and various things I could speak on. But what is in my mind are thoughts about those who are about to deploy.
I offer all the service men and women involved in NZ First support and I say to them "that our hearts are with you and our thoughts are with you and that they will continue to be with you till you return."
I was once deployed in the Sinai.
I didn't even ring my wife and ask if I could go. I rang to tell her I was going. I know that throughout this country so many New Zealand servicemen and women will not hesitate to do the same.
But it is the decisions that we make here in Parliament that determine whether or not we are adequately prepared. That is our responsibility.
I find it unpleasant that we have so little information. How will they land. How will they deploy. What support they will have. There are many things I could say which would raise questions. But I won't. For what we say and what the media say can cost lives.
I may have some questions with the Minister but those matters will be between me and the minister.
I hope the media too handles this very responsibly.
How do you guarantee freedom if you do not have adequate defence.
Sometimes freedom and democracy are worth dying for. I hope that soon we will see an end to the rhetoric that wants to take all the money from defence. But, Mr Speaker the world is not a nice friendly place all of the time. We have to make sure that our fighting people are properly paid and properly equipped.
I would ask the house to consider what we pay the lowest paid police officer who just came out of East Timor, and the lowest paid serviceman who is about to go in.
I want the whole of this house. The Alliance to National to consider what we should be paying our servicemen for doing their duty.
I would also like a sincere commitment when, 20 years from now, these servicemen have long been back with injuries and disabilities they will not be treated the way servicemen from the past have been treated.
We should remember now in their time of need, just how desperately we needed them in ours.
ACT Leader Richard Prebble
This is an appropriate debate. This should not be done without careful consideration. The ACT party has been the voice of caution in this house.
We set out three preconditions.
1. We needed to be requested to go by the UN.
That has been met.
2. It was necessary to have an invitation from Indonesia.
Some thought we should invade but we did not. This is a nation we need to have a working relationship with. This condition was also met.
3. The force needed to be more than just NZ and Australia. This is ten days sailing from NZ and the reality is that this is a massive peace-keeping mission and that we preferably needed support from a wide range of nations and the US.
That precondition has also been met.
I join the other members in gratitude to the servicemen and women involved in this operation. The length of time is onerous indeed. We are talking nine months and then another nine months and then how much longer.
Looking forward to when and how we can disengage is necessary.
As someone wise once said all wars are popular for 30 days.
(Editor's note - this is not a war it is a peacekeeping misson - quickly answered by Prebble)
But peacekeeping can be just as fatal as war.
I accept that our personnel are brave professionals. However we should not blind ourselves by saying that our armed forces have got the equipment they require.
The first thing we need is a boat.. Ours is carrying oranges in the Mediterranean.
Then there are our APCs. They are Vietnam War vintage. NZ has needed new carriers for more than a decade. We all know this.
I understand that the government bought 30 Holden Utes in the last few weeks. The old land-drovers are not up to it. We know that because they broke down in Bougainville.
And our Hercules in Darwin had a "minor" breakdown and could not perform a second mission to East Timor during the evacuation.
I know that the events in East Timor fully justify the force however. And who said it was highly likely we would be called to a peace keeping operation like this? The Select Committee. This has all been foreseen by this Parliament for a decade.
However it wouldn't be fair without saying that the way the government has handled this issue has been a credit to them. Had they not I don't believe we would be in this position.
This outcome is the best there can be under the circumstances.
Jeanette Fitzsimmons.- Green
Pays tribute to East Timorese.
Then to the activists who have held the torch for East Timor in the developed nations.
The people of East Timor feel betrayed. With the exception of some amazing UN Personnel who elected to stay without protection.
The Indonesians who have settled in East Timor now have everything to lose. But last week on a march I heard a speech from Jose Ramos Horta saying that there would be no reprisals.
We congratulate the UN and the PM.
A number of Media commentators are smirking that those who are against military engagement are now in favour of it.
Why do we support this initiative?
This is a force fully mandated by the UN, not an adventure by one or a group of nations for their advantage. Secondly it is a clear cut case of upholding the result of a referendum and the will of the people of East Timor.
We are not being asked to support large scale bombings but to take the honest and courageous path of ground forces seeking only to do good.
This is not like Kosovo for a number of other reasons besides.
As a government and a community we should put resources into rebuilding East Timor. The benefit of doing so to the New Zealand volunteers involved would be huge. Many young NZers would leap at the opportunity once security has been established.
It is now a time for a thorough review of our relationship with Asia.
Let's be blunt out relationship with Indoneisa did not stop brutality against the people of East Timor it encouraged it.
And Finally
United's Peter Dunne's speech was in the form of a parable which he is invited to send to Scoop...
Alastair Thompson
Scoop Publisher
Alastair Thompson is the co-founder of Scoop. He is of Scottish and Irish extraction and from Wellington, New Zealand. Alastair has 24 years experience in the media, at the Dominion, National Business Review, North & South magazine, Straight Furrow newspaper and online since 1997. He is the winner of several journalism awards for business and investigative work.
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