Labour Leader Helen Clark said today that the National Government's excuses for President Habibie and the Indonesian
Government are wearing very thin.
"In recent days both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have been at pains to defend Indonesia's
actions with regard to East Timor.
"Only on Monday morning the Prime Minister was asserting that the Indonesian Government was not necessarily at fault
with respect to events in East Timor.
"Yesterday morning Mr McKinnon made excuses for Dr Habibie on the basis that "he is in the throes of wishing to be
elected the President right now. He is in a difficult situation…."
"Yesterday the Prime Minister asserted that she had spoken herself with Dr Habibie and had been told by him with respect
to his assertion of martial law that "watch out, it will work." She also expressed the hope that matters would be sorted
out in East Timor by the weekend.
"The National Government appears very reluctant to have the tragic events of East Timor sully its cocktail party this
weekend with the region's leaders.
"Clichés are pouring from National Government figures about Apec and its supposed mission to lift people from poverty.
"Yet as one interviewer pointed out to the Prime Minister last night, it is difficult to be raised from poverty if you
are dead, which may well be the case in East Timor.
"The Prime Minister and Mr McKinnon appear to have got much too close to the Indonesian view of events and to be
incapable of giving the resolution of the crisis in East Timor the top priority it deserves at the Apec Leaders' Summit.
"History will judge their reluctance to do that," Helen Clark said.