Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee today reported that his electorate office had been inundated with calls from people he suspects from outside his electorate demanding that Government get into East Timor and start saving the lives of people being persecuted.
“I am deeply concerned about the travesties of justice and crimes against humanity that are taking place in East Timor,” said Mr Brownlee. New Zealand needs to be cautious but firm in approach to this problem.
“Those who are calling for urgent intervention need to realise that if either New Zealand or Australia were to set foot on East Timorese soil with armed soldiers, then that would be considered an act of aggression and we would be effectively at war with a country that has a standing army of 450,000 men, all well-armed, and a well resourced air force and navy on top of that, and a capacity to mobilise up to 5 million reservists at very short notice.
“Our Defence personnel number in total 4,000 people. Clearly, we are not in a position to get into this type of action. I applaud Mrs Shipley for her efforts at seeking some diplomatic solution to this appalling problem.
“Some are hopeful that Indonesia can be persuaded to ask the UN to put together a peace-keeping force. A pre-condition for that would of course be backing from the United States.
“If the US were to back a peace keeping effort in Timor and New Zealand troops were to be involved, then all New Zealanders need to ask themselves what concessions they would be prepared to make to have that US involvement.
“Would we stick rigidly to our policy of not allowing nuclear propelled ships into our harbours, or would we be prepared in these dire circumstances to accept the US “neither confirm nor deny” stance on the propulsion issue,” said Gerry Brownlee.
“I think it is unacceptable for New Zealand to demand US involvement and then deny them use of New Zealand as a staging post for troops moving into Timor to stand alongside our soldiers. The US would have many times the number of troops involved as New Zealand and Australia combined. If we are genuine in wanting that assistance, clearly this is a time to reconcile the unacceptable ANZUS standoff that has persisted since 1984.
“I have been proud to support New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance, but when I look at the television set and see the carnage and human deprivation in East Timor and recognise the powerlessness of our small country to directly intervene, then I am prepared to say it is time for us to question the validity of our hard line stance against nuclear-propelled vehicles,
“If we want US troops in Timor, we are going to have to work with the US. New Zealand would need to offer its services as a staging post and naval support would be essential.
“So every New Zealander, as they watch their television screens over the coming weeks needs to ask themselves “am I happy keeping US ships and the support that they would bring for the East Timorese out of our harbours while standing by and watching innocent people suffer?
“I think New Zealanders will come to the conclusion that at least a temporary suspension of our position in this regard should be considered,” said Gerry Brownlee.