The SDLP, Raytheon arms manufacturer and East Timor

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LAST SUMMER, the Irish News ran an article titled 'SDLP slams Britains record in East Timor'. (August 6th). SDLP assembly member Carmel Hanna rightly criticised the British government for continuing arms sales to Indonesia. She even went so far as to describe Britain's role in relation to East Timor as "sordid" because of this.

Quite right, but...

Just weeks previously, John Hume, Nobel laureate and leader of the SDLP, welcomed plans for a US multinational to set up a plant in Derry.

The company happens to be Raytheon, a major arms manufacturer whose clients include the Indonesian government.

One might also point out that Raytheon is one of the many corporate sponsors of the Washington-based US-Indonesian Society.

Critics have described the purposes of this society as twofold: downplaying human rights abuses in Indonesia and - until recently - promoting US commercial, diplomatic and military support for the Indonesian regime.

We can accuse New Labour of blatent hypocrisy when Tony Blair and Robin Cook blather on about their "ethical foreign policy", particularly in relation to Indonesia and East Timor.

But such accusations can also be justifiably directed to other parties in both Britain and Ireland, including the SDLP.


This article is from Workers Solidarity No 58 published in Oct 1999