The Netherlands intend to sell naval ship equipment and technology to Indonesia in an arms deal that could be worth €345 million, the government announced on Tuesday.
Last year, the Netherlands canceled a €200 million tanks sale to its former colony after lawmakers had expressed worried about human rights abuses there. Among them was the Labor Party’s Frans Timmermans who is now foreign minister.
The latest deal will not involve the Dutch government. Rather a Dutch company has applied to sell technology for frigates that are supposed to be build in Romania as well as Indonesia itself. Timmerman’s department insists that the delivery meets all legal requirements for weapons exports.
Opposition parties were taken aback nevertheless. Both the liberal Democrats and far-left Socialists accused Labor of changing his position, something Désirée Bonis, its foreign policy spokeswoman, denied. “Indonesia is a friendly nation and a democracy,” she said. “So there’s nothing wrong with this.”
The previous coalition, which included the conservatives besides Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals, who are still in power, similarly argued last year, however, that human rights in the island nation had “marked improved,” even if there were still “internal tensions” in the Maluku and Papua islands, majority christian provinces that once aspired to autonomy or independence. It wanted to sell up to one hundred German-made Leopard tanks to the country — which could hardly have been deployed to the Moluccas or Papua given the mountainous terrain and dense forestation there — but the anti-immigration Freedom Party, which otherwise supported Rutte’s minority government, objected because Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country.
Indonesia later bought the tanks from Germany.