Page 4, 23rd October 1970

23rd October 1970
Page 4
Page 4, 23rd October 1970 — Moral issue of S. African arms
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Moral issue of S. African arms

BY NORMAN ST. JOHN STEVAS

THE British Government is running into further trouble over its proposals to sell arms to South Africa. Defence, political and moral arguments are intertwined in this issue and we should try to disentangle them. The moral issue is by no means as clear as opponents of the arms deal make out.

There may well be a case for a complete boycott of South Africa. I can understand a moral stand which said in effect that the South African political system is so revolting to human dignity that she should become a pariah state with which no dealings commercial, diplomatic or military should be carried on.

What 1 do not understand is the attitude of those who are prepared to profit by South African trade, to support a military alliance for mutual defence, and then to deny to South Africa the weapons to discharge her defence obligations. That does not constitute a coherent moral position.

Speaking for myself if I were Prime Minister I would he profoundly uneasy about the South African issue. Supplying arms to South Africa is bound to weaken the ties between Britain and the black African States, and unless there are overwhelming security reasons for doing so this seems undesirable.

As far as I can make out the defence need has not as yet been conclusively established. I do not believe that the Commonwealth will break up as a result of a South African arms deal. but there is a real risk that certain members will leave it. Is this a risk worth running? Only if the security of the West makes such a deal imperative and as I have said this has not been publicly demonstrated.

In any case whether the issue is a genuine moral one or not, many people feel that it is, and this again is a factor which should be given due weight by the Government. A final decision has not been reached by the Cabinet, but the probabilities are that the deal will go through.

If so the minimum duty of the British Government is to make sure that no arms are supplied which can be used for internal suppression. and to obtain effective guarantees from South Africa that no attempt will be made to divert any external arms for apartheid purposes.

Trudeau's firm action

CANADA and the whole civilised world has been shocked by the callous murder of Mr. Pierre Laporte. the Quebec Minister of Labour, by the F.L.Q. Whatever the grievances of French Canadians may be, they cannot justify such an act of barbarity, which is likely to lose them the sympathy of all sane and decent people.

But the F.L.Q. is not interested in public sympathy. What the organisation is ,trying to do is to start a revolutionary civil war in Canada, and they have calculated that by an act of brutal terrorism they will undermine faith in ordered and constitutional government in Canada and prepare the ground for an outbreak of general violence and bloodshed.

In these circumstances the Prime Minister of Canada. Mr, Pierre Trudeau, is right to suspend the normal civil liberties in an all-out effort to crush the terrorists. The challenge has been made to the whole order of the State, and a liberal State has the right to use every means available to preserve itself.

The situation is analogous to that in wartime Britain when the British people were content to see a suspension of many of their time-honoured liberties and rights in order to meet the threat of an external enemy bent on destroying them permanently. The kidnapping and murder are another example of how vulnerable highly organised States are today to the actions of an extremist minority.

British people will naturally be anxious about the fate of Mr. James Cross. the British diplomat, but a situation has now been created when the safety of even an innocent individual has to be subordinated to the wider interests of preserving public order and the common good.

Mr. Trudeau's paramount concern must be the immediate safeguarding of Canada and this requires firm action so that public faith in government is not further undermined. When the terrorists have been crushed reconciliation will have to be thought about. but that will he the next chapter of the story.

The bloody incident may serve as nothing else has been able to so far to bring Canadians, whether of French or British descent, to realise that what they have in common far outweighs in importance any differences that may exist between them.

Serenity of a Cardinal CARDINAI, SUENENS' visit to Britain was an out standing success, and he made a considerable impact on both Catholic and non-Catholic opinion alike.

had the opportunity of a private talk with him and was especially struck by his personal serenity.

The Primate of Belgium has often been compared to Cardinal Newman, and I was reminded of Newman's words: "One of the signs of the presence of God is peace." The significance of Cardinal Suenens is that he offers a bridge between the new and the old in the Church.

A profound believer in the necessity for structure in the Church, he sees equally clearly that the present ecclesiastical structure needs radical reform and decentralisation it' it is to he effective in the modern world.

Many Catholics, who feel at times tempted to write off the whole hierarchy of the Church as unable to adapt itself speedily enough to contemporary needs, are reassured by the very presence of the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels. For me my meeting with the Cardinal was not only an intellectual but a spiritual experience.




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