Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Organising women in Indonesia

By Marina Carman and Chris Latham

JAKARTA — On November 9, we met with activists from Forkap (Women's Communication and Action Forum) at the University of Indonesia.

Forkap was formed after a student demonstration in early 1998, during which activists noticed the relatively passive and behind-the-scenes role that women had played compared to men. The new organisation, established by students who are now affiliated to the National Student League for Democracy, set out both to increase consciousness around women's rights on campuses and to assert that women must lead alongside men in the movement for full democracy.

Forkap activists stressed the importance of knowing the history of women's struggles in Indonesia in order to understand the situation of women today. They explained that women played a central role in the struggle against Dutch colonialism, and that the Indonesian Communist Party led a large women's organisation — Gerwani, or Indonesian Women's Movement — before former President Suharto took power in 1965.

The Suharto regime physically and ideologically attacked all progressive organisations, including those fighting for women's rights. It promoted women's traditional role in Indonesian society and declared that women's involvement in politics was immoral. The regime established its own women's organisation, called Kowani (Indonesian Women's Commission).

As more democratic space has opened up following Suharto's forced resignation and the election of a new government, many new non-government organisations have emerged.

Forkap activists said that the creation of new organisations which are independent of the state is a positive development, but they were critical of these NGOs for focusing on lobbying the new government and operating on the "elite" political level, rather than organising women at the grassroots. Many NGOs fail to challenge the restrictions of women's traditional role, they said.

They argue that it is impossible to win women's liberation in Indonesia if you limit your aim to equality within the current system. For Forkap, the struggle for women's liberation is tied to the struggles against the role of the military in Indonesian politics and for complete democracy.

We discussed with the activists many of the problems confronting Indonesian women. A member of the National Peasants Union said that women's role in village life is largely confined to that of mother.

Fees are charged for all levels of education and, since male children are given priority, women can attend school only if there are no sons or if the family can afford to pay for more than one child. Forkap has been part of a campaign against an increase in university fees.

Because women are seen as only a secondary source of income for the family, they are paid less than men (even when they are working in the same factories, doing the same work). The rape of women workers is widespread, and sexual favours are often demanded in exchange for promotions. Because the level of unemployment has been very high since the economic crisis of 1997, many women enter prostitution to earn their living.

So far, Forkap has concentrated on distributing basic propaganda such as newsletters and organising educational meetings around women's rights. November was a "month of actions" for Forkap, which held weekly discussion sessions on understanding women's oppression and strategies for liberation.

On November 25, Forkap will hold a demonstration against sexual and domestic violence against women. This action is in part a response to an NGO-organised rally around the same theme last year in which women were encouraged to wear white to emphasise their peacefulness and innocence, and which ended in a picnic.

Forkap is also attempting to organise prostitutes in a campaign against government plans to close down brothels and for better working conditions. Closing the brothels, says Forkap, is not a solution if the women have no other means to make a living; it will merely force many women into more dangerous work situations.

Forkap has found it difficult to develop a program and demands around women's liberation because the living experience of feminist activism in Indonesia is very limited. They were therefore keen to discuss the issues and experiences with Australian activists.

From Green Left Weekly #386

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Students commemorate victims of military violence

By Chris Latham

JAKARTA — Despite torrential rain, thousands of students participated in protests here to commemorate the first anniversary on November 13 of the Semangi tragedy, named after the Semangi bridge where six students were shot dead by the military during the mass protests against the special session of the People's Consultative Assembly.

The demands of the protest included an end to military violence, an end to both the dual function of the military and its territorial structure, stations members of the armed forces at every level of society, from the village to the capital.

The students also called for an investigation and bringing to trial of those responsible for the death of students in protests, including the four students from Trisakti University shot dead in May 1998 and the students killed in the protests against the state security bill during September 1999.

The protest, which finished at Atmajaya University, site of last year's clashes, was the culmination of three days of activities in Jakarta around the theme of ending military violence and opposition to militarism.

Students from the action committees affiliated to the National Student League for Democracy conducted a 20 km march from the University of Indonesia that took them past a large number of urban poor neighbourhoods. Such long marches are a tactic used by the radical student movement to reach out and interact with the urban poor and other oppressed sectors.

The anniversary action was important because it was the first major attempt to mobilise students since the election of Abdurrahman Wahid as president on October 20.

Many Indonesians consider the new government as a democratic break from Suharto's New Order regime. The action provided an opportunity both to test the extent to which this sentiment would affect the ability of students to mobilise against the government and to highlight the fact that there are still many unresolved democratic issues, such as the prosecution of human rights violators within the military, that the new government is unwilling to address.

This article originally appeared in Green Left Weekly #386

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Wednesday, October 20, 1999

Indonesian students demand: military out of politics!

By Chris Latham

Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is expected to elect a new president on October 20. Sections of the ruling Golkar party have raised the possibility of dropping their candidate, President B.J. Habibie, and supporting Megawati Sukarnoputri, who polled highest in Indonesia's general election in June.

Habibie has invited the head of the armed forces and defence minister General Wiranto to be his vice-president. Megawati, in an appeal for nationalist support, has called for a delay of the vote to ratify the result of the August 30 independence ballot in East Timor. Who the president will be remains uncertain.

On October 14, 1000 students clashed with the military on the streets of Jakarta. The protesters pointed out that Habibie is a continuation of the status quo. The troops involved in the clash were drawn from the 60,000 members of the Indonesian military (TNI) stationed in Jakarta to defend the MPR session.

Students are leading the battle to remove the major obstacle standing between the Indonesian people and their aspiration for a more democratic society  -  the TNI.

Military out of politics!
Since Suharto's resignation last year, the demand to end the military's dual role  -  in "defence" and politics  -  has gained widespread support. The TNI has unelected representatives in parliament at every level. The territorial structure of command in Indonesia places TNI personnel at every level of society, right down to the village, in order to block attempts to organise the mass sentiment against the regime.

The brutality of the TNI has been further exposed by its recent terror campaigns in East Timor and Aceh, which have deepened the Indonesian people's distrust of the TNI. In response, the regime has made a number of "reforms". There is now a formal division between the TNI and the Indonesian police (Polri), members of the military are no longer able to hold positions in the public service, and there is wide agreement among the elite about the need to phase out military seats in parliament (although this is not expected for another five years).

These reforms are superficial and the struggle remains to enforce and extend them. Last month, the TNI attempted to reassert itself through the introduction of a state security bill which would have given it greater powers to declare martial law, censor the press and detain people without trial. The bill was sneaked through the old military dominated parliament on September 23, in its last few hours of existence.

Three weeks of demonstrations by students, in which eight students were killed, and the impact of the TNI's defeat in East Timor, stopped Habibie from ratifying the bill, but it remains a threat. The bill could be ratified any time the military feels it can get away with it.

Students lead the way
Students were at the forefront of the movement which brought down Suharto. Whoever Indonesia's new president is, dwi fungsi remains. Students are intervening in the presidential battles with demonstrations to demand "Habibie out!" and an end to dwi fungsi.

Students from a range of different organisations have formed the National Student League for Democracy (LMND). The LMND has supported the development of workers', urban poor and farmers' groups, and participated in protests for workers' rights. In Jakarta, student groups that are now in LMND participated in May Day protests with members of the Workers Committee for Reform Action.

End military ties!
Political and financial support provided by the Australian government has helped the TNI maintain its powerful position in Indonesian society. This support has assisted the regime's violent repression of the movements for democracy in Indonesia and for self-determination in East Timor, West Papua and Aceh.

Even after the recent events in East Timor, the Australian government has cancelled only a few joint training exercises with the TNI. The defence treaty between Australia and Indonesia was cancelled by the Indonesian government. Australian businesses with investments in Indonesia, and their representatives in government, see the TNI as vital to protecting private profits.

The solidarity movement can play an important role in the struggle for democracy in Indonesia by maintaining the campaign to force the Australian government to end all military ties with the Indonesian regime. Resistance will continue to support this campaign.

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October 20, 1999

Originally published in Green Left Weekly #381

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Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Why socialists called for troops to Timor

By Lisbeth Latham

With the United Nations intervention in East Timor underway, the debate among left activists over what were the correct demands in response to the slaughter in East Timor continues.

There is general agreement on the need to force the Indonesian army (TNI) to withdraw from East Timor and disarm the militias, and that the Australian government must end military ties with the Indonesian regime, withdraw recognition of Indonesia's annexation of East Timor and recognise East Timor as an independent country.

The disagreement revolves around whether it was correct to call on the Australian government and the UN to send troops into East Timor to stop the bloodshed.

Resistance supported UN troops being sent into East Timor for three reasons:

  • It was a way in which to force the immediate withdrawal of Indonesian troops and allow East Timor to be independent;
  • It would stop the genocide of the East Timorese;
  • It would undermine the Australian government's alliance with the Indonesian regime, weaken the Indonesian military and strengthen the struggle for democracy in Indonesia.

Was the call for "troops in" correct? This needs to be judged by the results of the demand being met. Only a few days after the intervention was announced, the TNI said it would withdraw 80% of its personnel from East Timor. This was a victory for the East Timorese people and marked a stalling of TNI's campaign. It is vital that pressure is maintained to ensure that a complete withdrawal occurs as rapidly as possible.

The International Socialist Organisation (ISO) at first argued that the demand for "troops in" could not be met as the Australian government and the UN had no wish to act against the Indonesian regime. When the mass actions around Australia did force Howard to send troops, the ISO argued that the dispatch of UN troops would result in:

  • UN troops participating in the slaughter of the East Timorese and acting to create a dependent client state;
  • Australians developing illusions in the capacity of the United Nations and Australian imperialism to conduct humanitarian interventions; and
  • A decline in the East Timor solidarity movement.

Role of international troops
The deployment of Australian troops into East Timor was an attempt to quell mass discontent at the Australian government's failure to act to stop TNI's terror campaign against the East Timorese. In these circumstances, it would not have helped Canberra to achieve its goal if the UN troops allowed the slaughter to continue.

Trying to turn its defeat into a victory, the Howard government is claiming that it always intended to intervene. By arguing that the government actually wanted to send troops to East Timor (and that it must therefore serve the interests of imperialism rather than the East Timorese) the ISO has swallowed Howard's lies. This illustrates the ISO's lack of confidence in the capacity of mass mobilisations to change the policies of governments.

The ISO's assertion that Western countries such as Australia will try to exploit an independent East Timor following the intervention is true. But Australia does not need troops there to do this; it is already happening. Australian businesses benefit most from profits resulting from the Timor Gap Treaty.

To argue that the Australian government, or any other Western government, requires troops on the ground to make East Timor economically dependent ignores the reality that underdeveloped countries are economically tied to, and exploited by, the imperialist countries. This dominance will continue until there are successful anti-capitalist revolutions, not just in the Third World, but also in the imperialist countries.

Building illusions in the UN?
The argument that to call on the Australian government and/or the UN to send troops into East Timor "sows illusions" in these institutions is wrong. Through building a movement around specific demands which will solve the problems, we can expose the oppressive nature of capitalist institutions.

While the ISO supports demanding that the government junk its repressive industrial relations legislation and university fees, it opposes calling on the government to send troops to halt the slaughter in East Timor. What is the difference between demanding government action domestically and internationally?

In both cases, Resistance calls on the government to act in the interests of working people. While forcing a government to grant reforms can generate illusions in the capacity of capitalism to meet society's needs, the socialist movement's role is to point out that such reforms are only concessions, which the government will attempt to take back when the movement is not so strong.

Active involvement in mobilising large numbers of people to win, defend and extend such reforms can break people's illusions in the benevolence of the capitalist state. To refuse to place demands on the government would mean that we abstain from the battle to change people's consciousness.

UN intervention or union bans
The argument that calling on the UN/Australia to intervene in East Timor is counterposed to trade union activity is totally false. Unions engaged in industrial action and supported the mass protests calling for armed intervention. Union bans alone would have taken months to affect the Indonesian regime. The East Timorese people did not have months to spare.

The ISO demand for a general strike to stop the slaughter in East Timor was absurd and it had no support. An ISO rally with this demand only attracted a handful of people. If a general strike did take place  -  something Resistance would welcome  -  what would be its central demand? According to the ISO, it would be "more union bans". Focusing exclusively on trade union bans let the Australian government off the hook because it placed no demands on the Howard government to stop the slaughter.

The ISO have said that troops going into East Timor risked further bloodshed. This concedes to the pacifist argument that all violence is bad. It ignores the fact that the East Timorese were facing genocide.

The only practical way to end the slaughter immediately was to send an armed force strong enough to counter the TNI and militia violence.

Resistance supports the right of liberation movements to defend themselves from their oppressors. Socialists in the United States argued in the 1950s, '60s and '70s that African-American communities, in the face of organised racist violence by organisations like the Ku Klux Klan and the police, should be able to arm themselves. Socialists demanded that US government troops defend black communities and protect black students who were exercising their right to attend predominantly white schools.

When the government refused, socialists were able to expose the government's racism. In instances where the civil rights movement forced the government to deploy troops, as in Little Rock to enforce the ending of segregation in education, it was a defeat for the racists and a confidence boost for the oppressed group struggling for equal rights.

Decline in the mobilisations
The public mobilisations for East Timor have declined since the announcement that troops would be sent because the movement's main demand has been won. Most of the people participating in the protests did so because they wanted to stop the genocide. For ISO members to argue that it would have been better for the movement if troops did not go suggests that they believe it would have been better for the killing to continue.

Continued mass killing of East Timorese might have meant that the protests would have continued to grow in the short term, but this would not have lasted long. It is likely that TNI would have completed its slaughter of the pro-independence activists in East Timor within a few weeks.

This would have been a massive defeat for the East Timorese nation and would have profoundly demoralised the international solidarity movement. Surely socialists should advocate policies which prevent genocide and slaughter.

The fact that the solidarity movement won its main demand provides a basis for building larger mobilisations in the future. It has shown many people that mass action can force the Australian government to do what the Australian people want it to.

To maintain the momentum, we must now raise demands which further challenge the government's foreign policy and which build public support for the independence struggle in East Timor and the struggle for democracy in Indonesia.

Resistance demands:

  • No increases in military spending! The "defence" budget should be redirected to reconstructing East Timor. Australian business, such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum, which have profited from the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and the repression in Indonesia should pay reparations.
  • Put those responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor on trial! Not only Suharto, Wiranto, Prabowo, but also their Australian accomplices  -  from Whitlam to Howard.
  • End all military ties with the Indonesian regime!
  • Let all refugees stay in Australia and grant asylum with immediate residency to any East Timorese seeking refugee status!
  • Indonesian troops out of East Timor!
  • Recognise East Timor as a sovereign country! The East Timorese people alone should decide for how long UN troops remain on their soil and what they can do there.


[Latham Latham is a member of the Resistance national executive.]

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Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Why socialists call for troops in East Timor

Why socialists call for troops in East Timor
By Lisbeth Latham and Zanny Begg

A debate amongst the left has developed over the way to stop the violence in East Timor. Resistance demands an immediate armed intervention by the United Nations or Australian troops to force the withdrawal of the Indonesian military and disarm the militias. This demand is summarised by the chant at the demonstrations: "UN in, Indonesia out now!". Some on the left have argued against calling for UN/Australian troops to go into East Timor because they claim it would strengthen the hand of imperialism, not stop the bloodshed and sow illusions in the UN or the Australian government.

None of these arguments are true.

Strengthen imperialism?
Both the Australian government and the UN have said that they won't send troops to stop the slaughter until the Indonesian government accepts an international intervention.

The hesitancy to intervene reflects the Australian government's continuing support for the Indonesian regime. Rather than strengthening the hand of imperialism, sending troops in runs directly counter to the interests and wishes of imperialist countries like Australia, which do not want to undermine the power or authority of the Indonesian military.

Instead of an immediate armed intervention, Western governments have hinted that economic sanctions might be imposed on Indonesia. This would be ineffectual in stopping the bloodshed, and could even strengthen the Indonesian regime politically.

Sanctions would create the conditions for right-wing forces to whip up nationalist fervour. Forces in Indonesia which support independence for East Timor, such as the People's Democratic Party (PRD), would be targeted for further attack. The PRD has argued that sanctions would weaken the movement supporting East Timor, because the Islamic forces within the movement oppose sanctions.

Economic sanctions would punish the Indonesian people for the actions of their government, a government that the majority rejected in this year's election.

Stopping the bloodshed
An armed intervention by the UN or Australia to stop the bloodshed, force the withdrawal of the military and disarm the militias would place the resistance in a better position to continue its struggle for independence. If the Indonesian army is able to get away with its campaign of terror, it will be a massive setback for the East Timorese and could allow the Indonesian military to impose its version of a "final solution".

An armed intervention could halt the Indonesian policy of genocide by providing physical protection to the East Timorese. It is the only policy which can halt the massacre in the short term.

The massive solidarity movement with East Timor which has swelled onto the streets puts extra moral pressure on the Australian government. If it did send in troops, people would expect them to halt the slaughter. Anything less would expose the collaboration with the Indonesian regime and provoke a major crisis of confidence in the Australian government.

But stopping the slaughter in East Timor brings the Australian government into conflict with the Indonesian regime, a scenario Howard and Downer are keen to avoid.

While immediate intervention is against the intentions of the Australian government, it is possible for it to be forced to intervene by mass pressure from the Australian people. This would require the mobilisation of thousands in street protests. Such pressure would demonstrate to the government that the domestic costs of not intervening are higher than the gains.

It is only by placing these demands on the Australian government that socialists are able to highlight the contradiction between the governments claim to support democracy and the reality of its support for repression throughout Indonesia and East Timor.

If the movement is strong enough to force an intervention, it would be a massive victory  -  not just for struggle for East Timorese independence, but for all solidarity movements in Australia.

Failure to raise a demand that pressures the Australian government to take concrete action immediately to stop the killing would be a major mistake. If the killing continues at the present rate, there will be no time for diplomacy, trade union bans or other avenues to force the withdrawal of Indonesian troops.

Sowing illusions?
The demand "Troops in!" highlights the role of the Australian government and the UN in blocking action to end the bloodshed. Rather then sowing illusions, it will expose the unwillingness of capitalist governments to stop thousands of people being slaughtered.

The heroic 24-year struggle of the East Timorese people has already forced major concessions from Indonesia and imperialist governments. Even holding the UN-sponsored ballot was a concession won by years of struggle, and driven forward by the strength of the democracy movement in Indonesia.

At each step, the hypocrisy of the UN has been revealed to people all over the world. In 1991 people demanded to know why the UN was prepared to go to war in Iraq, when it was unwilling to lift a finger to save East Timor. During the war in Kosova people wondered why NATO countries like the US and Britain waged war to "save" the Albanians when they were not prepared to save East Timor and in fact assisted the Indonesian military.

If the solidarity movements and the liberation struggle in East Timor are powerful enough to force the UN or the Australian government to intervene, they will gain confidence that they have the power to force them to act elsewhere. A victory for the East Timorese would encourage the struggle against imperialism world over.

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September 15, 1999
Originally published in Green Left Weekly #376

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Wednesday, August 18, 1999

East Timor: Will the ballot stop the bloodshed?

By Chris Latham

Voter registration for the August 30 ballot on autonomy or independence for East Timor finished on August 6. Around 427,000 people registered. The large number of registrations is significant, reflecting the refusal of the East Timorese people to be intimidated by the Jakarta-backed pro-integration terror gangs and the Indonesian army (TNI).

It is clear, however, that the violence will continue up to the ballot and after. On August 5 and 6, the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was attacked by terror gangs. There are reports that the “militias” are stockpiling weapons and preparing terror attacks if the vote rejects autonomy.

On August 10, the East Timor Student Solidarity Council Information Centre in the district of Viqueque, about 200 kilometres east of Dili, was attacked. Two students were abducted. The following day the militias shot at the information centre, killing two students and injuring several others.

The police headquarters in Viqueque is located just 300 metres from where the attack occurred, yet no action was taken to protect the students or apprehend the gang members. This is not surprising, since it is the TNI and the police that have been repressing the East Timorese people for the last 25 years.

The Indonesian regime, especially General Wiranto, defence minister and head of the armed forces, has attempted to depict the violence as clashes between “rival factions”. It claims that the task confronting TNI is to prevent the outbreak of another civil war such as occurred in 1975.

In reality, if civil war does break out, it will be the result of the Indonesian regime's arming and funding of the militias. In 1975, Indonesian military intelligence instigated civil unrest in order to provide the pretext to invade East Timor.

There are no warring “factions” in East Timor. In the response to the violence by the TNI and the terror gangs, the pro-independence Falintil (Armed Forces for the Liberation of East Timor) has implemented a cease-fire and begun to move its guerillas into four camps in the mountains for the duration of the ballot.

The leadership of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) has offered to accept pro-integration supporters into a government of national unity if the people vote for independence.

Falintil commander Taur Matan Ruak said on August 7 that the result of the ballot will be accepted by his fighters if the vote is “democratic and free”.

A vote against autonomy will not result in immediate independence. Before independence is formally won, legislation must be passed by a meeting of Indonesia's parliament, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). The first MPR session is not due until late October. This will give TNI and the terror gangs two months to continue the violence in East Timor.

The violence has resulted in calls from human rights organisations for a larger UN police presence. The UN will have a limited impact as long as the Indonesian regime is responsible for security. Any genuine attempt to end violence in East Timor requires the immediate withdrawal of all Indonesian military personnel and the disarming of the militias.

We need to demand that the Australian government impose an arms embargo on Indonesia and sever all military ties. This would have a significant impact on the regime's capacity to continue to repress the people in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and the rest of Indonesia.

The Australian trade union movement should impose bans on Indonesian companies, as the ACTU threatened to do in May.

From Green Left Weekly issue #372

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East Timor: Will the ballot stop the bloodshed?

By Lisbeth Latham
Voter registration for the August 30 ballot on autonomy or independence for East Timor finished on August 6. Around 427,000 people registered. The large number of registrations is significant, reflecting the refusal of the East Timorese people to be intimidated by the Jakarta-backed pro-integration terror gangs and the Indonesian army (TNI).

It is clear, however, that the violence will continue up to the ballot and after. On August 5 and 6, the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was attacked by terror gangs. There are reports that the "militias" are stockpiling weapons and preparing terror attacks if the vote rejects autonomy.
On August 10, the East Timor Student Solidarity Council Information Centre in the district of Viqueque, about 200 kilometres east of Dili, was attacked. Two students were abducted. The following day the militias shot at the information centre, killing two students and injuring several others.

The police headquarters in Viqueque is located just 300 metres from where the attack occurred, yet no action was taken to protect the students or apprehend the gang members. This is not surprising, since it is the TNI and the police that have been repressing the East Timorese people for the last 25 years.

The Indonesian regime, especially General Wiranto, defence minister and head of the armed forces, has attempted to depict the violence as clashes between "rival factions". It claims that the task confronting TNI is to prevent the outbreak of another civil war such as occurred in 1975.

In reality, if civil war does break out, it will be the result of the Indonesian regime's arming and funding of the militias. In 1975, Indonesian military intelligence instigated civil unrest in order to provide the pretext to invade East Timor.

There are no warring "factions" in East Timor. In the response to the violence by the TNI and the terror gangs, the pro-independence Falintil (Armed Forces for the Liberation of East Timor) has implemented a cease-fire and begun to move its guerillas into four camps in the mountains for the duration of the ballot.

The leadership of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) has offered to accept pro-integration supporters into a government of national unity if the people vote for independence.
Falintil commander Taur Matan Ruak said on August 7 that the result of the ballot will be accepted by his fighters if the vote is "democratic and free".

A vote against autonomy will not result in immediate independence. Before independence is formally won, legislation must be passed by a meeting of Indonesia's parliament, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). The first MPR session is not due until late October. This will give TNI and the terror gangs two months to continue the violence in East Timor.

The violence has resulted in calls from human rights organisations for a larger UN police presence. The UN will have a limited impact as long as the Indonesian regime is responsible for security. Any genuine attempt to end violence in East Timor requires the immediate withdrawal of all Indonesian military personnel and the disarming of the militias.

We need to demand that the Australian government impose an arms embargo on Indonesia and sever all military ties. This would have a significant impact on the regime's capacity to continue to repress the people in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and the rest of Indonesia.

The Australian trade union movement should impose bans on Indonesian companies, as the ACTU threatened to do in May.
August 18, 1999

Originally published in Green Left Weekly #372

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Friday, July 9, 1999

Resistance conference guest attacked

By Chris Latham

Dhyta Caturani, who was scheduled as a guest speaker at the Resistance National Conference in Melbourne, July 8-11, was attacked by the Indonesian military in Jakarta on July 1. Dhyta was participating in a demonstration organised by the People's Democratic Party (PRD), which demanded an end to the dual role of the military in Indonesian politics and the disqualification of Golkar for electoral fraud (see articles on pages 3 and 4).

Dhyta was taken behind police lines and shot in the back of the head. Her face was badly beaten by the boot of a police officer.

Dhyta was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. Before losing consciousness, she told those around her, "I still want to go to the Resistance conference".

At the time Resistance magazine went to print, it was not clear whether or not Dhyta will be able to attend the conference. However, the PRD will try to send an alternative representative if Dhyta cannot attend.

Resistance has scheduled into the conference agenda a public action in solidarity with the victims of police repression in Indonesia. Supporters are asked to gather at 6pm on Friday, July 9, at Trades Hall for a march along Brunswick Street in the city.

Another guest speaker at the conference, Farooq Sulheria from the National Student Federation of Pakistan, has had his visa application rejected twice by the Australian government.

This article orginally appeared in Green Left Weekly #367

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Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Thousands march for independence and democracy

Thousands march for independence and democracy

By Chris Latham

On May 21 student protests in Jakarta marking the first anniversary of Suharto's resignation were attacked by the Indonesian military (ABRI). The protests reflected growing anger among students that the "new" regime in Indonesia has not brought Suharto to justice for the crimes of his New Order dictatorship. ABRI attacked the students when they had attempted to march to the Indonesian parliament building.

In Australia the next day, thousands of people participated in actions in solidarity with the students struggling for democracy in Indonesia and independence for East Timor. The international day of action, organised by Resistance and Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), demanded: End Australian military ties to the Habibie regime, Indonesian troops out of East Timor, Disarm the pro-integration terror gangs in East Timor, and Free the political prisoners in Indonesia


From Sydney, Bea Brear reports that 300 people participated in a vibrant march through the city streets. At Town Hall, Jenny Munro from the Metropolitan Lands Council launched the rally with greetings from the Aboriginal community.

Harold Moucho from Fretilin, Andrew Ferguson from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Jon Land from ASIET, Andrew McNaughtan from the Australia East Timor Association and Maung Maung Than, general secretary of the All Burma Student Democratic Organisation, addressed the crowd at different stages of the march.

At the Australian defence department building the protesters showed their condemnation of the military ties between Australia and Indonesia by burning the ABRI flag. Outside the United Nations' office, speakers criticised the UN-backed plan for East Timor's August 8 vote on autonomy which makes ABRI responsible for security.

The march ended at the office of Garuda airlines where a hunger strike from Resistance spoke about the political prisoners in Indonesia. The 24-hour hunger strike organised by Resistance in the city and Sydney's west raised more than $1000 for the campaign to free the political prisoners.

Stuart Munckton reports from Adelaide that 60 people gathered outside foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer's electorate office for an angry protest addressed by activists from Resistance, ASIET, the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) and Campaign for an Independent East Timor. A solidarity message from Indonesia's People's Democratic Party was received with loud applause.

Despite intermittent rain, about 150 people expressed their solidarity with the East Timorese independence movement in Brisbane, says Andy Gianniotis. Each speaker symbolically "cut military ties" with the Indonesian regime before going on to the podium.

Speakers included Mike Byrne from ASIET, former Queensland maritime union organiser Bob Carnegie, Alfonso Corte-Real from the East Timorese community, Damien Legoullon from the Brisbane East Timor Action Coalition, and Ursula Oertel and Stella Riethmuller from Resistance. Carnegie told the protesters: "It's our duty as working-class people to do everything humanly possible to make East Timor a free and independent country."

The protesters marched from King George Square to the Garuda travel centre and the Defence Forces Recruiting Centre chanting "Stop the killing, stop the lies end all military ties".

Two hundred people joined a lively march in Melbourne from the Indonesian consulate to the Victoria military barracks. Speakers included Grahame McCulloch from the National Tertiary Education Industry Union (NTEU), Jo Williams from ASIET, Resistance member Sharon Simmons, Joaquim Santos from Fretilin and Sharan Burrows from the Australian Education Union.

In Lismore, Nick Fredman reports, members and supporters of Resistance, the DSP and Lismore Friends of East Timor held a speak-out at which many passers-by stopped to collect information and sign petitions and a giant postcard addressed to the Australian government.

Sean Martin-Iverson reports that more than 150 people gathered at the Perth Cultural Centre where speakers included Sandra Rodriguez from UDT, Francisco Soares from Fretilin, secretary of the WA Trades and Labor Council Tony Cooke, Sarah Stephen from ASIET and Jane Black from Resistance. The protestors marched to the offices of Garuda airlines chanting "Free East Timor Indonesia Out!". Once there, an Indonesian flag was burned.

In Hobart, says Viv Miley, around 75 people gathered on the Parliament House lawns for the rally addressed by Nikki Ulaslowski and Huw Lockwood from Resistance, Edwina Foster from ASIET, Jenny Herrera from the East Timor Committee, Lynne Fitzgerald from the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council and Kamala Emmanuel from the DSP.

David Lam and Kylie Moon report that Resistance and other solidarity activists participated in a rally and march on the military barracks at Parramatta in Sydney's west. Crosses representing the atrocities of the Indonesian regime in East Timor, Indonesia, West Papua and Aceh were planted, and there was a symbolic burning of the Timor Gap Treaty.

Natalie Zirngast reports from Darwin that 130 people participated in the rally and march through the centre of the city led by East Timorese women drummers. The protest ended with an all-night candlelight vigil outside the Indonesian consulate.

In Newcastle, 25 people participated in a speak-out in the Hunter Street Mall. East Timorese activist John Dos Santos, Bob Burghat from Christians for Peace, an activist in the NTEU, Jane Beckmann from the DSP, Resistance's Graham Williams and Chris Latham from ASIET spoke. Ben McKinnon read a statement of solidarity from the Newcastle University Students Association to the students of Indonesia.

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Wednesday, May 19, 1999

West Papua: resistance continues

By Chris Latham

Since West Papua was transferred from Dutch to Indonesian control in 1963, the region has been subject to continuous human rights violations by the Indonesian regime and its armed forces.

In 1969, the Indonesian regime organised a phony "act of free choice" on West Papua's status. Only 1000 of the 1.8 million West Papuans were able to vote. Those who did were threatened and intimidated into voting for integration with Indonesia.

Since that time, any indication of support for an independent West Papua has been met with violence and repression. In 1977, villagers in the southern highlands, near the giant US-owned Freeport copper mine, were bombed because they were accused of collaborating with the Free West Papua Movement (OPM). OPM fighters cut the pipes taking the copper slurry down the coast.

In 1979, the Indonesian military killed 3000 members of the Dani tribe in the central highlands because they refused to swap their traditional clothing for trousers. In 1996, 22 West Papuans were massacred in the region near the Freeport mine.

In response to the political turmoil inside Indonesia, protests escalated in 1998. On July 2, 700 people in Biak raised the West Papuan flag and declared independence from Indonesia. The Indonesian government flew in troops on July 6 to remove the flag, killing five people and wounding 150 others in the operation. In the following week, the body count reached 70 as Indonesian troops hunted and killed independence supporters.

This crackdown sparked an angry response. Thousands of people raised the West Papuan flag in defiance of Indonesia. In February, Habibie was forced to hold a meeting with 100 West Papuan leaders, who demanded independence.

On May 14, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer confirmed that there had been a new crackdown in West Papua. There are now 48 West Papuan political prisoners in Indonesia's jails. The police have banned discussion of the February meeting with Habibie. Many of the 100 West Papuans who attended this meeting have been harassed and intimidated by Indonesian authorities.

This article originally appeared in Green Left Weekly #361

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Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Indonesia: Towards revolution or chaos?

The movement that developed last year in Indonesia, culminating in big upsurges in May and November, was based on concerns arising out of economic insecurity, and growing anger and rejection of the undemocratic and repressive regime.

The mass unrest was sparked by anger at Suharto's re-election to his seventh five-term as president. This occurred against a backdrop of increasing economic turmoil. Economic problems facing the people included massive price rises; the cost of essentials such as food, medicine and cooking fuel had exploded by 200-300%. Unemployment was on the rise as factory closures rapidly increased. These problems dissolved Suharto's last vestiges of legitimacy.


Suharto's resignation did not solve the problems. By October, 80 million people were below the poverty line, up from 20 million in 1997. The regime's inability to solve the economic problems combined with a growing recognition that the Habibie regime was no different from the Suharto regime.

Preparations began for protests against the November meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), which would decide on the laws governing the general elections in 1999. These protests reflected recognition that the MPR was the same body that had elected Suharto in March, and would reflect the interests of Suharto and his cronies. The broad student movement also demanded the end of the “dual role” of the military (ABRI).

These mobilisations reached truly mass proportions in Jakarta, with more than 1 million students and urban poor on the streets. When ABRI attacked the mobilisations on November 13, killing 12 people, the response was even greater mobilisations the next day. By November 15, however, the movement dissipated, because of the illusions the movement had in parliamentary reform.

The movement hoped that the loyal opposition of Megawati Sukarnoputri, Amien Rais and Abdurrahman Wahid would take power on the back of the student and masses' mobilisations. These opposition figures had no intention of playing this role. This left a power vacuum that no section of the student movement was able or willing to fill.

Prospects for further upsurge

Since November, the economic crisis has worsened. Although the rupiah has now stabilised, prices have continued to increase. The International Monetary Fund now controls the bulk of the economy, and has embarked on a wave of closures to recoup and protect the investments of Australian, European, US and east Asian capitalists.

These closures have resulted in a new wave of sackings, throwing more people into poverty. In January it was estimated that the number of Indonesians living in poverty had reached 130 million.

There has been no shift in the role of the military in politics. Despite a new formal “separation” between the police and military, ABRI and the police continue to work together against student and other demonstrations.

For example, on April 13, when student groups organised demonstrations in Jakarta, the army was used to disperse them even though the students had gone through the legal processes prior to the demonstration.

The regime has confirmed that ABRI will have a reduced representation in the parliament, but it will still retain 38 appointed members. More importantly, there has been no move abolish the territorial command system, which places military bases and posts at every level of Indonesian society down to the village level.

Diverting public anger

Since May 1998, there has been growing ethnic violence. Then, violence against ethnic Chinese massively increased, including widespread incidents of rape of ethnic Chinese women.

This has spread to include violence between Christians and Muslims in Ambon and parts of Java. This violence is not spontaneous but the result of a systematic campaign by the regime to divert public anger to suitable scapegoats such as new settlers or ethnic minorities.

There is considerable evidence that the military have actively supported and defended these attacks, including film footage in May showing soldiers helping looters in Chinese areas in Jakarta. The expansion of this violence provides an excuse for ABRI to crack down in order restore “order”.

An important part of this is the campaign by the far right to label the People's Democratic Party (PRD) and the radical student organisations such as the Student and People's Committee for Democracy (KOMRAD) and City Forum (FORKOT) as “communist”. They have been accused of being involved in an anti-Islamic conspiracy and responsible for the rape, mutilation and murder of Muslim women.

This campaign taps into the popular hatred of “communism” in Indonesia, where the regime has been able to falsely portray “communists” as murderers and rapists. This sentiment was demonstrated in November, when the students taunted the military by calling them “PKI” (Communist Party Indonesia).

The regime has recently included laws banning Marxist-Leninism in the criminal code. These laws replace the anti-subversion law.

Under the new laws, campaigning for the replacement of the state ideology, Pancasila, with communism is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment. Publishing Marxist writings is punishable by 12 years' imprisonment. Publishing communist writings that spark mass unrest, following the teachings of Marx and Lenin and organising people under communist teachings are all punishable by 15 years' imprisonment.

The attempt to intimidate the PRD has also been stepped up. Mugianto and Aan, PRD members who were kidnapped and tortured by ABRI in March, have recently received phone calls from their kidnappers asking, “Do you remember me?”.

Ending the dual function

The dual function of ABRI -- that is, the military's involvement in politics -- remains the biggest barrier to democracy. The masses see establishing democratic elections and curtailing the power of the military as the burning priority.

Only when the movement has won greater democratic space and people have learned through their own experiences the illusory nature of capitalist “democracy” will revolutionaries be able to win a hearing for socialist solutions to society's problems. The vast majority of Indonesian people see the June 7 elections as both democratic and a solution to their current problems.

The depth of these illusions can be seen in reports of rallies organised by political parties through urban poor areas, as opposed to those organised by students. During 1998, when students marched through urban poor areas, the urban poor would come to join them. In the past month, this has no longer been the case. At the same time, they are prepared to join political party rallies, showing that the urban poor have large illusions in the elections.

One important factor in breaking these illusions will be the experience of the elections themselves. The June 7 poll will be first real multi-party election in more than 30 years. After the election, no change in government policy will occur.

The major opposition figures Megawati Sukarnoputri (Democratic Party of Indonesia -- Struggle), Amien Rais (National Mandate Party) and Abdurrahman Wahid (National Awakening Party), who are likely to play a role in the next government, have stated a willingness to support both the IMF austerity measures and the military's dual function.

The PRD has launched a campaign tying the struggle for democratic demands to the ending of the dual role of the military and meeting the immediate economic needs of workers, farmers and the urban poor. These demands include a 200% increase in wages with cuts to prices; providing land to the tillers; and the nationalising of Suharto and his family's assets.

In order to win these demands, it is necessary to build organisations that can mobilise and unite the people in struggle. This process also provides the possibility to generate increased confidence and a sense of empowerment.

It is important to win all oppressed and exploited sectors of Indonesian society to this struggle; failure to convince and win these sectors would mean that they could be used against the democratic forces.

Revolution or chaos? The answer to this questions lies in the strength of the democracy movement and its ability to lead the anger and frustration of the masses in a coherent struggle against the regime and the capitalist system it supports.

[Chris Latham organised the Resistance exposure tour to Indonesia and is an activist in ASIET].

From Green Left Weekly issue #359

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Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Student power: the Indonesian example

By Chris Latham

Last year featured the largest protest movement in the history of Indonesia. These protests, which mobilised millions of people, ended the dictator Suharto's 32-year reign. They were primarily built by students.

How did students, a section of society which we are told has no economic or political power, bring about the downfall of the region's longest surviving dictator?

The protests developed around two key issues: the economic crisis and the lack of democracy in Indonesia. The collapse of Indonesia's currency, the rupiah, in early 1998 led to massive inflation and unemployment. The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) economic restructuring package required a reduction in government subsidies on rice, cooking oil and kerosene, causing shortages and hardship for millions.

Widespread dissatisfaction with Suharto was expressed in the lead-up to the March 10 meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), Indonesia's parliament. This reflected a growing recognition that the MPR was simply a “rubber stamp” for decisions already taken by Suharto and the ruling elite.

On March 10 in Yogyakarta, the day of Suharto's reappointment as president for a seventh five-year term, 10,000 students marched chanting, “Bring down prices, bring down Suharto!”.

Throughout 1998, the Suharto and B.J. Habibie regimes had attempted to intimidate and smash the student movement. At first attacking protests that attempted to leave campus, the regime became increasing desperate as the rallies began to grow and become more radical. They resorted to abducting, murdering and torturing student activists, and firing on protests.

These attacks only served to highlight the need for change and strengthened public awareness that students were suffering at the hands of the military because they were fighting for the people. The shooting of four students at Trisakti University on May 12 provoked outrage throughout Indonesia.

Between May 14 and 20, students took over the state-owned radio stations in Surabaya, Malang and Semarang, and the TV stations in Padang, West Sumatra. Occupations of regional parliament buildings occurred in a number of cities.

In Jakarta, students met after the shootings to discuss tactics. The more radical students proposed the mobilisation of workers, who were ready to join the students for the May 20 rallies. In a debate within the Jakarta-wide Forum Korta (Forkot), conservative students from the Tertiary Students' Student Senates argued that the involvement of non-students would lead to rioting.

The radical People's Democratic Party (PRD) argued that the urban poor would come out on the streets anyway and that students should build alliances with these forces and provide clear political direction. The more conservative students won the vote.

On May 20, approximately 500,000 people mobilised in Yogyakarta. In Jakarta, 150,000 occupied the grounds around the parliament. Forkot students established check points to physically prevent people without a student card from joining the protest.

Suharto's Resignation

In the face of mounting opposition, Suharto resigned from the presidency on the morning of May 21. Suharto's resignation and his replacement by Habibie had a demobilising effect on the movement. How could a movement which had succeeded in removing a dictator be mollified with such small concessions?

Suharto resigned not because of the immediate impact of the movement but because the regime feared the protests could escalate and the radicalisation deepen. Such a development could have resulted in the student movement in Jakarta following the lead of students in regional cities by forging links with peasants, the urban poor and workers. Suharto's resignation removed the focus of mass anger without requiring any real reforms or redistribution of the vast assets controlled by Suharto and his family.

The more radical students did attempt to restart the student mobilisations in late June to call for Habibie's resignation. These protests were met by counter-mobilisations by conservative students who argued it was necessary to give Habibie time to prove himself.

On November 9 to 13, a special session of the MPR, composed of the same individuals who had re-elected Suharto president in March, met to set the date for national elections and determine the composition of the parliament. On November 11 to 14, mass protests occurred in Jakarta against the session. Four demands united the protesters: reject the special session of the MPR; abolish the dual role of the armed forces (called dwifungsi); put Suharto on trial; and establish a provisional government.

There was some disagreement about what was meant by a “provisional government”. The Jakarta Student Senate Communication Forum demanded a presidium made up of figures in the political elite who have real mass support and a reputation of being free of corruption. Forkot demanded a people's committee comprising a broad range of figures and organisations active in the democracy movement.

The PRD, the Student and People's Committee for Democracy, Workers' Committee for Reformation Action (KOBAR) and Megawati Supporters' Committee campaigned for a democratic coalition government made up of progressive forces that have struggled consistently for democracy. They argued that it should be controlled by people's councils established from the district level.

The early protests mainly consisted of university students, although some urban poor were involved. The number of urban poor, however, grew to massive proportions in the later protests. The first day mobilised 5000 people, and the second day drew 10,000. On the third day, November 13, the numbers reached almost a million and virtually surrounded the parliament.

The protests were attacked by 30,000 troops and brigades of thugs (pan swakarsa) armed with sharpened bamboo. Eleven protesters were killed by the military. During the fighting, the urban poor defended the students, killing four members of the pan swakarsa. They placed 20,000 rupiah notes on the bodies to indicate they were paid vigilantes.

Organising Workers

Students involved in the PRD and its student organisation, Students in Solidarity for Democracy in Indonesia, have played an important role in organising workers in Indonesia. Through establishing the Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggle and involvement in KOBAR, the PRD has fought for workers' right to organise in trade unions.

The movement has undermined the government's propaganda that workers were being “used” by “communists”. It has become easier to involve workers in actions around political, as well as economic demands.

The national elections scheduled for June 7 will dominate Indonesian politics in 1999. Many students will act as election monitors. The PRD's participation will allow it to reach many people and will highlight that it is the only party to oppose the IMF's austerity package and to consistently call for an end to the military's involvement in politics.

The dramatic events in Indonesia show the power of student political protest. Students were able to detonate a mass movement for democracy and continue to lead the movement for fundamental change.

From Green Left Weekly #352

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Wednesday, March 3, 1999

Kurdish community protests Ocalan's imprisonment

By Chris Latham

SYDNEY — More than 500 people attended a lively protest against the abduction and imprisonment of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan on February 23. The protesters included Kurds from Iran, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Armenia, reflecting the unity in the Sydney Kurdish community.

To chants of "Ocalan we are with you", "Turkish state, terrorist state", "Peace in Kurdistan, peace in the Middle East" and "Vietnam yesterday, Kurdistan today", the protesters marched from Sydney Town Hall to the United Nations' Information Centre (UNIC).

The protesters demanded that representatives of international human rights organisations be allowed to visit Ocalan daily to ensure his safety and security; that Ocalan (and Turkey's leaders) be tried in an international court rather than the Turkish military's State Security Court; and that an international commission be formed to conduct a fair and open trial.

In reply, a spokesperson for UNIC said there was little the UN could do for the Kurdish people unless a UN member country raises the issue.

Countering the label of "terrorist" that has been pinned on the PKK and other Kurdish organisations, the Committee for Solidarity with President Ocalan said in a statement: "It has always been the Kurdish people's desire to end the oppression through peaceful and democratic means such as dialogue, referenda and/or internationally monitored fair and honest elections.

"However, successive Turkish governments under directives from the dominant military have denied the very existence of the Kurdish people and their cultural heritage ... We remind all caring men and women of the world that the Turkish oppression of the Kurdish people continues with bans and restrictions on the use of their language for education, broadcasting over radio and television, judicial proceedings and ordinary trade and commerce."

You can contact the Committee for Solidarity with President Ocalan by phone on (02) 9676 7245, fax on (02) 9676 8332 or e-mail at .

From Green Left Weekly #351.

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Wednesday, February 3, 1999

Indonesian high school students in the struggle

Resistance magazine's Chris Latham spoke with visiting People's Democratic Party (PRD) student leader Wahyu about the development of the high school student movement in Indonesia.

Question: How has the involvement of high school students in the democratic struggle developed?

Activity with the high school students began even before the May uprisings. For the last two or three years, small groups of high school students have been active around the issues of school fees, against the corrupt heads of schools, against their teachers and also against the corporatisation of high schools.

The movement has escalated from May 6, when subsidies were cut and many students could no longer afford to go to school.

In the beginning of May, their demands were still around education issues. The May demonstrations which overthrew Suharto gave high school students the experience and confidence to be involved in broader struggle. During the upheaval in November, when the People's Representative Assembly had its extraordinary sessions, many more high school students were involved. The first victim shot dead by the military was a high school student.

Question: What has the response been to the involvement of high school students?

There has been a positive response from the community because in the past the image of high school students is that of delinquency, with students being arrested and taken to the juvenile courts. Now they see that high school students are political because students are involved in the fight for democracy, and they have received respect.

Question: Are there specific high school student organisations?

The high school students' organisations in the major cities in Indonesia are the High School Students Solidarity Association (ASPG) in Jakarta, Lampung High School Councils and also many other groups formed in Solo, Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

Mostly these high school students' associations are affiliated to the movement in the city, which has a broader perspective of combining the political forces of the workers, urban poor and peasants. The PRD has a proposal that a nationwide high school student organisation be initiated.

Question: Why does the PRD see organising high school students as important?

We give priority to organising among high school students. We consider it is important to organise the high school students because when they finish high school they go to university or to the college or to the city to get a job. Their experience during high school gives them experience for political work in their workplace or place of study. High school students have also shown their willingness to struggle for democracy.

From Green Left Weekly issue #347

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Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Rage against the regime: Students fight for democracy in Indonesia

Chris Latham

Last May mass demonstrations toppled one of the most brutal dictators in the world -- President Suharto of Indonesia. Having held power for over 32 years, with the full backing of most of the world's rich and powerful countries, Suharto was thought invincible by many.

Protests engulfed the whole of Indonesia, sweeping every campus, in every city and town. Students took to the streets, in defiance of military orders not to leave campus, to demand that Suharto resign.

The support for the student movement was grew daily. Scared by the massive demonstrations and the possibility of losing control, one by one Suharto's cronies began to call for his resignation. Finally, Suharto handed power to his vice president, B.J. Habibie.

Despite the change of the regime's face, not much else has changed. In the months since the fall of Suharto, the lot of most Indonesians has continued to worsen. The poor bear the brunt of the economic crisis, while the rich continue to hold power and protect their wealth.

The plummeting value of the rupiah, Indonesia's currency, and austerity programs enforced by the International Monetary Fund caused an additional 6 million Indonesians to slip below the poverty line in the space of four months.

The prices of life's necessities have skyrocketed -- medicines by 500%, rice by 300%. Many factories have closed, and millions have lost their jobs. The average income of Indonesians has dropped by at least 60% over the last six months.

The `bailouts'

Meanwhile, the rich in Indonesia have survived virtually unscathed. Suharto, worth around US$60 billion before the crisis, was estimated by the CIA to be the richest man in the world. While many of his Indonesian possessions will have depreciated, billions more are stashed away overseas.

Despite repeated popular calls for Suharto's wealth to be expropriated to lessen the effects of the economic crisis, the Habibie regime refuses to act. Instead, it blocks access to Suharto's residence with tanks and barricades.

The purpose of the “bailout” of Indonesia by the IMF and World Bank is to service the debts of Indonesian big business to international banks, not to ease the suffering or feed the Indonesian people.

The bailout is not a free handout. The Indonesian workers and peasants will have to pay back “their” debts. The Australian government, a long-time friend of the regime, has contributed $1 billion to this.

The struggle continues

In November, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), a body stacked with the military and appointees of Suharto, met to plan a new election. Recognising that this body would reinforce the status quo, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets to prevent the meeting and to demand “total reform”.

The military opened fire, killing 13 and wounding hundreds more.

In response, the students, workers and peasants surged onto the streets in their millions and occupied military bases, government buildings, radio and TV stations and airports. They demanded an end to the military's role in politics, the establishment of a provisional government not connected to the old regime, new elections and the arrest and seizure of the assets of Suharto, Habibie and Wiranto (head of the armed forces).

Many of the activists who had been part of the campaign to topple Suharto had argued in the months after his resignation that the movement should give the new regime a chance.

The radical wing of the movement, led by the People's Democratic Party (PRD), argued that the overthrow of Suharto would not overcome the problems facing Indonesian society. It put forward demands to meet the needs of the people and called for the resignation of Habibie.

The PRD is also the first Indonesian group to support the East Timorese people's struggle for self-determination.

The PRD argues that, for the movement to succeed, it must involve all oppressed sections of the population. During the November events, based on the agitation of PRD members, thousands of the urban poor and peasants were drawn into the mobilisations. This demonstrated that students can reach and politicise broader layers of people with the right demands.

Building solidarity

Resistance has always opposed the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Resistance was one of the first organisations in Australia to build solidarity with the movement for democracy in Indonesia.

As a socialist organisation, Resistance opposes the imperialist policies of Australian governments, both Labor and Liberal. Canberra has supported the suppression of the rights of the East Timorese and Indonesians to protect the interests of Australian big business. Resistance supports and publicises the policies and activities of the radical PRD.

Resistance has called an international day of solidarity with the Indonesian student movement for May 22. The action coincides with the anniversary of the May 21 overthrow of Suharto.

Protests around the country, and the world, will mobilise support for the Indonesian and East Timorese movements against the Indonesian dictatorship. In Indonesia this year, more than 20 student activists have been shot dead and scores more wounded or detained. Thousands of East Timorese students have been killed or jailed since their country was invaded.

In both countries, students have vowed not to end their protests until the military are out of politics and full freedom is won.

The May 22 protests will demand: free the political prisoners; free the detained student activists; end all ties to the Indonesian military; and withdraw recognition of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

Activist tour to Indonesia

Resistance is coordinating an activist tour of Indonesia, jointly sponsored by the Student and People's Committee for Democracy (KOMRAD) and the student group Students in Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia (SMID).

The tour will be a chance for students from Australia and New Zealand to travel to Indonesia and stay with activists of the democracy movement. Meetings will be organised with students, East Timorese activists, high school students, women, trade unionists, the urban poor and gay and lesbian organisations.

It will be a chance to share experiences of struggle in Australia and learn from the movement in Indonesia.

Resistance is inviting interested students to join the tour. It will leave Australia in early April and last 10 days. The cost will be approximately $1200. Places are very limited. Phone Chris Latham at (02) 9690 1230 or fill out the clip-off below.

From Green Left Weekly issue #346

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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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