Thursday, December 2, 2010

Remembering My Detention In Indonesia

Lisbeth Latham

Eleven years ago today I was arrested in Jakarta, by members of the POLDA Metro Jaya intelligence unit. At the time I was arrested I had been with some members of the Front Nasional Perjuangan Buruh Indonesia (Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggle – FNPBI) who were conducting a sit-in at the national parliament building.

This was the third protest involving the group of workers which I had attended. The first was outside the International Labour Organisation’s office in Jakarta, to call on the ILO to place pressure on the Indonesian government to enact legislation, consistent with ILO conventions, which would allow unions organised primarily on a geographical basis to registered, rather requiring unions to be based on an industry basis. The second protest was outside the clothing factory which the workers were employed to demand reinstatement after the owner sacked the workers for attending the protest. Final protest sought the reinstatement of the workers and a change in the national parliament.

Following my arrest, I was taken to the Metro Jaya headquarters along with Doming who had insisted he be able to accompany me. I was interrogated over the next 24-hours before being taken to an immigration detention centre. On December 5, I had two visits, the first was by staff from the Australian Embassy. They informed me that they had noticed the article which I’ve included below regarding my arrest and decided they should investigate my situation, the Embassy had been informed of my arrest two days earlier by FNPBI chairperson Dita Sari. The Embassy people told me they didn’t know exactly what was happening, but that there was a possibility that I would be charged with violating my visa – a charge which carried a five year prison sentence. I was informed that if that occurred it could be up to six months before the trial would run its course – they told me that I would have to arrange and pay for my own defence, but they had forgotten to bring the list of lawyers. I was informed that they hoped I would simply be deported on my ticket in two days time, but if not they would come and see me on the Monday morning. with the list of lawyers.

Later that day Mugianto from the Partai Rakyat Demokratik’s (Peoples Democratic Party – PRD) International Department came to visit with a lawyer, they had managed to get access to me for a short period of time. Mugi said that they hoped that I would be deported using my ticket on Sunday December 7, as if I did not fly on that date, there were no more seats on flights and I could be waiting for a month for a flight. Mugi also told me about the protests against the WTO in Seattle which had happened earlier in the week (because of my detention I never saw any of the footage from Seattle and would see footage in 2000 in the lead up to the S11 protests in Melbourne).

The next day I was visited by Roma, the FNPBI’s international officer who had just returned from the Seattle protests. Prior to going to Seattle, Roma had made me promise not to do anything stupid ... Roma had managed to get into the detention centre by convincing one the guards to let her in, largely on the basis that were both from North Sumatra.

On the Sunday I was eventually taken to the airport, about an hour before my flight. Prior to be taken I was convinced I would not be getting on the flight. I was deported from Indonesia and banned from returning for one year, however one of the officials indicated that I could expect to be detained if I returned within five years. I got back the day the final Green Left Weekly was printed, which contained the article below – It was a rather surreal experience to sell a paper with an article about me in prison.

Overall while the experience in Indonesia was extremely frightening, I knew I was in far less danger than my Indonesian comrades, many of whom had been kidnapped and tortured during the struggle. I have always attempted to use the bravery of the Indonesian student and worker movement to inspire my continued participation in continuing struggle for democracy and socialism.

Australian held for violating visa.
3 December 1999
Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (JP): Police intelligence officers are questioning an Australian national over his participation in a number of street protests here, city police spokesman Lt. Col. Zainuri Lubis said on Tuesday.
By participating in the rallies on labor and political issues, the suspect, identified as Christopher, violated existing immigration regulations, he said.
"Christopher came here on a tourist visa, but he was here to take part in street protests. He'll be charged under Article 50 of Law No. 9/1992 on immigration regulations," Zainuri said.
If found guilty of violating the article, the suspect could be deported and banned from the country for a year.
The latest rally Christopher took part in was last Tuesday's labor protest at the House of Representatives in Central Jakarta, the officer said.
The protest was organized by the Federation of All-Indonesian Workers Union of Reform.
"This is his second trip to Indonesia. His first was on April 6 this year," Zainuri said.
The suspect also was seen playing an active role in a number of other protests, including one organized by the Democratic People's Party (PRD) outside Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta, an International Labor Organization protest at the United Nations building on Jl. Thamrin in Central Jakarta and a protest in front of the Presidential Palace on Jl. Medan Merdeka in Central Jakarta.
"His passport also states that his status is that of a student and that he belongs to a non-governmental organization in Australia called ASIET.
"He is currently under the supervision of the police's Foreigner Control unit. He will soon be transferred to the immigration office in Kalideres, West Jakarta, to be held in quarantine," Zainuri said.
The officer also said that any Indonesians who gave shelter to the suspect should immediately report to the police.

Australian solidarity activist jailed in Jakarta
By Max Lane
Green Left Weekly #388 December 8, 1999

Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor member Chris Latham was arrested in Jakarta on November 29. Latham, who is a student in Sydney, was participating in a demonstration of workers and students organised by the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles.
Latham was held and interrogated at Jakarta Central Police Station until December 2, when he was moved to the Immigration Detention Centre on the outskirts of Jakarta. He is imprisoned in a three-by-three-metre cell with two other people, one from Nigeria and one from South Africa.
Latham has not yet been told whether he is to be deported or brought to court in Indonesia. He has been visited by Australian embassy representatives and the People's Democratic Party (PRD) international department spokesperson, Mugianto.
According to Mugianto, Jakarta police are accusing Latham of repeatedly attending demonstrations in Indonesia, an activity which the police say contravenes the conditions of tourist visas. It appears that Latham has been under close surveillance during his stay — the police had detailed knowledge of his attendance at demonstrations.
Latham's arrest follows a raid by Indonesian intelligence officials on the Lampung office of the PRD the previous week. The officials said they were looking for Australian Democratic Socialist Party activist Roberto Jorquera, who was visiting Indonesia and meeting with student activists. Jorquera was not in Lampung at the time, but was later detained briefly at Denpasar airport in Bali as he left Indonesia.
The PRD protested against the raid and pointed out that Jorquera's visit to Indonesia was conducted openly and that the PRD activities he had attended in Lampung had been public events.


Stuart Munckton December 4, 2010 at 2:42 PM  

The JP news article reminded me of when I was detained with Mary by military in 1997 (Suharto still being in power), after the military and police came to immigrantion centre they kept us at at 1am to take us to police station and then they interviewed separately till the sun was up I was sitting there with officials waiting for Mary's interview to finish and they had the English speaking news on. The item about the student protest we were arrested at came on and the newsreader reported it had been organised by two Australians - they were blaming "outside forces" for the protest. That was one of the more surreal things that can occur to a person...

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