[Fwd: Green Left Weekly - August 18, 1999]
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Fri Aug 20 16:03:29 MDT 1999
Green Left Weekly - August 18, 1999
* Indonesian army stokes violence in Aceh
* Indonesian oil workers win strike
* Timor: `We need to mobilise people's power'
* A night with Falintil
* Indonesian activist undaunted by attack
* Megawati, Habibie and political alternatives
* Violence jeopardises ballot in East Timor
* East Timor: Will the ballot stop the bloodshed?
Indonesian army stokes violence in Aceh
By James Balowski
On August 4, a two-day general strike in Indonesia's northernmost
province of Aceh left most cities and towns deserted, public
transport paralysed and business brought to a standstill. This is
the first such protest in Aceh and highlights broadening and
widespread resentment against Indonesian military violence.
It also indicates that support for secession from Indonesia are
no longer limited to students and "separatist rebels" of the Free
Aceh Movement (GAM), which has been waging an armed struggle for
independence since the mid-1970s.
The student groups and activists who organised the strike called
on Jakarta to withdraw its troops from Aceh, investigate human
rights abuses by the military and hold a referendum on the status
of the province, similar to the vote planned for East Timor on
The action was supported by the Solidarity Forum for Aceh -- a
grouping of 27 non-governmental organisations -- which held a
series of discussions, exhibitions and fundraising sales of
paintings in Jakarta on August 5.
On August 6, Acehnese protesters were removed by police from the
grounds of the Dutch embassy in Jakarta, where they had been
camped for more than 36 hours. The nine, who dashed into the
embassy grounds two days before, had vowed not to leave until
their demands for self-determination in Aceh were met. Although
they were trucked to police headquarters, they were released
A military spokesperson, Lieutenant Eddy Hariadi, told Associated
Press on August 5 that rebels had orchestrated the work stoppage
to destabilise the region. "They want to frighten society and
prevent people from carrying out their daily activities," he said.
The strike ended peacefully late on August 5.
Anger at military violence
The strike was responding in part to a massacre of as many as 71
civilians by Indonesian troops in Blang Merandeh village in
Beuton Atech, west Aceh.
According to a July 28 report by the Aceh Forum, 100 military
personnel -- known to the Acehnese as "the civilian killers" --
arrived at the village in 17 military trucks at around 4pm.
The village head was ordered to gather all residents at the house
of a religious leader, Tengku Bantakiah. Eight men were then
taken by soldiers to act as "guides" to search for GAM members; two
houses were torched during the search.
Failing to find anything, the soldiers returned and ordered some
70 men from the village to assemble in front of Bantakiah's
house. According to witnesses, the commander of the unit,
Lieutenant Colonel Sudjono, then shot Bantakiah at point-blank
range. When his son and wife ran to his side, they were also
shot. Villagers were then forced at gunpoint to bury the three.
Once the burial was over, the villagers were again ordered to
line up and fired on with automatic weapons. Twenty-eight were
killed on the spot and their bodies dumped in a well behind
Bantakiah's home. The injured were loaded onto a military truck
and later killed and their bodies dumped.
On July 30, 25 bodies were found in ravines near the village, and
on the following day 15 more were discovered in ravines near Alur
Baru village, around two kilometres from the site of the
massacre. Residents said that most of the bodies had gunshot
On August 1, Reuters news service quoted the Commission for
Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) as saying that
more than 100 people were killed in the massacre. Kontras' head,
Munir, told the Indonesian-language daily Media Indonesia,
"Families of the victims have said that the number of deaths could
surpass 100 ... we are pretty sure that the number of victims
The military has denied the reports, saying that the victims died
in a gunfight between soldiers, police and GAM rebels.
The military district commander, Colonel Syarifuddin Tippe, said
that 31 people were killed and a large cache of weapons seized.
He denied the reports of a cold-blooded massacre.
The strike was also in response to an announcement by the
national police chief, General Rusmanhadi, of a new six-month
offensive against Aceh separatists involving 6186 Aceh police and
auxiliaries and some 5000 backup troops. The new offensive
included an order to shoot on sight any suspect civilians
carrying arms who "bother the public".
The Aceh police chief told Media Indonesia on August 2 that the
offensive -- dubbed Sadar Rencong Operation II -- will target
some 200 "armed civilians" who have been identified and whose
hideouts were known. "We only have to wait for the right time to
act. What is certain is that our target is already clear", he
At least 450 people have died in Aceh over the past 11 months.
The majority have been innocent citizens mistakenly or
deliberately targeted by the military.
Military violence in the province has escalated dramatically
since a May 3 massacre in the village of Krueng Geukeuh, when
soldiers opened fire on several thousand Acehnese protesting
against abusive treatment by the army. According to eyewitnesses,
the shooting went on for 30 minutes, killing 41 and wounding more
Human rights groups say that most were shot in the back as they
tried to escape or as they lay face down on the ground. Many of
the dead and injured were later trucked away by the military and
thrown into nearby rivers.
Since Jakarta's announcement of the new offensive, at least 20
more have been killed, including 14 woodcutters and farmers who
were mistaken as rebels and blasted with grenades.
Rather than withdrawing troops as recommended by human rights
groups and Acehnese NGOs, Jakarta has hardened its line.
In an interview on August 3, President B.J. Habibie said that
Aceh is to Indonesia what Georgia is to the US -- an integral
part of the country. East Timor, by comparison, is like Puerto
Rico to the US, a territory. He also ruled out any formula
similar to that used for East Timor, warning that any province
trying to do so would face the might of the Indonesian military.
On August 4, Amnesty International described the human rights
situation in Aceh as "critical". Amnesty accused the Indonesian
military of "rampant violence" and said that "deploying more troops
in the province would only worsen the situation".
"The recent escalation in human rights violations in Aceh,
including dozens of extrajudicial executions, disappearances and
arbitrary arrests flies in the face of the government's
commitments to address human rights problems in Indonesia,"
It added: "President B.J. Habibie's government has so far failed
to bring to justice members of security forces who tortured,
disappeared or unlawfully killed thousands of Acehnese during
counter-insurgency operations in Aceh from 1989 to 1998. The
government's failure to address human rights violations in the
past sends a message to the security forces that they can
continue to kill ... without being held to account."
In response to the report, Syarifuddin Tippe, told the Jakarta
Post, "It is impossible that TNI [armed forces] could be so
cruel ... What do you think we are, the enemy of the state?".
"The reason why people fear the GAM more than the military is that
they are more sadistic", he claimed.
In response to the escalating military violence, over the last
few months thousands of refugees have fled the region and are now
sheltering in the grounds of mosques and schools. In northern and
eastern Aceh, numbers have reached 140,000, and many are living
in squalid conditions.
Aceh's secretary to the governor, Sofyan Muchtar, told the state
news agency Antara on July 31, "Their health is getting worse due
to inadequate sanitary facilities and lack of clean water".
The head of Aceh's Ministry of Health office, Hanif Asmara, said
refugees suffered fever, respiratory diseases, diarrhoea, cholera
How much public support there is in Aceh for GAM remains unclear.
Although most of its attacks have been against police and
military personnel and there have been few if any attacks on
civilians, GAM activities such as hijacking buses and trucks have
caused significant disruption in some parts of the province.
However, GAM's ability to move about openly and evade the
military suggests that it has considerable support in some parts
of the province.
GAM public statements have made it clear that it will continue
its armed struggle. On August 5, Associated Press reported that
GAM had threatened to blow up a natural gas refinery in
Lhokseumawe if Indonesia didn't withdraw its troops. Asnawi
Mansur, spokesperson for GAM, told AP, "We're not playing games".
Indonesian oil workers win strike
The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and
General Workers' Unions (ICEM) reports that 8000 Indonesian oil
rig workers ended a six-week strike on August 7, after winning
many of their demands.
The strikers are members of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union
(SBSI) employed in central Sumatra by PT Tripatra, a contractor
for Caltex Petroleum, which is a joint venture between Chevron
The workers went on strike on June 21, following PT Tripatra's
failure to follow an Indonesian Ministry of Manpower directive to
pay the workers compensation and make them permanent employees.
PT Tripatra fired all the strikers on July 6 and used the
security forces to harass and intimidate the strikers.
On July 23, the security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets
into a crowd of strikers, shooting one in the head, and assaulted
The SBSI took its case to the Indonesian parliament, the National
Commission on Human Rights and the US embassy in Jakarta on July
The 20-million-strong ICEM mobilised protests by its oil worker
affiliates around the world. Among those who took action were two
ICEM vice-presidents -- Robert Wages of the US union PACE and
Fred Higgs of the British Transport and General Workers Union --
who immediately lodged protests with Chevron and Texaco.
The ICEM and the US labour federation AFL-CIO organised a
demonstration of 150 people at Texaco's Washington offices. This
drew media attention in both the USA and in Indonesia.
As a result of the pressure, Caltex and PT Tripatra did an
about-face. In an August 6 settlement mediated by a committee of
the Indonesian parliament, the union agreed to end the strike and
the company agreed to reinstate all the strikers. Although the
workers did not win the severance payment they wanted, PT
Tripatra agreed that when its five-year contract with Caltex
expires in 2003, the workers will have permanent status and will
receive full compensation under the law.
Muchtar Pakpahan, general chairman of the SBSI, on August 12
thanked the ICEM, the AFL-CIO and the American Center for
International Labor Solidarity for their support of the oil
strikers. Together with the union's lobbying effort at the
Indonesian parliament, he said, "This work helped bring the strike
to a just conclusion. As a result, the 8000 workers at PT
Tripatra will work under fairer and more secure conditions."
Timor: `We need to mobilise people's power'
By Max Lane
Jakarta -- Shalar Kosi is the secretary general of the Socialist
Party of Timor (PST). In an interview with Green Left Weekly, he
stressed that the crucial question for socialists in East Timor
is building bases among the people.
"One of the frameworks for this has been the formation this year
of groupings in different sectors", he explained. "These include
the Workers Socialist Alliance, the Peasant Socialist Alliance,
the Socialist Youth Alliance, Socialist Alliance of Women and a
Socialist Study Centre. They are all at the early stages of
development, although many workers outside East Timor, such as in
Lampung, are already organised.
"In East Timor, we have the beginnings of bases among port
workers, construction workers and drivers. Among coffee farmers,
both small owners and labourers, we have some cells that are also
A theme in Shalar Kosi's analysis is the necessity of a strategy
of mass action, both for the independence struggle and for a
socialist East Timor.
"We think the chances of victory in the referendum are good", he
said, "but we would have preferred that the movement reject the UN
agreement on May 5 and then apply pressure through mass actions
for one where the Indonesian army wasn't in charge of security
for the referendum. Even now, we think that there should be more
pressure applied through mass action, through people's power."
The PST, which was formed as a party in 1997, is not a member of
the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) nor of
Fretilin. One of the reasons is that the CNRT does not recognise
the 1975 declaration of independence that formed the Democratic
Republic of East Timor (DRET). There are other differences too,
such as on people's power as a central tactic.
The PST has helped form the People's Council for the Defence of
the Republic (CPD) which organised demonstrations soon after the
May 5 UN agreement was signed. The CPD, said Kosi, is a loose
network, including many non-party people who still support the
"But now we are working together with Xanana Gusmao and the CNRT
to mobilise for the referendum. We also support the proposal for
a coalition government after a referendum victory, which includes
the current pro-integration forces."
The PST was represented among the pro-independence groups that
participated in the recent "dialogue" between pro-Jakarta and
independence groups in Jakarta, which also included figures such
as Jose Ramos Horta.
According to Kosi, a coalition government should have only two
tasks: to keep the administration going and to prepare general
elections. "We want free multi-party elections as soon as possible
after a coalition government can be formed. Six months is
preferable, but definitely no more than two years.
"We would like to see a second referendum also, on whether people
wish to re-establish the Democratic Republic of East Timor that
was proclaimed in 1975. The people should have the right to have
their say on that too."
Kosi expressed caution on whether Jakarta would abide by the
results of the referendum if the independence option won. There
was still a question whether the Indonesian army (TNI) would
withdraw as required and whether it would leave armed militias
"Again, we will need to mobilise people's power. We will need
stronger organised bases among the people."
Kosi stated that people's power would be as effective as the role
of Falintil, the resistance army. History had shown that guerilla
struggle and people's power can be a very powerful combination.
"We also have no problem with the disarming of Falintil together
with the militias. This will open up more space, make it easier
for mass mobilising."
He was confident that the pro-integration militias could be
defeated in this manner. "They have no basis, apart from the
backing from the TNI. They will wither under the force of
people's power. But we must still recognise the danger that a
withdrawing TNI may try to start a civil war."
Kosi also emphasised that a key part of defeating the occupation
was cooperation with the Indonesian democratic movement. "We
worked together with the PRD [People's Democratic Party], for
example, in the 1994 occupations of the Dutch and Russian
embassies. The struggles in East Timor and Indonesia cannot and
must not be separated."
While a united front to win the referendum, establish a
transitional coalition government and force the TNI to withdraw
remains the central tactical priority, Kosi emphasised that
laying the basis for a socialist East Timor remained the
fundamental goal of the PST.
"Of course, at the moment, the people look to Xanana as the leader
or symbol of the fight for independence. Or they relate to
Fretilin as the organisation that fought for independence in the
1970s. Our influence at this point is limited. We have no
illusions about that. But we also think that the prospects for
the socialist movement in East Timor are good."
Behind this optimism is the assessment that an East Timorese
capitalism has not yet taken root and that building a socialist
East Timor would not require great efforts to demolish a deeply
rooted capitalist system.
It is also based on the PST's assessment that while both Xanana
and Fretilin have great authority and popularity, they have not
developed functioning party structures among the people. "The
coming period will be a period of ideological clarification among
all the political forces", Kosi added.
"The PST is still small, with about 300 cadre in East Timor and
slightly less in Indonesia. The 300 in East Timor include 70 new
members who have just been through classes. In Indonesia, we have
branches covering East Java and Central Java as well as the
worker groupings in Lampung.
"On August 1, the PST set up an open legal office in Dili. Our
chairperson, Saruntu, is based in Dili. Our position is that the
socialist forces should come out from the underground and declare
their presence. This is the only way we can win people to our
ideas and strengthen our base."
As part of this coming into the open, the PST has launched a
newspaper in a tabloid format, Tuba. Two issues have been
published over the last two months, and the party is confident of
it continuing on a regular basis.
"We have distributed 5000 copies in East Timor. They are sold by
our members to supporters and sympathisers. The newspaper not
also debates and analyses current political developments in
relation to the UN referendum and the situation in East Timor but
also carries educational material on the East Timorese social
structure as well as the prospects for socialism in the region as
The PST was formed in 1997, but Kosi traces its origins back much
further. A few left-wing youth, having received some education
from leftists in Fretilin, had established the youth organisation
Ojetil in 1981 although "Ojetil now is a completely different
This attempt to build a socialist-oriented youth group failed in
the context of a trend towards a politics of "national unity",
which included disconnecting the guerilla forces from Fretilin, a
rapprochement with the conservative Christian Democrat-oriented
UDT [Timorese Democratic Union], a non-party orientation by other
student groups such as Renetil and Xanana's resignation from
Fretilin and the formation of the National Council of Maubere
According to Kosi, between 1981 and 1989 the left-wing elements
in the resistance were in retreat. Some left leaders in the
guerilla movement disappeared from the struggle.
Then in December 1989, three of the original members of the 1981
Ojetil formed the Clandestine Student Front for the Liberation of
East Timor (Feclitil). This was based outside East Timor. Its
first action was a joint protest with Renetil and unaffiliated
East Timorese students in Jakarta against the 1991 Santa Cruz
massacre. In December 1991, 10 people gathered to form the
Timorese Socialist Association.
In the initial period, said Kosi, the PST was the subject of
considerable slander and gossip, even to the extent of rumours
that the head of the PST was Abilio Araujo, a former president of
Fretilin who became a pro-Jakarta figure.
"However, by 1995 we were able to establish formal contact with
Xanana Gusmao and engage in some cooperation, while maintaining
our right to make criticisms and to stay outside of CNRT.
Actually, we were also ready to join Fretilin if Fretilin was
able to transform itself into a united front of left or
progressive forces within CNRT, but it seems Fretilin wants to be
a party of its own, perhaps with a social democratic platform.
Maybe there will be possibilities of a coalition in the future."
Kosi explained that the PST's socialism bases itself on Marxism
and rejects the Stalinist version. "We also try to learn from the
contributions of revolutionary socialist leaders, such as Lenin
and Trotsky. But we are short of readings and materials, so we
are still studying.
"We think that the socialist forces throughout the Asia-Pacific
region need to collaborate and work out common approaches to
issues. This region is going to be a centre of conflict between
socialist and capitalist forces in the coming period, especially
with the real potential for social revolution in Indonesia. An
early victory for socialism in East Timor with its weakly
developed indigenous capitalism and its small size and population
could also be an inspiration for socialist forces throughout the
A night with Falintil
On the third attempt we made it -- a meeting with some of the
women guerrilla fighters in East Timor. These women are part of
Falintil, the resistance army that has been fighting for freedom
in Timor Loro Sae (East Timor) since the Indonesian invasion in
In the years that followed the invasion, the Indonesian army and
government carried out genocide in East Timor. An estimated one-
third of the population died. Many people fled to the mountains
for safety, some of whom took up arms and formed Falintil.
To the East Timorese, Falintil has become more than just a group
of soldiers. It is a word whispered amongst the people, a symbol
of hope and struggle. According to the Indonesian government,
there are 200 Falintil fighters, but the real number is in the
thousands. Some of the people we met on our trip to "the
mountains" had been fighting for 24 years.
It was a complicated mission, practically and spiritually.
Contacts had to be made and security confirmed. The previous
evening we were asked to cover ourselves with a protective
Falintil potion so that "the military and militia won't see
us". We were also asked to prepare ourselves mentally, and to
respect the powers of the potion and the gravity of the journey.
We loaded up the inconspicuous rental car with sacks of rice,
tinned sardines, milk powder and medicine. Cigarettes and alcohol
were not forgotten. Five eager Timorese climbed on board and we
drove for what seemed like ages to our meeting spot. Near the end
of our journey the car lights were turned off and we crawled
though the moonlit fields and thick forest.
On the way we were told stories of how, in the late 1970s, when
things were really bad, it was much harder to get supplies to
Falintil, which depends on its wide network of supporters for
sustenance. Couriers had to crawl for hours in the dark, their
backs laden with supplies, to reach the mountains. Now things are
easier and Falintil fighters can usually count on eating one meal
When the track was almost impassable, two shadowy figures in army
fatigues with big guns stepped out of the bushes. I thought the
military had discovered us until the little boy squashed in next
to me whispered, " Falintil!".
After the car was checked we were escorted to the camp by men in
army clothes with long hair and big smiles. Three hundred
Falintil fighters and friends were waiting for us.
They greeted us with loud applause (I thought we should be
applauding them), then we were formally welcomed by the acting
commander and his brother. The dark brown faces of these men were
solemn and battle hardened, and their perfect spoken Portuguese a
sign of 25 years of hiding.
We discovered that they had gathered for a festa (party). Some
were still in their khakis and carried guns, ready for their
three-hour shift in the guard posted around the gathering, but
most had put on their party clothes.
They led us to a specially reserved table, a temporary fixture
made of bamboo next to the commanders. I felt overwhelmed; this
special treatment was the last thing I expected.
Cameras appeared and everyone had their photos taken with
everyone else. Next they ceremonially gave us each a piece of
tais, a traditional fabric woven by East Timorese women. The
Portuguese words for "Respect from OMT of Falintil" were woven into
the tais. The OMT, Timorese Women's Organisation, has worked
underground with Falintil since 1975.
Then it was time to line up at the communal table laden with
bowls of rice and other food. After eating, a battery-run stereo
appeared playing Falintil favourites, and the commanders asked us
We had come, not only to bring supplies, but also to speak with
the three women fighters who are a part of the Falintil force in
this region. Late into the evening we were told we could
interview them the next morning. We retired, but the East
Timorese danced and held meetings until dawn.
At 5am we were led to a small clearing and soon three women came
to us. It was not an easy conversation. As well as trying to
respect local customs, we also had to use one translator from
English to Portuguese, then another from Portuguese to an East
Timorese dialect, then again back through all three people.
Julia, in her late 40s, has fought with Falintil since 1975. Her
daughters, Dina, aged 27, and Bymesak, aged 33, are also
fighters. They have spent their whole lives in the covert
existence of Falintil.
The thought that these small, shy-looking women had probably
killed countless Indonesian soldiers made me swallow hard. They
held themselves very still; every movement was controlled. And
they did look pretty uncomfortable in their party dresses.
We found out that another woman in this division of Falintil had
died earlier this year during an Indonesian military attack in
Lore. The determination and sacrifice of these women was driven
home to me as they described the harsh conditions in which they
By 6am it was time to leave. I left incredibly inspired by this
night with Falintil, as I have been by many dealings with the
East Timorese independence movement. After so much bloodshed and
suffering, these people still give generously, and they are able
to dance until dawn.
Falintil requires recording and communication devices (radio
equipment, mobile phones, tape recorders, etc.), as well as money
for food. If you can help, contact the East Timor International
Support Centre at <etio at ozemail.com.au> (or visit the web site at
<http://www.easttimor.com/>) and state that you wish your
donation to go to the mountains.
Indonesian activist undaunted by attack
Jakarta -- Dhyta Caturani, an activist in Indonesia's People's
Democratic Party (PRD), was shot and severely beaten in a police
and military attack on the party's July 1 rally outside the
electoral commission (KPU) building. The rally was demanding the
disqualification of Golkar from the June elections due to corrupt
Green Left Weekly's Vannessa Hearman spoke to her in Jakarta
about the political situation in Indonesia following the
ratification of the election results.
Question: What happened to you on July 1?
There were about 2000 PRD members at the rally. We demanded that
the head of the KPU and representatives of the 48 political
parties receive us to discuss our demands and receive a list of
Golkar's manipulation of the elections.
The police had blockaded the entrance, and we were barred from
entering. When our negotiations failed, the protesters decided to
try to enter the KPU office. As soon as we took one step, the
police brutally attacked us. Without any warning shots, they
fired into us.
At first, some of us tried to fight back using flagpoles, but we
were obviously outnumbered and those who could escape unhurt did
so. Then we realised that it was not only the police who were
attacking us, but that military intelligence were around us,
masquerading as street vendors.
Seventy-eight activists were injured, 26 seriously. Two were in
critical condition, including myself. Four were arrested and
accused of carrying sharp weapons, a criminal offence.
Question: Have you recovered fully from your injuries?
All those who were hospitalised have been discharged, but many
require ongoing medical treatment. I need to have several
operations on my gunshot wound, and my nose was broken in the
incident so I have difficulty breathing. I will require surgery
to correct this.
I have been advised that I will need one year of rest and
medication to fully recover from the head injuries due to being
beaten with rifle butts.
We face huge medical bills. Another PRD member has only partially
recovered his memory after the beatings by the police and the
resulting trauma. Mentally, I have recovered fully and feel ready
to go to the streets again and take on the military and police.
Question: How has the July 1 attack affected your own and the
PRD's political activities?
It was a huge test for me in terms of my commitment, and it has
strengthened my resolve that to struggle for democracy is my life
For the PRD it was also a test. We're sure that what we
experienced was nothing compared to the suffering of the
Indonesian people as a whole.
There is a new, stronger consciousness amongst PRD cadres that
what we have paid is already a high price. Our comrades are
imprisoned, kidnapped, tortured and even killed, even before we
achieve the goals of our struggle. We can't stop.
After several months of enjoying legal status as a political
party which contested the elections, we were reminded that mass
struggle is still our main tactic and strategy.
The incident was also a valuable insight for the Indonesian
people, who might have had the illusion that the military and the
police are different now from what they were under President
Suharto. The police, supposedly independent from the military
now, are still a tool of the state to repress people.
Question: Are there any plans to demand that the police be called
to account for what happened on July 1?
We decided to ask [human rights campaign committee] Kontras to
take up this case, but we are not confident about getting legal
justice in Indonesia. There are so many examples of justice not
being done. For us, the best advocacy is by direct action, by
involving the people. Since July 1, there have been several
protests by PRD members around Indonesia, and by other popular
movements, such as the students.
To stop the military's repressive actions, we have to get rid of
its dual function [the military's legal intervention in political
Question: The election results have been ratified, and Megawati
Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle has won
the most votes. What is the PRD's response to this?
Megawati won most votes in the elections, but the possibility of
her becoming president is very small. A coalition between Golkar,
the "crony" parties and the regional and military representatives
can easily defeat her.
If the Indonesian people want Megawati as president, the only way
to achieve that is for them to unite, get on the streets and
demand that she become president. Parliament is still an
extension of [Suharto's] New Order regime.
Question: What are the PRD's campaign priorities now? Are there
plans for protests during the first sitting of the People's
Our main agenda is still to get the dual function of the military
repealed. We will work with other pro-democratic forces to
organise protests during the sitting of the People's Consultative
In the next three months we need to organise the masses more
effectively through leaflets calling an action during the
meeting. Our action will demand that the new leaders of this
country defend the people's interests and conform to the
reformasi [reform] agenda.
We will be reminding them that if they maintain the old system,
they will not be able to resolve the political and economic
problems. Consequently, they will confront the people and suffer
the same fate as Suharto.
Megawati, Habibie and political alternatives
By Max Lane
Jakarta -- On July 29, Megawati Sukarnoputri addressed a select
group of supporters at the national office of the Indonesian
Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). The speech was to lay claim
to the presidency, which will be decided by the People's
Consultative Assembly (MPR).
Megawati, whose PDI-P won 33% of the vote in the June 7 national
election, is likely to face off against Golkar's B.J. Habibie,
whose "success team" is working hard to crunch the numbers for the
MPR. There are rumours that huge sums of money are being
mobilised to buy votes.
Sources inside the Habibie camp say the PDI-P will have 190 seats
in the MPR, to Golkar's 189, excluding the 38 military seats.
This means that who gets the presidency will hinge on the votes
of the other 280 or so MPR members, mainly from Islamic parties
of different ideological hues.
The initial signs are that the larger "secular" Islamic parties,
such as the National Awakening Party patronised by Abdurrahman
Wahid, and Amien Rais's National Mandate Party, will support
Megawati. There is a considerable push from the media and the
population for the presidency to go to the largest party in
membership and in votes.
On the streets the sentiment is: "If Habibie wins, why did we
bother having an election at all?". The other side of this
sentiment is: "If Megawati doesn't become president ...
This sentiment for revolt has been reflected in the hundreds of
thousands of people, mainly poor workers and petty traders living
in the urban kampungs, who have pricked their thumbs and stuck
their thumb print on a declaration to mobilise if Megawati is not
elected president. In Jakarta, "blood thumb print" booths are
springing up in different areas.
The head of the Jakarta PDI-P has stated that the PDI-P is
considering re-establishing all of its "command posts" (poskos) in
the build-up to the MPR session, scheduled for November. The
poskos, usually just a table and a couple of benches, perhaps
with a makeshift roof, were set up in neighbourhoods before the
June elections and were the main mechanism for mobilising
millions of PDI-P supporters for the campaign.
This statement was met with cautious acceptance by the Jakarta
police command, who insisted on coordination between the police
and the PDI-P. On the same day, however, armed forces chief
General Wiranto made a strong statement virtually banning the
poskos and insisting that the mobilising of mass support was no
longer needed, or allowed.
Banners have begun to appear in some parts of Jakarta supporting
Habibie for president. These have been put up in the name of the
Kabah Youth, which is apparently linked to the United Development
Party or some elements inside it.
If the Habibie group insists on an all-out push for the
presidency, an explosion of political unrest is almost certain.
This opens up the prospect of a repeat of May, 1998, (when
Suharto was forced to resign in the face of social chaos and
student protests) but with Habibie in the hot seat. Of course,
another scenario is that the army seizes power to "restore
stability" and "safeguard the constitutional processes".
The mass sentiment of support for Megawati is a democratic
sentiment, a desire to get rid of the old order and against the
election results being subverted by manipulation and "money
politics" in the MPR. The left will need to orient to this
sentiment and unite with any mobilisations aimed at defeating the
re-election of Habibie.
However, at another level, the struggle between Megawati and
Habibie is a conflict between different sections of the
Indonesian social and political elite. The policies of Megawati
and Habibie hardly differ, as was clear from Megawati's July 29
The limitations of Megawati's perspectives were outlined in an
evaluation of the speech issued by the People's Democratic Party
(PRD). The PRD statement noted limitations in the areas of the
role of the military, the trial of Suharto, the referendum in
East Timor, the situation in Aceh, Ambon and West Papua, and the
economy. In all these areas, Megawati falls short of what the
people expect and what is required for full democracy.
Megawati supports the idea of a gradual reduction in the role of
the military in politics, but offers no stipulations about how or
when. The PRD notes her failure to acknowledge the need to
dismantle the military territorial command, which places the
military at every level of society.
The PRD also notes that Megawati's position on East Timor remains
ambiguous. On the one hand, she has said she will not ignore the
results of the August 30 referendum on autonomy or independence,
but on the other defends the "integration" of East Timor into
Indonesia in 1975 and refuses to acknowledge that the invasion
was an illegal act.
The PRD says that the current suffering and unrest in Aceh, Ambon
and West Papua requires the withdrawal of the military, yet
Megawati -- apart from bursting into tears when talking about her
love for the Acehnese -- made no mention in her speech of
withdrawing the hated forces from these areas.
The PRD's critique of Megawati's economic policies focusses on
her commitment to carry through the International Monetary Fund's
restructuring program for Indonesia. In contrast, the PRD called
for the cancellation of Indonesia's foreign debt. This issue is
becoming a focus for protest actions.
The PRD also condemned Megawati's pledge to continue the
privatisation of public assets, albeit at a slower pace than the
At the moment, there is almost a national consensus that the
economy needs foreign loans to escape the current economic
crisis. Megawati and other liberal opposition leaders' argument
that the key to solving the crisis is a "credible and popular
government" is supported by all sectors of the population.
The challenge that may emerge for the PRD and other radical
forces is to establish the institutions and mechanisms to explain
their critiques of Megawati and similar figures, and to win
support for building an alternative political force. Given the
depth of the social and economic crises in Indonesia, and the
political bankruptcy of the Indonesian social and political
elite, the prospects for major advances in this regard over the
next few years are enormous.
Violence jeopardises ballot in East Timor
Dili -- On August 5, Green Left Weekly's Sam King spoke to
Mariano Sabino Lopez, chairperson of the central leadership
council of the East Timorese Student Union (IMPETTU) and vice-
president of East Timorese National Student Resistance (Renetil),
an organisation for East Timorese students active outside East
Timor, about the current situation.
Question: What is your assessment so far of the UN mission to
East Timor (UNAMET)?
The security situation has become the number one barrier to
enrolment in the referendum. This is because security is not
managed by UNAMET. It is in the hands of the Indonesian military.
Practically, it is handled by Indonesian police, who are opposed
to East Timor's independence.
The police have been a machine for killing the East Timorese
people for the last 23 years. Psychologically the people are
still scared of the presence of a police contingent that works
with the UNAMET.
So, the work that UNAMET is doing is effective but they have not
been effective in creating the necessary conditions for people to
freely enrol to vote.
Question: What is your opinion of the balance of forces in East
Timor a month before the ballot?
The struggle of the East Timorese people for independence has not
just come from this generation but also from generations before;
we have a solid basis for the independence movement. The East
Timor people have struggled since invasion for freedom.
So the militias that Indonesia pays and the few public servants
that it pays to support Indonesia don't form a real base for
integration. For example -- in the Ponta Leste in the east,
violence is almost non-existent because of the level of
organisation of Falintil [Armed Forces for the Liberation of East
However, in the west the security apparatus has caused some
problems but the clandestine resistance is still operating.
Question: What is the main role of the student movement?
The first task of the students is to mobilise all the people to
enrol for the referendum. The second task is to raise
consciousness of the concepts of independence and reconciliation
and to avoid problems of paybacks and revenge.
Our task is to criticise and expose as lies the pro-autonomy
propaganda from the Indonesian government, which argues that
autonomy is a viable and middle road.
Question: How are activists able to push for an independence vote
under militia intimidation and violence?
We meet violence, terror and intimidation every day. Every person
thinks every day about whether their friend has been arrested,
whether their parents have been killed or whether their sisters
or brothers are being tortured. These are the difficult
conditions East Timorese people exist and work together under.
But in these difficult conditions we are still able to organise
as a popular resistance. For 23 years the resistance has used
three fronts -- armed, clandestine and diplomatic. During
repressive conditions we favour the use of clandestine methods of
organising. This is the case at the moment.
Question: What are IMPETTU's main demands?
IMPETTU is an organ of resistance that demands the total
withdrawal of the Indonesian presence from East Timor. Before the
referendum period, our first demand was a referendum for East
Timor, our second, a total, unconditional withdrawal of
Indonesian forces in accordance with the UN resolutions, and our
third, give freedom to the people to determine their own lives.
The presence of the UN and the agreement from the Indonesian
government to allow the referendum mean our activities now
concentrate on how to create conditions that are conducive to
Our demands in East Timor now have a different orientation. For
example, there was the action here to demand that Ramos Horta be
allowed to participate in the Dare II reconciliation meetings [a
meeting between the pro-integration and pro-independence leaders
supported by the UN in Jakarta].
We demand that leaders such as Ramos Horta, Maria Alkatiri, and
Jose Guterres be allowed to come to East Timor. This can
contribute to stability in the country.
Secondly, we organise actions around the terror and intimidation
by the militias. In Liquica we demanded that UNAMET form a
peacekeeping committee including Falintil, the Indonesian
government, ABRI [the Indonesian military] and the human rights
commission. This is a concrete and immediate way to realise the
commitments made on June 18 and May 5 to create peaceful
conditions for the referendum.
Question: What is the relationship between the student activists
and the Falintil guerillas?
There is no significant difference between the militant students
and Falintil. This is because, while Falintil undertakes armed
struggle in the jungle, students are also guerillas in Indonesia.
The resistance is divided into four regional divisions in East
Timor and a fifth is in Indonesia -- the students [Renetil]. All
of the divisions work together. All of the divisions are
organised under CNRT [National Council of Timorese Resistance].
Falintil is the armed division. Our organisation is also a
militant organisation under the command of Xanana Gusmao and
CNRT. Both have the right to criticise Xanana Gusmao.
Question: Has Falintil been able to counter the effect of the
militia terror and violence in any of the regions?
The instruction from Xanana Gusmao was not to respond to violence
from the militias. After the incident in Liquica, as the violence
continued to escalate, Xanana instructed everybody to protect
themselves from the militias. This instruction was said by the
Indonesian government to be an instruction for war.
After the instruction for self-defence was received by Falintil,
there were no large attacks on the militias. However in a few
places, such as Ermera, Falintil responded to protect the people,
leading to exchange of fire between Falintil and the militias and
In a similar situation in Becora on June 27-29, [the Indonesian
military] and the militias were forced out and returned to Dili.
Question: What is the likelihood of the pro-integration militias
attempting to wreck the ballot if a victory for independence is
The Indonesian military is still trying to scare people into
voting for the autonomy package. We can see the military and
militia activity is still high. Some leaders of the Indonesian
army said that they were unable to limit the militias' actions,
but in reality have been exposed as arming the militias.
At the time of the referendum, they will continue to terrorise
the people in order to win the autonomy package. For instance,
[militia leader] Francisco Lopez said that if the autonomy
package is accepted there will be no more victims, but if it is
rejected, "The blood will flow like a river".
Also, the presence of Zacky Anwar Makarim [a high-ranking
Indonesian military intelligence officer], who is an effective
manipulator of data, in East Timor is proof that the Indonesian
government and army are trying to spoil the vote. We worry that
ABRI and Indonesia are preparing to wreck the referendum.
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 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
The Australian trade union movement should impose bans on
Indonesian companies, as the ACTU threatened to do in May.
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