Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Masses rise against Golkar

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Feb 11 05:13:12 MST 2001

The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly

INDONESIA: Masses rise against Golkar

During 2000, only the People's Democratic Party (PRD) championed the
political slogan: “Smash the remnants of the New Order, leave behind the
fake reformers”. But now, following attempts by the party of former
dictator Suharto and the military to force the resignation of President
Abdurrahman Wahid, the first part of the slogan has been taken up by the

Golkar, the political machine of Suharto's hated New Order regime, was
behind the February 2 vote in the Indonesian parliament which backed a
special committee report claiming that Wahid had been “involved” in two
financial scandals.

Since the February 2 vote, Golkar has continued its agitation for Wahid's
removal. Its parliamentarians, alongside MPs from the right-wing Muslim
Central Axis, have sought to garner enough support to call a special
session of the People's Consultative Assembly, the only body which has the
power to sack the president. They've also collected 200 MPs' signatures on
a petition calling for Wahid's resignation.

Golkar's campaign is meeting with increasing opposition, however, with
anti-New Order initiatives coming from three distinct quarters: Wahid's
traditional support base in East Java, especially in the religious
organisation Nahdlatul Ulama; the liberal middle class; and the left and
radical student movement.

Since February 2, there have been a series of anti-Golkar and pro-Wahid
mobilisations in Surabaya, the capital of East Java, and in other East
Javanese towns, culminating in February 7 demonstrations involving what
Kompas newspaper described as hundreds of thousands of people.

The most popular slogans in these huge demonstrations were “smash the
remnants of the New Order” and “ban Golkar”. After rallying outside the
provincial parliament, the demonstrators smashed and burnt three Golkar

Spokespeople for the demonstrators, mainly from groups linked to Nahdlatul
Ulama, have promised to bring East Java to a standstill with mobilisations
of more than one million if necessary. Under such pressure, many East
Javanese politicians have indicated their support for Wahid.

The political content of these mobilisations does not yet go much beyond a
fanatical partisanship for Wahid who, as the former head of Nahdlatul
Ulama, is the traditional leader of the style of Islam strong in small-town
East Java. Some newspapers have reported a few demonstrators saying they
will fight for an independent East Java if Wahid is overthrown.

However, there is no doubt that there is also an overwhelming hatred of
Golkar and anything that smells of Suharto's New Order. If Golkar continues
its offensive, it is more than likely that the mobilisations will increase
in size and that large contingents will march on Jakarta.

Wahid has also received the backing of the liberal democrats. Soon after
Golkar's campaign to unseat Wahid began, a group of 17 prominent
non-government organisations, representing the human rights, legal aid,
women's and environmental sectors, issued a statement attacking the special
committee report and supporting Wahid.

One of their spokespeople, Hendardi, the director of the Indonesian
Association for Legal Aid, condemned the parliamentary majority for
focusing on small, insignificant scandals and avoiding any investigation
into the massive billion-dollar scandals involving Golkar politicians,
including party chairperson Akbar Tanjung, and Golkar-linked cronies. He
warned of the threat to democracy if the forces of the Suharto period were
to regain power.

On February 3, the Indonesian Lawyers Association announced it was forming
a team of 100 lawyers to challenge the special committee's report in the
courts. Association spokespersons accused the special committee of relying
on hearsay, manipulating evidence, ignoring evidence that went against its
aims and working without legal rules or procedures.

The leaders of Muhammadiyah, the mass religious organisation that services
a large section of the Central Axis's social base, have also distanced
themselves from the anti-Wahid campaign.

A de facto coalition has emerged amongst radical groups as well, between
the cross-campus student activists groups which are the descendants of
those which organised the massive student demonstrations against Suharto in
1998 and the student and mass organisations linked to the People's
Democratic Party (PRD), which are collectively grouped in FRAROB, the
Anti-New Order People's Front.

This coalition mobilised 5000 students in a march from the University of
Indonesia to the parliament on February 6 and similar alliances have been
replicated in several other cities in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

There is no solid consensus on the platform of this anti-Golkar movement.
Some student radicals are backing the East Javanese masses' demand for the
banning of Golkar.

The PRD, the most consolidated force in the coalition, instead proposes the
dissolution of parliament and the formation of a committee of
representatives of the anti-New Order mass organisations, which would take
charge of the government and organise new elections. It says a people's
tribunal should decide whether Golkar should be banned or not.

The party is also demanding the trial of all corrupt officials and
businesspeople as well as human rights violators, the abolition of the
“dual function” of the military, which allows it to intervene into
politics, and the nationalisation of corruptly gained assets.

The mass pressure has scared Golkar. Tanjung has attacked the NU and called
on Wahid to end mobilisations against “the political parties”. As the
anti-Golkar protests and statements increase, Tanjung has had to repeatedly
defend Golkar, lamely claiming that the party has changed its ways since
Suharto and apologising for its past mistakes.

But while this movement has put Golkar on the defensive, Wahid has held
back support for further mobilisation of the masses. Instead he has stuck
to his preferred strategy of manoeuvre, tacking this way and that.

While he has sacked one of his opponents within cabinet, the far-right
Islamic minister for law and human rights Yusril Mahendra, he has also
sought to consolidate the support of his vice-president, Megawati
Sukarnoputri, and has issued a joint statement with Tanjung calling for all
parties to reduce the level of political unrest.

Sukarnoputri's support for Wahid seems to have strengthened: she has since
repeated her opposition to calls for his resignation or for a special
session of the People's Consultative Assembly and has backed a cabinet
motion of support for the president. Sukarnoputri has also asked members of
her party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, to refuse to sign
the anti-Wahid petition being circulated amongst parliamentarians.

The PRD issued a statement on February 7 strongly criticising Wahid for
meeting with the Golkar chairperson. The PRD called on Wahid, his National
Awakening Party and the Nahdlatul Ulama to “together go down onto the
streets to destroy the remnants of the New Order”.

The PRD warned that his meeting with Tanjung and his call for a reduction
in political conflict was putting Wahid in the position of “fake reformer”
opposed to the democratic movement.

There are some indications that both the National Awakening Party and
Nahdlatul Ulama are beginning to feel the pressure from the mass movement
in East Java. Party head Mazud issued a statement on February 7 that if
Golkar continued to make “hard statements” it would be impossible for he
and other party leaders to hold back mass feelings.

There are already reports that more than two million Wahid supporters are
planning to mobilise to Jakarta on or around February 16-18.

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