Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Elite fears new radicalisation
alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Feb 18 04:23:43 MST 2001
The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly
INDONESIA: Elite fears new radicalisation
BY MAX LANE
The Indonesian political elite is becoming increasingly fearful of a
radicalisation of the country's masses, which is being provoked by a
right-wing campaign to destabilise President Abdurrahman Wahid's
government. It's turning to trusted methods: like threatening to repress
the left-wing People's Democratic Party, the PRD.
Almost one million Wahid supporters, mainly peasants and urban poor,
mobilised on February 7. What started as a pro-Wahid rally evolved into an
anti-Golkar rally, with the masses calling for the disbanding of Golkar,
the party of former dictator Suharto and the political symbol of his New
Order regime. During a day of mobilisations in different parts of
Surabaya, the East Java headquarters of Golkar was burned down.
On February 8, Golkar chairperson Akbar Tanjung accused the PRD of being
behind the burning. He was backed by a statement from Wahid's defence
minister, probably reflecting the position of the armed forces and the
police. President Wahid also hinted he held the same views but later
clarified that he was joking.
On February 12, East Java police chief General Bimantoro held a press
conference to accuse the PRD of being behind the burning. Between February
8 and 12 several other Golkar figures also made direct or indirect attacks
on the PRD.
Then Tanjung escalated his attack by calling for a review of the PRD's
existence. If the PRD is no longer in accord with the national interest,
its existence should be reviewed, Tanjung told reporters during a visit to
In addition to the new attacks on the PRD, the right is also continuing its
campaign against Wahid. The youth and student organisations associated with
the Central Axis parties, such as the Islamic Students Association and the
Indonesian Muslim Students Action Union, have been mobilised to demand
Intellectuals who had worked for former president BJ Habibie have also
issued statements against Wahid. Members of the Muslim organisation
Nahdlatul Ulama from Central Axis-dominated regions, such as West Java,
have called on Wahid to resign.
The Supreme Advisory Council, a non-constitutional body full of Habibie
appointees and headed by an ex-general, has advised Wahid to transfer head
of government power to vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri. A range of
conservative intellectuals have joined the chorus.
In a statement issued on February 13, the PRD rejected Bimantoro's
accusation, pointing out that the party was a participant in a different
mass demonstration, outside the East Java parliament, at the same time as
Golkar offices were being burnt.
The PRD has been backed by representatives of more than 20 other
organisations that participated in the demonstrations. The deputy
secretary-general of Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB), Chotibul Umam
Wiranu, also made a statement on February 14 claiming that Golkar people
burned down their own offices in order to discredit Wahid's supporters.
PRD general chairperson Budiman Sujatmiko led a delegation to police
headquarters in Jakarta to lodge criminal libel charges against Akbar
The PRD's primary response is, however, political. We will continue to
spread our call for the trial before a people's tribunal of the Golkar
party, PRD deputy chairperson Moti told Green Left Weekly. It is the
masses themselves that are calling for the disbanding of Golkar. This call
is coming from there, not from the PRD. But we support this general
sentiment and will not end our struggle for the destruction of the old New
There can be no progress on achieving of total reformation while these
forces have not been defeated, Moti added. The masses are just angry that
nothing has been done to bring the Older Order criminals to justice.
New radical coalitions
Demonstrations calling for Golkar to be brought before a people's tribunal
have occurred in many cities and towns since February 8, forcing Tanjung to
defend Golkar's very existence several times.
Many of these demonstrations, including in Jakarta, are being organised by
new radical coalitions and it was the role of just such a coalition in
the February 7 demonstration in Surabaya that has sparked the elite's new
fears and its attack on the PRD.
When hundreds of thousands of urban poor and village supporters of Wahid
rallied outside the East Java parliament, they were joined by a contingent
of several thousand people from the Total Reformation Front (FRT), a
coalition of at least 14 organisations, including student and urban poor
organisations linked to the PRD, Nahdlatul Ulama and various campus
The FRT speakers were able to eventually speak to the masses immediately
outside the parliament building and introduced the slogan: The people
united to bring Golkar to justice. This slogan was taken up by big
sections of the rally who also chanted Disband Golkar. A rally where the
initial slogans were confined to pro-Wahid chants quickly transformed into
a militant anti-Golkar rally.
The FRT distributed large numbers of leaflets explaining their demands,
which include a people's tribunal for Suharto and Golkar; cleansing the
state apparatus of all pro-Suharto elements and their investigation for
crimes against humanity and corruption; the nationalisation of the wealth
of corrupt officials and conglomerates; the abolition of the dual
function of the military, which allows intervention into political
affairs; a 100% wage increase; jobs and cheap housing for the people;
subsidised education and health and improved welfare for soldiers and their
Similar coalitions have developed in other cities, including Jakarta. In
Jakarta, there has been a real breakthrough in building links between all
the radical groups, Moti said.
The links between the PRD, the Student League for National Democracy, the
friends from the Indonesian Islamic Students Association, and almost all
the radical cross-campus activist collectives have never been better. We
have had three demonstrations over the last several days but more
importantly we are now setting up joint action command posts on several
campuses, as well as in some urban poor neighborhoods.
Similar coalitions have organised actions in Lampung, Medan and Jambi in
Sumatra as well as Yogyakarta, Bandung and even Bali.
Pressure on Golkar is also developing from other quarters. Various
non-government organisations have raised demands for investigations into
major cases of corruption during the Suharto and Habibie periods.
The most recent was the call by Indonesia Corruption Watch for an
investigation into the alleged transfer of US$9.4 million to Golkar for its
1999 election campaign. The group's director, Teten Mazduki, also demanded
that the attorney-general, Marzuki Darusman, be removed from involvement in
the case, as he was a deputy chairperson of Golkar at the time.
Meanwhile the leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama and the PKB seem unable to
determine a clear strategy to respond to the Golkar offensive.
President Wahid himself is trying to contain the conflict with Golkar to
within the elite and to contain any mass action radicalisation. At the same
time, he has issued a series of statements emphasising that mass anger must
not be directed at the institutions of the Suharto period but only
individuals. Other leaders make various contradictory statements in the
However, there are two key consistent policies that have developed in
practice: Nahdlatul Ulama has not put any obstacles in the way of its youth
and student organisations joining the new radical coalitions and it has
issued a formal statement that it will take no responsibility for the
actions taken by the parliament against Wahid.
`Disband parliament, call new elections'
The political process unfolding is pitting mass sentiment more and more
against the parliament, which is dominated by Golkar, the Muslim rightist
Central Axis and Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of
As Tanjung holds the post of chairperson of the house of representatives
(the DPR) and the Central Axis' Amien Rais holds the presidency of the
People's Consultative Assembly (the MPR), the Golkar-Central Axis
combination is able to take political initiatives to destabilise the Wahid
government almost at will. But, as a consequence, both the DPR and MPR
themselves are more and more being seen as representatives of the New Order
This pressure is starting to impact on the PDIP which has been playing an
opportunist game, trying to position itself to take advantage of Wahid's
fall while at the same time distancing itself from Golkar's campaign.
PDIP members supported the February 2 censure vote against Wahid but
Sukarnoputri then spoke out against any attempt to get rid of him. As the
parliament becomes more and more identified with the New Order, however,
PDIP figures have been forced to add their support for action to be taken
against cases of corruption from the New Order period.
The PRD has now begun to call for a dissolution of the parliament and new
elections to be organised by a provisional government comprising
representatives of the anti-New Order forces. The reality is that if the
mass call for the dissolution or trial of Golkar continues to spread it
will inevitably put the masses in confrontation with the parliament.
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