Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Urban poor youth organise as poverty soars

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Mon Jan 15 06:32:16 MST 2001

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

INDONESIA: Urban poor youth organise as poverty soars

“We see the potential energy among urban poor youth, whose power has been
shown many times in Indonesian history. They are brave, energetic and not
afraid of new ideas and changes. We are trying to build their trust in the
idea that together we can solve our problems and make our hopes come true”,
Ricky Tamba, general secretary of the Popular Youth Movement (GPK) in
Indonesia told Green Left Weekly.

Last June a national youth congress attended by 47 delegates from 11
provinces, representing 20 urban poor organisations, met in Bandar Lampung
and launched the new youth organisation.

The GPK is made up of urban poor youth including street singers, homeless
and unemployed youth, sex workers, and street sellers. In its first four
months, it has established branches in South Sumatra, Lampung, North
Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi and South Sulawesi. In addition, there are
committees preparing for branches in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East
Java, and Yogyakarta, with activists in a number of other provinces eager
to open further branches in the future.

Currently the GPK's main campaigns are around employment, education,
housing and health care for the people, and demanding the trial of former
president Suharto for his political, economic and human rights crimes.

Since its formation the GPK has participated in joint actions with Frarob
(Anti-New Order Regime People's Front) demanding the trial of former
Indonesian president Suharto; solidarity actions with the peasants'
struggle in Sulawesi; campaigns supporting fisherpeople in Lampung; and
activities to assist workers' campaigns in East Java. Last month the GPK
mobilised members from three provinces to take part in a march on the
Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Indonesian Youth Day.

GPK members have also organised actions with the Indonesian National Front
for Workers Struggle (FNPBI), the National Student League for Democracy
(LMND) and the National Peasant Union (STN).

Statistics released in September by Indonesian Labour Consultants (ILC) in
Jakarta indicate the growing constituency for GPK membership. In 1996,
Indonesia's urban poor numbered 7.2 million. By 1998 this had more than
doubled to 17.6 million. In 1999 informal sector workers reached 64.4% of
the total work force.

Living standards for the vast majority of Indonesians have dramatically
declined since 1997. Per capita income went from US$1004 in 1996 to US$596
in 2000. On average the cost of basic goods increased 224.16% between 1995
and 2000.

The current economic policies of the government, imposed by the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) are set to further entrench poverty for
the masses. “The anti-people policies made by the IMF will make
unemployment, disease, death, and starvation bigger and bigger every day”,
explained Tamba.

“The IMF has played the most dominant role in Indonesia along with the
World Bank and CGI [the Consultative Group on Indonesia, a body of the main
Western donor countries]. They use Indonesia just like other
under-developed countries — for their capital investment. They exploit the
workers and natural resources by their policies. Now they have signed an
SAP [Structural Adjustment Program] with the Wahid government; and they
push Wahid to implement their neo-liberal policies, such as the
recapitalisation of some big banks, and ending subsidies for people's basic
needs like fuel, electricity, education, and health care.”

The GPK leadership does not believe the Wahid government is capable of
solving the problems of Indonesia's youth. While supporting some of
President Wahid's democractic reforms, Tamba asks, “How can the Wahid
government solve the problems if they don't have any courage to sweep away
the New Order remnants? How can they solve the problems if they don't have
any programmatic plan? How can they solve the problems if they are just
robots of the IMF and World Bank? How can they solve the problems if they
don't have any trust in people, especially Indonesian youth, and just rely
on elite old phony reformist politicians like Amien Rais, Akbar Tanjung,
Megawati and more?”

“If the old politicians can't do it, they'd better resign and let us young
people solve the problems. Now or never is the time for Wahid to prove his
government can carry out reforms. We say fulfill our demands or we will
take over ourselves!”

The GPK is trying to challenge the depoliticisation of young people in
Indonesia. “The elite politicians say there is no need for young people to
think about politics”, said Tamba. “They say we should study and stay calm
because all the state's problems will be handled by them. We should just
think about getting a good education, having a `nice paying' job, having a
`nice life'. The young people have been marginalised from all political
decisions made by the state.”

“There will be many attempts by the remnants of the New Order regime and
phony reformists to use and manipulate youth. We want the urban poor youth
to get organised well, have a democratic organisation, and develop more
revolutionary theories, so we can struggle for full democracy in Indonesia
and help the workers and peasants to get their rights back”, Tamba

The GPK has launched a bulletin called Api (Fire), and to date two editions
have been produced. Several pamphlets are also planned, taking up issues of
youth struggle, the need for a revolutionary organisation, and rejecting
neo-liberalism. The GPK involves new members through organising within
urban poor communities, holding discussions, actions, and giving speeches
about revolutionary politics.

The GPK also has plans for establishing urban poor cooperative shops in the
future. Tamba described how these will not only assist people in attaining
what they need to survive, but will also “inject more consciousness of how
the government doesn't care about their living standards, so we have to
build a strong organisation and solidarity among the urban poor”.

Tamba said that building urban poor cooperatives “is a tactic to build
collectivism, and we hope we can get some funds to implement the plan”.

Finding the means to fund its activities is just one of many challenges the
GPK faces in consolidating its organisation. “There are many technical
difficulties like the very big and separate Indonesian geography that we
have to organise in, lack of revolutionary theories of how to organise
urban poor, lack of human resources, lack of funds”, Tamba explained.

“We don't even have a permanent office because we don't have any experience
in fund raising, and we still depend on money from our parents, incidental
small donations and some money we get from selling books and magazines.”

Tamba emphasised that the GPK is keen to develop greater links with youth
activists in Australia, to “help in giving an internationalist perspective
to our members so we are not alone in the fight against neo-liberalism”. He
added: “Your struggle in Australia is our struggle too in Indonesia. If we
globalise resistance, we will win!”

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