Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Wahid fails to mobilise against Suharto forces
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Sun Jun 3 08:11:14 MDT 2001
The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly
INDONESIA: Wahid fails to mobilise against Suharto forces
BY MAX LANE
JAKARTA - On May 30, an alliance of members of parliament from Golkar (the
party of former Indonesian dictator Suharto), the armed forces (TNI), the
muslim right-wing Central Axis parties and vice-president Megawati
Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) passed a
resolution in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR, Indonesia's
parliament) to hold a special session of the MPR on August 1.
At this session, the MPR will request that President Abdurrahman Wahid
defend his government's record. If the MPR rejects Wahid's account, and his
responses to the parliament's criticisms of it, this will amount to a vote
of no confidence and the president will be asked to step down.
Wahid has so far been ineffective in countering these moves, in parliament
and among the population. His first step was to issue a presidential
proclamation ordering his minister for political, social affairs and
security to take special measures to ensure security and law and order
during the period of crisis.
Because there has been no serious security threat during this period, the
military and police top brass have not taken any serious repressive
measures. However, they have used the proclamation to ensure that they
appear more frequently in the mass media.
Wahid issued the order despite public statements by military and police
commanders that they would defy any move by Wahid to dissolve parliament and
call snap elections.
In the week before May 30, Wahid uncharacteristically did not discourage
mass protests to defend his presidency. For the first time, the pro-Wahid
National Awakening Party (PKB) mobilised several thousand of its members
over three days. These mobilisations had only limited effect because neither
Wahid nor the PKB national leadership used their authority or access to the
mass media to turn the mobilisations into a campaign in support of political
In recent weeks, the PKB and the Wahid government have attempted to
introduce anti-corruption legislation to target corrupt officials from the
Suharto era to investigate scandals linked to Golkar corruption. All these
initiatives have been rejected by the Golkar-TNI-Central Axis-PDIP
Neither Wahid nor the PKB have placed these issues at the centre of the
mobilisations. Instead, they have concentrated on the unjust and illegal
nature of the MPR's attempt to remove Wahid. However, this issue can only
mobilise the most fanatical Wahid supporters from East Java. The PKB's
approach reflects its weak commitment to any kind of liberal reform aimed at
dismantling the still strong institutions formed under the Suharto ``New
Anti-New Order coalition
The successful manoeuvre by the Golkar-TNI-Central Axis-PDIP alliance has
added urgency to the moves to consolidate an alliance of democratic forces
to resist a comeback by the Suharto dictatorship's forces. The mobilisations
on May 29 and May 30, which included several thousand Wahid supporters, were
organised by the Coalition Against the New Order (KNAOB).
KNAOB includes the radical-left People's Democratic Party (PRD) and related
forces, key sections of the militant democratic wing of the student
movement, several high profile academics and intellectuals and sections of
the PKB. Megawati's sister, Rachmawati, has also given her support to the
The key demands being popularised by KNAOB include: the dissolution of
Golkar because it is a corrupt party whose hands are covered in blood from
the Suharto era; the dissolution of parliament and the holding of snap
elections without Golkar and TNI MPs; abolition of the political role of the
TNI; the trial of all corrupt officials and human rights violators from the
Suharto era; nationalisation of all assets corruptly gained during the
Suharto period; the removal of former ``New Order'' officials from all state
institutions; the smashing of the ``New Order approach'' to labour disputes;
and the return to peasants of land stolen during the New Order period.
Hundreds of thousands of leaflets promoting these demands were distributed
in Jakarta during the May 29-30 mobilisations. Speakers from the PRD, the
National Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI), the National Peasants Union and
other farmers' groups, and from the anti-Golkar wing of the PDIP also put
these demands to the thousands of pro-Wahid peasants and urban poor at the
May 29-30 demonstrations.
Even though the NKAOB remains a small force, with uncertain support from the
PKB Leadership, it clearly has frightened Golkar. Golkar chairperson Akbar
Tanjung, in a television interview, described NKAOB as the main hindrance to
the removal of Wahid at the August 1 special session of the MPR.
The Jakarta police chief on May 29 told journalists that it was forces led
by PRD chairperson ``Mr Budiman Sujatmiko'' that were trying to provoke
confrontations with the security apparatus. He added that he would tell
Sujatmiko: ``Bud, Bud, watch it or I will smash you''.
Sujatmiko's parents' house has twice been the target of attacks, with giant
firecrackers thrown. In response to these attacks, the local police chief
stated: ``Who knows? Maybe Budiman did this himself''.
In Central Java, anti-PRD leaflets are circulating naming PRD activists who
are going to be kidnapped.
Mass resentment at the squabbling of the political elite for power is very
great. This is combined with simmering anger at the masses' declining social
and economic conditions. Cynicism towards the political elite can quickly
turn to mass support for a political alternative that has is not tainted by
the squabble at the top.
Figures such as FNPBI chairperson Dita Sari, who has emerged as the labour
leader with the highest profile in the country, the PRD's Sujatmiko,
academic Dr Arbi Sanit and human rights lawyer Hendardi could easily develop
as such an alternative pole of attraction. If Rachmawati Sukarnoputri
continues her strong stand against Golkar and the Central Axis parties, her
presence would also add authority to the coalition.
The main factor slowing this process is the extreme hesitation by Wahid and
the PKB to defend themselves by proposing even a minimal democratic
platform. If they continue in this way, it is likely that the
Golkar-TNI-Central Axis-PDIP coalition will succeed in removing Wahid and
In this process, Wahid and the PKB leadership will also lose much of their
authority among their own supporters, who have responded enthusiastically to
NKAOB demands and arguments. The PKB will suffer the same fate as the PDIP.
Outside the PDIP parliamentary caucus, the PDIP members are increasingly
angry with Megawati for her alliance with Golkar and the TNI.
[Max Lane is national chairperson of Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and
East Timor. Visit the ASIET web site at <http://www.asiet.org.au>.]
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