|International Solidarity||SUHARTO INTENSIFIES
REPRESSION TO KEEP HIS GRIP ON POWER (Excerpts)
At a time when Indonesia is in the grip of a grave economic and political crisis, President Suharto, the Indonesian dictator, with the support of ABRI, the Indonesian armed forces, is further intensifying the level of
repression in his determination to stay in power at a ll costs. Hundreds have been arrested and many face charges for 'engaging in political activities' and a penalty of up to five years.
The Crisis Deepens
* The economic crisis is worsening by the day. The national currency has lost more than 70 per cent of its value since last July. Prices are skyrocketing. Thousands of factories and businesses have closed. Millions have been thrown out of work. Lack of food is threatening many parts of the country. Deep-rooted corruption, nepotism and cronyism have taken the economy to the brink of catastrophe. The banking system is paralyzed, the country is burdened with a foreign debt of more than $140 billion.
* The absence of political rights and basic human rights under Suharto's New Order has made it impossible for people to challenge the dictator and his ruling clique by democratic means. The general elections are rigged and democratic political activity is banned. There is no freedom of assembly or association, freedom of speech or the right to set up independent parties, trade unions or other organisations. There is no protection of the person against arbitrary arrest.
* Suharto and his family have amassed colossal wealth, thought to exceed $40 billion. They now maintain a grip on critical aspects of state policy, in particular decisions for handling the economic crisis in a way
that would serve their interests to the detriment of the common people.
* It is now accepted by virtually all commentators right across the political spectrum that the economic crisis cannot be resolved without fundamental political reforms and an end to Suharto's rule.
* groups that have campaigned for political change for years now raise three demands: lower prices, an end to corruption and cronyism and an end to rule by Suharto. Students and ... (other) groups are demonstrating in many parts of the country around these demands. In some places, thousands have taken to the streets in support of these demands.
* In many cities and towns, there have been eruptions of social unrest prompted by the catastrophic fall in living standards, rising prices and mass dismissals. Some of the unrest has been directed against the security
forces or officialdom with whom local inhabitants have long-standing grievances. Many are food riots, targeted against shops which are usually Chinese because this ethnic group predominates in the nation's commerce. By means of subtle provocation, some elements within the regime have sought to
give this social unrest a racist edge. By blaming the Chinese for the crisis, they hope to deflect attention from Suharto and his cronies who must be held accountable for the catastrophe.
The Regime's Response: Increased Repression
In the face of growing political opposition and social unrest, Suharto and ABRI have cranked up their apparatus of repression in order to suppress the growing challenge to Suharto's rule.
* At the beginning of February, large-scale military exercises were held in Jakarta in order to 'secure' the MPR session. Thousands of troops fanned out across the capital, backed up by helicopters, armoured vehicles and police dogs. We have photographic evidence that British-made water cannon
were used in the exercises.
* The Jakarta military commander, Major-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, has
formed a special Operational Command (Koops-Jaya) to 'safeguard' the MPR
Session with himself as commander and the Jakarta chief-of-police as his deputy. They have 50,000 troops at their disposal. [Forum Keadilan, 23 February 1998]
* Suharto has issued instructions to ABRI "to crack down on protesters wanting to trigger national disintegration." Other top army generals have made equally belligerent threats, warning opposition groups of stern
measures if they take to the streets. They have threatened to 'cut down' and 'slice to pieces' defenceless demonstrators in their determination to quell protest.
* On 18 February, the Jakarta military commander declared that all demonstrations in the capital were banned until one week after the MPR Session. 'I will not permit any groups to take to the streets. If they insist on doing so, we will take strong measures.' [Kompas, 19 February] No meetings, seminars or other gatherings will be permitted during the weeks before and after the MPR Session.
* Hundreds of people have already been arrested. Human rights groups estimate that by mid February, more than seven hundred people had been rounded up. The following figures are far from complete: East Java (152), Pamanukan, West Java (266), Losari, West Java (6), Donggala, Central Sulawesi (34), Pasuruan, East Java (30), Bima, NTT (15), Ende, NTT (56), Kendari, Central Sulawesi (37), Praya, Lombok (8), Garut, West Java (5) and Jakarta (146). Fifty people were arrested during a child labour march in
Jakarta. All were released but 35 will be charged. Two activists disappeared from their homes in early February and are still unaccounted for.
* At least five people have been shot dead in security operations against
* A number of extremely severe laws are being used against demonstrators. Besides the anti-subversion law and the hate-sowing articles of the Criminal Code, a law enacted in 1969, Law 5/1969, is being used to charge
peaceful demonstrators. Under this law, people may be charged 'for engaging in political activities' and face a penalty of up to five years.
* To set an example, of the 146 people arrested during a peaceful demonstration in Jakarta on 11 February, 128 people will be charged for political offences of whom 123 will be charged under Law 5/1969 and five
under the even more draconian anti-subversion law.
* The police have started phone tapping and cutting phone connections of activists. In a meeting with cellular phone company executives, the Jakarta chief-of-police, Major General Hamami Nata, demanded access to
intercept and cut off phone-calls deemed to be 'rabble-rousing'. [Jakarta Post, 13 February]
* The police have announced a 'shoot-on-sight' policy against 'rioters' in
an attempt to quell widespread anger at plummeting living standards. This policy could equally be used against demonstrators, given the overlap of demands and actions by spontaneous outbursts of social unrest and organised street protests.
A Call for International Solidarity
We call on all groups everywhere - groups focusing on Indonesia, East Timor and West Papua, as well as human rights and peace-loving groups - to take action at this crucial moment and help rid Indonesia and its occupied territories of the brutal Suharto dictatorship.
What is Courage?
Public Sector Updates
Getting in touch