By Nico Warouw
On July 8 in Surabaya, east Java, an action by 20,000 workers in the Tandes industrial zone was attacked by the military. Under the banner of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), workers from 10 different factories rallied to demand economic and political rights.
The workers gathered at Tanjung Sari led by Budiman, the chairperson of PRD. Those at Banyu Urip were led by Dita Sari, the chairperson of the independent trade union Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggle (PPBI).
Police, military and intelligence vehicles soon began to arrive. At Tanjung Sari, 200 military from Kodim blocked workers, but they were able to force their way through and move off to Banyu Urip.
As workers gathered at both locations, the military moved in, beating and arresting demonstrators. More than 25 PRD activists were arrested, including Dita Sari, along with at least five workers. Those arrested were beaten after being placed in the truck, which could be witnessed by workers and other onlookers.
Meanwhile, soldiers continued to chase the workers right up until they reached their homes. The ones most badly beaten were those carrying banners which read "Cabut Dwi Fungsi ABRI" (abolish the armed forces dual military and social role). Students from other cities were chased to the bus terminal 1.5 kilometres away.
The attack revealed the regime's fear of the growing consciousness of workers, not just of their economic rights but also of their political rights. It was clear that the military targeted workers carrying anti-ABRI banners rather than those with purely labour demands. Alliances between workers, students and other sectors of society are what the regime fears most. It hopes to isolate workers from broader struggles for political change.
According to the most recent information available, Dita Sari and Coen Husein Potoh, a leader of the National Peasants Union (STN), are to be tried on charges of subversion, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The east Java local military commander, Imam Utomo, has said that Budiman is now being sought by military intelligence for his role in leading the strike and, if caught, will face similar charges.