Canberra pub politics discusses Indonesia


By Jo Brown

CANBERRA — The future for Indonesia's struggle for democracy was the topic of the May 19 Politics in the Pub here. The forum, organised by the ACT Trades and Labor Council, was billed as a debate between Dave Gosling, a member of Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor and Amrita Mahli from the International Socialist Organisation.

Mahli outlined the situation in Indonesia in the pre-election period, arguing that the elections were likely to change little in Indonesia and that the real force for change was in the struggles of Indonesian workers and students.

Gosling, a member of the Democratic Socialist Party, agreed but highlighted the importance of leadership of these struggles by revolutionary democratic forces such as the People's Democratic Party (PRD), which is participating in the elections in order to publicise its views, the PRD-led union KOBAR and the student organisation KOMRAD.

The priorities for the Indonesian movement were then debated. Mahli argued that the task facing the movement was to raise immediate socialist demands for the overthrow of the capitalist state. Gosling pointed out that the illusions of the majority of Indonesians in how much their lives would be improved by the elections would first need to be broken. Struggles which raise the mass of people's awareness of the need for further reforms, such as ending the dual (political and military) function of the military, and involve them in campaigning would help break these illusions, he said.

Both speakers condemned the United Nations-brokered agreement on East Timor for making the Indonesian military responsible for "security" in the August 8 autonomy referendum. However, Mahli argued that there could be never be a positive role for the UN in East Timor and that the East Timorese needed to mobilise in conjunction with the Indonesian workers and students to win independence.

Gosling emphasised that if a UN presence could help bring about the withdrawal of the Indonesian troops it would be a positive step for the East Timorese struggle. He urged everyone in the audience to support the May 27 picket of the Indonesian embassy initiated by the ACTU.