Conference to hear from Indonesian democratic struggle

Wednesday, June 19, 1991

By Pat Brewer

A spokesperson from the growing movement for democracy will be one of the international guest speakers at next month's Socialist Scholars Conference, being held in Melbourne.

Indro Cahyono is involved in both the labour movement and the struggle for democratic rights. He has written extensively on Indonesian politics, including important papers on the role of the military in the evolution of Indonesia's current socioeconomic structure.

An architect by training, Indro Cahyono became involved in the student movement while at the Bandung Institute of Technology. He was involved in the student protest movement of 1978 and was imprisoned for a year. He also underwent a political trial at the time and, as in all political trials, was found "guilty".

Dissatisfaction with the Suharto regime's policies has grown in recent years, and demands for democratic rights have become more open. These include calls for a press more critical of the government and the right to publish without the constant threat of loss of publishing licences.

One democratic struggle has even directly confronted Suharto's brother, millionaire businessman Probosutedjo. Lawyers and academics have opposed his attempts to stop publication of research on business and economic policy-making which reveals government monopoly grants to his companies.

A focal point for many is the 1992 elections, in which only three government-approved parties are allowed to participate. The regime's nervousness has been reflected in statements by the home affairs minister urging government officials to ensure that there is no boycott movement. He has also banned street rallies and marches during the campaign, which does not officially start until next year.

Indro Cahyono is now a member of the Praxis Centre, attached to the Indonesian Front for the Defence for Human Rights (INFIGHT). INFIGHT is Indonesia's first coalition of human rights, social justice and environmental organisations to emerge during the New Order period. Organisations affiliated or associated with INFIGHT have been campaigning in solidarity with peasants being pushed off their land without proper compensation, against the death sentence and in defence of Indonesia's tropical forests.

Last year the independent Solidarity Free Trade Union, Setiakawan, was established. Indro Cahyono is on the board of this union, which has organised protests by workers complaining of employer abuse of

existing labour regulations. Many workers have been arrested during and following these marches to parliament protesting against pitiful wages, forced overtime and the illegal use of child labour.
Interview with Indonesian union leader: page 18.

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