Crackdown in Jakarta after East Timor massacre

November 27, 1991

By Max Lane

All indications to date are that the Suharto regime is not going to bow to international pressure in any substantial manner following worldwide outcry after the November 12 massacre in Dili, East Timor.

While the regime has appointed a so-called Commission of Inquiry, it is headed by a former senior military officer and commando, who has recently been appointed a Supreme Court Judge. Other members of the commission are middle-level civil servants or backbenchers in Indonesia's rubber-stamp parliament. Even if there are honest men among this commission, they will not be able to buck orders from above.

Another sign of a hard line is the very revealing statements of armed forces commander Try Sutrisno, who in a speech last week made it clear that the army's policy towards oppositionists could be summed up in one sentence: "People who don't know their place must be shot!"

Perhaps the most ominous development has been the regime's reaction towards the pro-democracy movement's attempts to show support for the East Timorese.

The radical human rights coalition INFIGHT shortly after the massacre sent a delegation to the parliament to protest. This was followed a week later by a demonstration of more than 50 East Timorese in the main street of Jakarta, which INFIGHT also supported. Almost all of the East Timorese demonstrators were detained and are still in detention.

At the same time, INFIGHT began preparations to send a fact-finding mission to Dili. The four-person team was to comprise Indro Chahyono, a convener of INFIGHT; Haji Princen, from the Institute for the Defence of Human Rights; Yoppie Lasut, a well-respected freelance journalist and member of the prisoner rehabilitation group, New Life Foundation; and a fourth person from the Bandung Legal Aid Foundation.

Since the attempt to send this mission became known, Indro, Princen and Lasut have been under intense pressure. The latest information from the London Human Rights Organisation TAPOL is that Indro and Princen are undergoing intense interrogation at the offices of the Body for Coordination of Stability and Resilience, while Lasut is in hiding. This is also confirmed by Green Left's own sources. Reliable sources indicate that the regime may be moving towards attempting to close down INFIGHT and the institute.

All GLW's sources indicate that there is extensive discontent within the regime and even the military over the massacre. This is not based upon rejection of the occupation or the repression but on the extent of the "tactical blunder". The incident is seen as a major "setback" to Indonesia's international diplomacy.

The Indonesian news media have kept the issue alive after inquiry last week. Important representatives of the civilian conservative establishment, such as Harry Tjan of the Centre of International and Strategic Studies have made statements that Indonesia cannot afford to be put in the "Tienanmen" category.

It is likely that the perception of a major "setback" will accelerate the pace at which those forces calling for a shift from presidential military authoritarian rule to some form of conservative "guided" parliamentary rule.

Issue