Dhyta Caturani: 'Nothing has changed' in Indonesia

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Dhyta Caturani: 'Nothing has changed'

JAKARTA — People's Democratic Party (PRD) leader DHYTA CATURANI was seriously injured by a plastic bullet shot into her back at point blank range by police at a July 1 protest outside the electoral commission offices (KPU) in Jakarta. The PRD-organised protest was demanding the disqualification of the ruling Golkar party for rigging the elections and an end to the military's interference in political and social life in Indonesia.

When the peaceful protest was attacked suddenly by police, more than 100 protesters were injured, many of them seriously. The July 1 events have come to be known by democracy movement activists as "the KPU tragedy".

Caturani was interviewed at her home by Green Left Weekly's RUTH RATCLIFFE and JODY BETZIEN the day after her release from hospital. She was still unable to stand.

Question: What does the KPU tragedy indicate about Indonesian politics today?

The events of July 1 are proof that the elections have changed nothing; political violence has continued. There were other student actions before the PRD protest which were attacked by the military.

Also, July 1 is proof to the Indonesian democracy movement that the PRD is consistent in its mass struggle. When the PRD decided to run in the elections, many student and democracy groups said we had become moderate. This is proof that we will never stop fighting, in both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary ways.

Question: Have people been thinking differently about politics since the elections?

There are still lots of illusions, especially because Megawati Sukarnoputri's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), won the most votes. But in the PRD's opinion, nothing has changed. There is still repression by the military.

What we have to be aware of in the next period is the illusion among the people, especially PDI-P supporters, that Megawati will be the next president. There is still a very small chance of that occurring.

While there is much support for Megawati amongst the people, Golkar's vote-rigging means that this support has not translated into many seats in parliament. In the vote for the president, Megawati is likely to lose to Golkar and its crony right-wing Muslim parties, who will form a coalition.

Question: How will the Indonesian people respond if this happens, and what will the PRD do?

I think there will be a people's movement, but this will possibly only be a riot with no leadership or direction, just the people's anger, like in May last year.

The PRD's challenge is to channel this anger politically. We have to start now. We have to raise the consciousness of the people, convince them that Megawati has only a small chance of winning. The PRD has a lot of leaflets and pamphlets to explain this to the people.

This doesn't mean that the PRD supports Megawati's political program, but one of our tactics is to raise the consciousness of the masses, especially Megawati supporters. PRD members have intervened in many groups to win a hearing for our program.

Question: Is the regime likely to carry out more repression like on July 1 over the next period?

I'm sure. We believe it will happen more often and in a more brutal fashion, especially during the general session [first sitting of the new parliament].

Question: Was the release from prison of [PRD leader] Dita Sari immediately after the KPU tragedy coincidental?

The crackdown on July 1 was an attempt to stop the PRD raising our demands — for the disqualification of Golkar and an end to the dual role of the military. The release of Dita Sari is linked in that it was an attempt by the regime to redeem its credibility and appear internationally acceptable.

Pressure had been mounting for some time, both within Indonesia and internationally, for Dita Sari's release.

Question: What can activists in Australia and other countries do to support the democracy movement in Indonesia?

The problem in Indonesia is not a problem faced only by the Indonesian people, or caused by the Indonesian people. The crisis in Indonesia is only a derivative of the problem caused by international capitalism. That means that the struggle against oppression in Indonesia is a struggle against oppression all around the world.

We should have an internationalist perspective. The Indonesian people need solidarity from the people of other countries but also, the Indonesian people can give solidarity to people of other countries.

We want people in all other countries, especially Australia, to support our struggle in Indonesia. You can force your government to stop aid to the Indonesian regime. That will further weaken the regime.