East Timor and Indonesian students united in struggle

May 5, 1999

Picture By Dave Gosling

The radical wing of the Indonesian democracy movement has long supported the struggle of the East Timorese people for national self-determination. These forces, especially those organised in the People's Democratic Party (PRD), argue that the invasion and brutal repression of East Timor are not in the interests of the people of Indonesia but only serve the economic interests of the dictatorship and its foreign backers. Joint actions between East Timorese students studying in Java and Indonesian activists have been taking place since 1994.

The radical student group Students in Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia (SMID) helped to organise, and participated in, the occupations of the Dutch, Russian and US embassies by East Timorese students in 1994-95, and suffered heavy repression as a result.

After the success of these actions, SPRIM (Indonesian People's Solidarity in Struggle with the Maubere People) was set up by SMID and trade unions activists. These activists later set up the PRD. The PRD was the first political party to call for a referendum on self-determination in East Timor.

When the PRD was suppressed in July 1996, PRD activists, including the head of SPRIM, Wilson bin Nurtias, were imprisoned in Cipinang jail with Xanana Gusmao.

East Timorese students were a strong component of the huge student demonstrations in 1998 against the Suharto dictatorship, although conservative student groups tried to block their participation.

The PRD continues to work with the East Timorese, backing the recent hunger strike by Socialist Party of Timor (PST) activists and helping to build student demonstrations organised by the National Student Resistance of East Timor (Renetil) and the PST.

The PRD, in conjunction with the PST, has called for a boycott of the Indonesian elections in East Timor. The parties argue that the Timorese should be voting on independence in a UN-supervised referendum, not voting on which Indonesian government should continue the occupation of their country.

The PRD also calls for a boycott in Aceh and West Papua until the Indonesian military ends its violent repression there and withdraws from these regions.

In response, the PRD has been threatened with further repression by the regime. Justice minister Muladi in early April stated that he had a case for the banning of the PRD because it "threatened the integrity of the Indonesian state". Around the same time, the newspaper Kompas published a photograph of armed East Timorese resistance guerillas wearing PRD T-shirts in an attempt to whip up anti-PRD sentiment.

Increasingly, students are being convinced that democracy in Indonesia is impossible without freedom for East Timor. The East Timorese are linking with the democracy movement in Indonesia, building alliances and struggling together against their common enemy — the military, the dictatorship and the imperialist countries that arm and support them.

[Dave Gosling is an ASIET activist in Canberra and a member of Resistance.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.