INDONESIA: Dissident parties work together



JAKARTA — On July 22, several political parties organised a seminar to discuss the contemporary implications of the July 27, 1996, attack by pro-Suharto thugs on the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). During that raid, PDI members loyal to Megawati Sukarnoputri were killed, injured and some have disappeared.

The failure of Megawati's government to bring the perpetrators to justice has become a major controversy as the sixth anniversary of the attack approached.

The controversy has been sharpened by Megawati's support for retired general Sutiyoso to serve another term as governor of Jakarta. Sutiyoso was the military commander of Jakarta at the time of the military-organised attack.

The July 22 seminar was organised by a group of parties called the Revolutionary Progressive Democratic Front (PRDF). The Peoples Democratic Party played an important role in bringing the parties together. The Social Democratic Labour Party, headed by Mochtar Pakpahan, is a member of the new front. Pakpahan is also chairperson of the Indonesian Workers Prosperity Union.

Another key party in the PRDF is the Indonesian National Party (PNI), headed by Sukamwati Sukarnoputri, the youngest daughter of independent Indonesia's first president, Sukarno.

The Peoples Struggle Party (PPR), headed by civil rights lawyer Gustav Dupe, also mobilised members to attend the 200-strong seminar. The PPR's support comes primarily from among the victims of the 1965 repression that accompanied Suharto's coup.

The National Democratic Party, a party formed by liberal and progressive-minded entrepreneurs, also participated. Keynote speaker was RO Tambunan, the head of the legal team that defended Megawati Sukarnoputri when she was under attack from the Suharto regime while chairperson of the PDI.

On July 24, Eros Djarot, former high profile leader of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), and other discontented members formed the Bung Karno Nationalist Party.

Many of these new parties reflect dissatisfaction among supporters of the PDIP and those who look to one form or another of Sukarnoism. All these parties, both inside the PRDF and outside, criticise the Megawati government for concessions to the political forces of the Suharto period, especially Golkar and the armed forces. They see this as being reflected in support for Sutiyoso and in the PDIP's refusal to support the formation of a parliamentary commission to investigate corruption by Golkar. The refusal by Megawati to take special action to bring to justice those involved in the July 27 “incident” is seen as another example.

In his speech, Tambunan revealed that Megawati had told him that she had been informed beforehand of the 1996 attack on her headquarters. He said that Megawati confirmed to him that she took no steps to warn the PDI members at the office. He also claimed that the PDI members injured or imprisoned by the Suharto regime had been offered 10 million rupiah each to stay silent. Tambunan accused Megawati of not wanting the attack investigated because it would reveal that she was complicit because of her foreknowledge and lack of action to warn anybody.

What is less clear is the extent of ideological or policy agreement between the PRDF parties. Discussions between the parties have only just begun. At the seminar, some differences were clear. Some parties, such as the PNI, defend the Indonesian constitution and the concept of a centralised Indonesian state. Others support constitutional amendments or a new constitution that would create a federal state.

All parties agreed that some form of national gathering, that would include party and non-party forces, was necessary to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement within the democratic and progressive forces.

There are other initiatives, although at early stages of development, aimed at bringing together organisations and individuals engaged in democratic opposition to the government. Trade unions and worker-oriented organisations are meeting under the auspices of the May 1 Committee. A grouping of 14 peasant groups, who met together at the Indonesian Peoples Forum in Bali in May, are attempting to form a coalition. There is also an embryonic Preparatory Committee for the Government of the Poor, which has brought together political parties, student groups and labour organisations.

Most democratic and left forces in Indonesia trace their origins to the resistance to the Suharto dictatorship and the continuing struggle against its remnants. This resistance developed in an atmosphere of ideological heterogeneity and minimal national coordination.

These ideological and organisation weaknesses have resulted in a situation today of growing resistance and protests, without the development of national political movements mobilised around central ideas and demands.

The embryonic initiatives to overcome this reflects the slowly increasing pressure for this fragmented resistance to form into a political movement that can challenge the government.

[Max Lane is national chairperson of Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific. Visit <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, July 31, 2002.
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