INDONESIA: Left-wing opposition coalition formed

Issue 

BY MAX LANE

JAKARTA — On January 22, more than 300 journalists and other observers crammed into a room in the Struggle Museum to hear representatives of several political and social movement organisations announce the formation of a new opposition coalition, called the Koalisi Nasional (National Coalition — KN).

Negotiations to form the KN had begun only a few days earlier in response to the mounting evidence of widespread public disaffection not only with the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but with the elit politik — the existing parliamentary parties, their extra-parliamentary front organisations and their intellectual hangers-on.

Protests against the government's plans to increase fuel and electricity prices have continued. There have also been several demonstrations opposing the government's decision to request another US$2.7 billion loan from the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), the association of Western governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that supervises the economic and financial policies of the Indonesian government.

Almost all of these demonstrations have called for the removal of the Megawati government. Many also call for the resignation of the parliament and the appointment of a "presidium" as an interim government to hold early elections.

However, the demonstrations have not taken on mass proportions since they began in early January. Despite opinion polls showing that the vast majority of Indonesians are increasingly dissatisfied with the elit politik and its policies, the unorganised masses of workers and small farmers do not see any credible alternative political leadership.

The KN is the first serious attempt to unite forces outside the political elite into such an alternative political leadership. It has an impressive initial membership of 40 organisations, including student campaign organisations, trade unions, democratic rights groups as well as political parties. Almost all of the initial member organisations are activist oriented, or at least have some substantial record of extra-parliamentary protest action.

Key activist student groups which are members of KN include the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement, a large left-liberal Muslim student group; the National Democratic Front, an alliance of left-oriented activists groups; the National Students League for Democracy (LMND), the student organisation led by members of the radical left People's Democratic Party (PRD).

Labour organisations include the Indonesian Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI) and the Indonesian Workers Prosperity Union (SBSI). Democratic rights and community groups include the Committee for Vigilance Against the New Order, the University of Indonesia Almuni Association and the National Small Business Association.

Among the political parties supporting the NK are the PRD; the National Bung Karno Party (PNBK), which is a left-populist split off from Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) led by Eros Jarot; the Social Democratic Labour Party (PSDB), which was established by labour movement figure Mochtar Pakpahan; and the People's Struggle Party (PPR), a small party made up of older people who were active in the pre-1965 left.

The PNBK has tried to develop its support on the basis of a left-wing interpretation of political ideas of Sukarno, Indonesia's founding president. Since its breakaway from the PDIP in 2002, it has not been clear how strong its membership base has been. However, during the current round of demonstrations in some cities there have been significant PNBK contingents.

In addition to the PNBK, other organisations based on the radical democratic currents in the PDIP membership have joined the NK. These include the July 27 1996 Youth Movement and the Nationalist Youth League. The official youth wing of the PDIP, the Democratic Youth (PD), has also affiliated to the NK. A recent PD congress elected well-known leftist and author of the recently banned book I am proud to be a PKI child, Dr Rifka Ciptaning, as its secretary-general.

Another NK affiliate is the Vanguard Party (PP), led by Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, Megawati's elder sister. Rachmawati has been a virulent critic of Megawati's compromises with the Suhartoist Golkar party and her government's collaboration with Washington's "war on terror". So far, however, there has been no visible campaigning activities of PP with which to assess its membership strength.

This combination of parties, including the activist based PRD, comprises the core of the pro-democracy and anti-imperialist political parties in Indonesia.

The KN argues that the Megawati government has failed and that there needs to be a struggle to replace it with a new government "based on the demands of the people's movement" — for the withdrawal of the planned price increases on petrol, electricity and telephone usage; an end to interference in the Indonesian economy by the IMF and the World Bank; rejection of privatisation and defence of majority state ownership of all vital economic assets; and trial of all political and economic criminals and human rights violators during and since the New Order, both individuals and political institutions.

The KN's political platform calls for an end to the military hierarchy's interference in politics and demands a complete purging of the state apparatus of individuals involved in repression or corruption during the New Order era. It also demands the full political rehabilitation of the victims of political repression during and since the New Order.

The KN's economic platform emphasises the need for a sovereign national economy and demands the cancellation of all debts flowing from agreements between the New Order regime with the World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank.

The NK platform calls for the "development of a system of control and access to control all means of production, distribution and capital in all sectors of enterprise that impact on the dignity and livelihood of the majority of the people", and for an immediate 100% increase in wages for workers, civil servants, and the salaries of all officers, non-commissioned officers and the ranks of the armed forces and police. It also calls for the reinstitution of subsidies for agriculture, especially to provide technology and capital to small farmers, as well as a rejection of trade liberalisation in the food sector.

From Green Left Weekly, January 29, 2003.

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