INDONESIA: Moves towards anti-Golkar alliances begin

January 31, 2001


On January 23, Budiman Sujatmiko, chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD) led a delegation to meet the leadership of the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the religious organisation which Abdurrahman Wahid led before his election as president of Indonesia. Sujatmiko called on the NU to join with the PRD in fighting any comeback to power of the forces that ruled Indonesia under the Suharto "New Order" regime.

At the meeting, Sujatmiko expressed his disappointment that Wahid and the National Awakening Party (PKB), which draws its support from the NU, had failed to mobilise their supporters to destroy the New Order forces. Instead, said Sujatmiko, they were accommodating to the New Order forces by such actions as letting deposed dictator Suharto escape a public trial, dropping charges against known big beneficiaries of corruption, and against known human rights violators.

Sujatmiko called on the NU to support a series of mass public meetings, protest actions, joint seminars and other campaign activities to push back the New Order forces. He proposed that such an open mass campaign should have four main demands.

The first of these would be the formation of a "commission for historical truth" to investigate and uncover all cases of human rights violations and corruption, collusion and nepotism during the 1966-98 New Order period.

Secondly, the campaign should demand the trial of all human rights violators and corrupters before a "people's court", or the trial of human rights violators before an international court. Third, the campaign should demand the confiscation and/or nationalisation of all wealth and assets of corrupt bureaucrats and corrupt New Order crony bourgeoisie. Fourthly, the campaign should demand the abolition of the dual role of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI).

In a statement released by the PRD after the meeting, Sujatmiko confirmed that the general chairperson of the NU, Hasyim Muzadi, stated his agreement with Sujatmiko's proposal for a general campaign of all democratic forces against the forces of the New Order. Muzadi stated that the themes of the campaign should be decided together with the student and youth organisations of the NU. The PRD statement quoted Muzadi as stating that "Once agreement has been reached on the themes, the NU will help with logistics, including mobilising its hundreds of thousands and even millions of members".

Golkar 's comeback tactics

Ex-dictator Suharto's party, Golkar, and its allies among the commanding officers of the TNI, as well as right-wing Moslem clerics, are continuing their campaign to destabilise the Wahid government. This is despite President Wahid's repeated retreats on democratic reforms in the face of opposition from these forces.

Wahid has retreated on his previous promises to repeal the law banning the dissemination of "Marxism-Leninism", ending the TNI's representation in the parliament, holding a referendum in Aceh, and releasing West Papuan independence leaders, just to name a few examples. It appears, however, that the New Order reactionaries want nothing less than for Wahid to be removed from office.

The alliance of Golkar, the Armed Forces and Police Caucus and the right-wing Islamic parties of the Central Axis, make up the biggest bloc in the Indonesian parliament. They have been spearheading an attack on Wahid through special commissions investigating the so-called Bulogate and Bruneigate scandals. The former involves the theft of US$4.1 million from the national food agency Bulog by people claiming to be acting on Wahid's behalf, including his masseur. Bruneigate concerns Wahid's acceptance of a US$2 million donation from the Sultan of Brunei in aid for humanitarian programs in Aceh.

At the same time, this Golkar-TNI-Central Axis alliance has blocked investigations into the billion-dollar Bank Bali scandal that involved mainly Golkar officials.

The clash between Golkar and Wahid started to come to a head on January 17 in the lead up to hearings of the special commissions of the House of Representatives that had summonsed Wahid to appear before them.

Various rightist Islamic groups, many of which had never been heard of before, mobilised thousands of people to demonstrate outside the parliament on January 17 to demand Wahid resign from his position. Prior to this the media had been full of prediction and counter-prediction of how many pro and anti Wahid supporters would mobilise in Jakarta.

As the atmosphere heated up, Wahid called on his supporters, organised in the Banser semi-militia formation not to mobilise in Jakarta. In the end, only anti-Wahid forces were mobilised. At least one of these demonstrations was dispersed by the police with tear gas.

Parallel with the newspaper polemics about who would or would not demonstrate and what dangers these demonstrations proposed to "security" in Jakarta, were more threats from the reactionary bloc of other actions to be taken against Wahid. The speaker of the parliament and chairperson of Golkar, former Suharto minister Akbar Tanjung, stated that Wahid would be liable to a one-year prison sentence if he did not attend the special commission hearing. Other Golkar, and rightist Moslem figures, began to raising the idea of holding another special session of the Peoples Consultative Council (MPR). The MPR has the authority to dismiss the president.

Wahid appeared before the special commission on January 23 but only to state his view that it was overreaching its authority. He refused to answer any questions and abruptly left the hearing. He made it clear he would appear in any court hearing but would not answer questions of the parliamentary commission.

The commission was supposed to announce its findings to the parliament on January 24 with the parliament announcing its position on January 29.

Generals also counter-attack

On January 22, army chief of staff General Endriartono Sutarto attacked critics of the TNI and urged the military to stay united. Speaking at a ceremony to install Major General Bibit Waluyo, a known critic of Wahid, as the new Jakarta military commander, Sutarto rejected accusations that the TNI was behind various recent terrorist actions, including a series of 16 bomb explosions outside churches on Christmas eve.

"I do not say or even guarantee that none of my men were involved in the year-end incidents, but they [the TNI's critics] must have strong evidence to accuse someone of being involved in a crime", Sutarto said.

Human rights leaders, such as the prominent lawyer Munir, have named several retired generals as suspects in the bombings, implying also that they were using their influence in the military to have terrorists incidents organised. Wahid himself stated that the police had named ex-general Prabowo, Suharto's son-in-law, as a suspect. Prabowo later rejected the accusations.

Sutarto also accused the critics of claiming that the army was above the law and of trying to make ordinary soldiers feel that they were being used by their generals to destroy the country. He said these critics, whom he did not name, were out to destroy the army.

From these statements, it seems likely that the critics Sutarto had in mind organisations like the Anti-New Order Peoples Front (FRAROB). In one if its recent statements, FRAROB explicitly stated that the dual function of the military was the basis of policies that ensured that "all decisions (both political and economic) concerning the military will inevitably end up benefiting them", i.e., the generals, not the ordinary soldiers.

FRAROB raised the issue of why there has been no investigation of army-owned business conglomerates. In its statement, FRAROB declared that: "The number of members of the Armed Forces and Police parliamentary fraction may be small but they still have a qualitatively significant influence. No wonder then that there has been no discussion of the army's business operations. And, even if they were discussed, the results would only end up benefiting the generals alone."

FRAROB is a coalition involving members of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) activists campaigning for justice for the victims of the July 27 1996 attack on the PDIP headquarters, activists campaigning for investigations into the 1965 anti-communist massacres and organisations identifying with the anti-imperialist nationalism of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno.

FRAROB's positions are similar to those the PRD has proposed to the NU as part of a platform for a broad democratic opposition against the Golkar-TNI New Order forces.

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