Indonesian protesters clash with military


Indonesian protesters clash with military

By James Balowski

On August 14, a peaceful protest organised by a new coalition, GRAK, at the Solo National University (UNS) in Central Java, turned into a 10-minute battle with troops when protesters were prevented from holding a rally at the local parliament.

GRAK, the People's Anti-"Yellowing" Movement (referring to the yellow campaign jackets worn by members of the state party Golkar), is a newly formed broad coalition which includes the national Student Solidarity for Indonesian Democracy (SMID), workers and labour activists from the independent trade union Centre for Labour Struggle (PPBI), People's United Democracy (PRD) and the Surakata (Solo) United People.

The coalition is campaigning against efforts by Golkar to increase its profile in Java despite strict laws under which political parties are not allowed to campaign except during general elections, held once every five years.

Many are also angered by the Golkar chairperson and close confidant of President Suharto, Harmoko, who has used his position as minister of information to secure regular appearances on the government-controlled TV station TVRI.

GRAK activists began gathering at the UNS boulevard at around 7.30am and were soon joined by SMID activists from Semarang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Jakarta. Within 10 minutes, two military trucks had arrived and were stationed outside the campus gates while scores of intelligence operatives were positioned in and around the campus.

Shortly afterwards, PPBI workers from PT Sritex in Solo joined the crowd, followed by 25 activists from the Semarang branch of SMID and 30 others from the SMID Solo branch.

At 9.30, when the protesters tried to march to the local parliament, troops moved in, blocking the university exit. With protesters unable to leave, Ria Shanti from SMID began speaking to the crowd while protesters shouted the national labour campaign slogan "One Struggle, One Transformation, Repeal Undemocratic Political Laws" and "Reject Yellowing".

At 10.30 am, when protesters charged the blockade, troops attacked and beat protesters, forcing them back. Fighting continued for over 10 minutes, until the troops were forced to retreat.

At mid-day organisers finished the rally with a song and speech emphasising that the GRAK campaign would continue. An activist, Dody, who was abducted by police during the incident, is still being detained at the city police station and has been beaten and tortured with electric shocks. No news has been received on a Dutch journalist, Leonard, who was also arrested.