Indonesians strike against $1 per day

August 28, 1991

By Frank Gollan

JAKARTA — A major industrial dispute and trouble with a visiting Dutch parliamentary delegation gave the Indonesian government more than its usual share of problems in the week of the 46th anniversary of independence. The problems of the country's uneven development were also underlined by a three hour Java-wide power failure on the eve of the August 17 independence ceremonies.

With presidential elections due next May, the government has been trying to present a human face, with the daily press carrying photos of politicians and military officials giving poetry recitals. Old habits are hard to shake, however, for the country which vies with South Africa for the world's worst human rights.

On August 20, 13,000 workers struck in the industrial city of Tanggerang near Jakarta. While smaller industrial actions have occurred in a number of areas, this action was the most significant in recent years.

The workers were demanding that their wages be increased from Rp1600 per day (about $1) to the legal minimum wage of Rp2100. According to a Ministry of Manpower report, in almost every province the minimum wage received by workers fails to cover their minimum physical needs.

Coordinating minister for political and security affairs Sudomo responded to the strike by saying he would ask the armed forces to intervene.

Two days earlier, a visiting Dutch parliamentary delegation embarrassed the government by turning up unannounced at Jakarta's Cipinang prison. The Jakarta Post quoted armed forces representative General Nurhadi Purwosaputro saying later that "to visit a correctional facility one needs a permit from the authorities". The delegation had been able to enter the prison and speak to a number of political prisoners for about 15 minutes before the order for their expulsion arrived. They were not impressed by the prison officials' offer to arrange another visit the next day.

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