Meeting discusses political crisis in Indonesia
By Janet Parker
SYDNEY — "The Suharto regime is entering a phase of political crisis", began a lecture delivered by Max Lane to an audience of more than 100 people at Sydney University on April 24. The event was sponsored by Green Left Weekly.
Lane, a lecturer in South-east Asian Studies at Sydney University and national coordinator of Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, detailed the dramatic increase in political and social unrest over recent months. Despite the regime's renewed crackdown since the events of last July, there has been an increase in strikes, student protest and anti-government street riots.
A boycott of the May 29 elections is also gaining widespread support. While the boycott campaign has been spurred by the regime's refusal to allow Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI) leader Megawati Sukarnoputri to participate in the election, Lane explained that much of the anger and activity are independent of Megawati.
New alliances are forming around a range of concerns, including wages and conditions, press freedom and the special treatment of transmigrants.
A growing network of members of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), the PDI and some East Timorese groups is demanding free and fair elections, the freeing of political prisoners, repeal of the repressive political laws and an end to the interference by the military in political life.
Megawati, however, is still tending to work within the context of Suharto's New Order.
"Megawati and her group must take the plunge", Lane said, "accept that change can not come through the rigged electoral system and escalate the mass struggle. If she fails to do this, her position as a symbol will end and the increasingly assertive oppressed section of society will produce its own leadership."
In concluding the meeting, Lane urged people to get involved in ASIET, which is organising protests, public meetings and film showings before the May elections. Also, ASIET is stepping up its campaign to free the Indonesian political prisoners.