On March 4, hundreds of armed right-wing militia, calling themselves the Indonesian Anti-Communist Front (FAKI), attacked the East Java regional conference of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) at Hotel Selekta in Batu City. The same militia group attacked Papernas's founding national conference in January.
Some 200 participants were attending the new party's first regional conference. Organisers had undertaken all of the formal procedures required to hold the conference, so it should have been protected by law enforcement officials. Yet the police allowed FAKI to attack it.
According to Fajar, the newly elected chairperson of the East Java branch of Papernas, the FAKI thugs carried sharp knives and burned Papernas flags and banners along the road of the venue.
This was the third right-wing militia attack on the new party. Last September, a group of armed thugs calling themselves the Tauhid Anti-communist Movement (GERTAK) had tried unsuccessfully to disrupt a Papernas preparatory meeting in East Java.
Papernas chairperson Dominggus Oktavianus told Green Left Weekly: "The repeated occurrence of such shameful incidents indicates that the methods of former President Suharto's New Order regime are still being used by remnants of the New Order within the Indonesian military (TNI).
"A similar modus operandi was used at the Papernas founding congress in Yogyakarta, when the Pamungkas Yogyakarta 072 District Military Command put pressure on the Yogyakarta regional police to obstruct the congress.
"This is a serious violation of fundamental democratic rights — the right to organise and gather and freedom of expression. In our view, these fundamental democratic rights are absolutely crucial because with these freedoms the nation has an opportunity to rise up out of impoverishment by building a people's movement that is conscious of its economic, political, social and cultural rights."
On March 3, the police refused a permit for a regional conference of Papernas to be held in Yogyakarta, in Central Java. Papernas is investigating possible legal action against the police and FAKI leaders. It is demanding that the Indonesian government guarantees basic democratic rights by acting firmly against anti-democratic forces; that the TNI and the national police purge its institutions of New Order factions that are anti-democratic, anti-people and against national sovereignty; and that the Batu City municipal police chief be dismissed from his post for failing to provide security for an event that was legitimate under the law.
Oktavianus appealed for supporters of democratic rights to lodge protests over the incident.
[Protests can be faxed to the Indonesian embassy in your country, or phone or SMS national police chief General Sutanto on +62 818315703. To send a solidarity message to Papernas, email <email@example.com> or phone +62 21 8305819 or +62 815 843 68608.]