New political trials in Indonesia


By Max Lane

Three student activists from the democratic movement are now on trial in central Java.

Two of the students were charged in relation to an open forum they organised in May 1992, during the general elections. The forum, supported by high school students, non-government organisation activists, Muslim activists and supporters of the late president Sukarno, was held to publicise the democratic movement's call for a boycott of the elections.

The boycott campaign, which was led by the radical wing of the student democratic movement, was most successful in central Java.

Only political parties which supported the government were allowed to participate in the elections. During the open forum, held in the city of Semarang, the military occupied the campus and arrested the organisers. Two activists were detained for interrogation and are now being tried.

Lukas Luwarso and Poltak Oke Wibowo, both 25, are charged with spreading hatred against the government and the head of government under a decree of the Dutch colonial administration before independence.

The Forum for International Solidarity in Indonesia (FISI) has called for the students to be released immediately. According to FISI, "The open forum in Semarang in May 1992 was a new phenomenon for Indonesia as masses of people from a range of backgrounds gathered to discuss real local and national political issues ... FISI calls on the international community to show their solidarity with Lukas and Poltak by condemning the Indonesian government for bringing the younger Indonesian democrats to court."

Meanwhile in Salatiga, another student has been

charged. The trial of Buntomi opened on June 23.

Although formal charges have not yet been read out, it is most likely the trial is related to events of two years ago, when the Supreme Court banned a calendar titled "Land for the People". The calendar depicted a number of incidents of abuse by the military against village people, especially in relation to land issues.

Before the calendar was banned, it had been distributed in various cities in Java, including Salatiga. Two months before the banning, Buntomi was brought in by the Salatiga police because the calendar was thought to have originated from Yayasan GENI, a non-governmental organisation in Salatiga headed by Buntomi.

In fact, the names of nine non-governmental organisations from Bandung, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta are listed as partners in publishing the calendar. Representatives of the nine organisations distributed a press release taking full responsibility. The Salatiga police chief refused to meet with the representatives.

By April 1991, it seemed the case had been buried. The sudden trial of Buntomi in June came as a surprise after more than two years. The decision to bring Buntomi, Lukas and Poltak to court, as well as the use of quite brutal force in dispersing recent student demonstrations, seems to reflect a determination by the Indonesian military to reassert its influence in Indonesian politics.