Philippine protest against Suharto

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

MANILA — "Free Dita Sari", "Suharto, Hitler, dictator, killer — out" were painted on banners and caps as around 100 workers from the socialist workers centre Filipino Workers Solidarity (BMP) picketed the Indonesian embassy here on August 9. This was the first solidarity action in the Philippines in support of the Indonesian pro-democracy movement since the recent political crackdown by the Suharto dictatorship. The action received wide media coverage.

A BMP press release issued on August 9 states: "Indonesian businesses in the Philippines which have connections with the Suharto dictatorship will be targets of the BMP's peaceful protest activities. Companies such as Metro Pacific, the consortium which bought the privatised Fort Bonifacio, is known to have substantial share holdings by members of the Suharto family. The BMP will be investigating Metro Pacific and other companies which are known or rumored to have links with the Suharto regime ..."

Security guards and embassy spies sprinted towards a group of workers who were burning pictures of Suharto against the Indonesian national emblem carved into the embassy walls. But the media, with television cameras swinging, followed and prevented them from interfering with the protest activities.

The place was swarming with Indonesian spies trying to get the names of those present. One of them asked a protest organiser if Dita Sari (an arrested leader of the People's Democratic Party) "had leftist connections".

BMP speakers outlined the current political situation in Indonesia. Leody De Guzman pointed to the similarities between the situation faced by the Philippine workers movement under the Marcos dictatorship and that faced by the Indonesian movement today. Wilson Fortaleza described the picket as the "first salvo" in the BMP's solidarity campaign to "bring down the Suharto dictatorship" Sonny Melencio pointed out that Indonesia's high growth rates were based on the "blood and sweat of the Indonesian workers. We won't let that happen here."

The crowd was then asked, "Suharto will be coming here in November to attend the APEC conference. Will we allow him on Filipino soil?". "No!", the workers shouted.

Reihana Mohideen, a member of the Democratic Socialist Party (Australia) and Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), also spoke and delivered solidarity greetings from Nico Warouw, the overseas representative of the People's Democratic Party, who is currently touring Australia. She called on the Philippine labour movement to support ASIET's call for an international day of protest on human rights and democracy in Indonesia, which has been set for October 28.

Nico Warouw's message was well received. His statement met with big applause when he said, "The Philippines working class, students, peasants and others are fighting against the regime of Ramos, a regime that has the same character as Suharto's. The PRD appreciates the support from the Philippines people ... In the spirit of internationalism, the oppressed people in all countries should fight together and help each other in order to throw away the oppressive and exploitative system. Long live the struggle of the Philippine and Indonesian people. Long live internationalism."

The BMP is planning an education campaign on the Indonesian situation. It is also planning a workers' signature campaign around a petition demanding the release of political prisoners like Muchtar Pakpahan from the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union and Dita Sari, and supporting freedom of assembly and free elections in Indonesia.