Queuing for oil in an oil-rich country

March 15, 2008

Katarina Pujiastuti, a political activist in Jakarta, reports growing queues for petrol, massive electricity blackouts, and industry fuel shortages plaguing oil-rich Indonesia.

"Thofilus Itta, 42, was found dead in his room in Surabaya, East Java on March 7. The father of two sons had collapsed after waiting in line for three hours to obtain five litres of petrol", she reported in an email to Green Left Weekly.

"Recently there have been 200-metre queues for petrol in Balikpapan, in East Kalimantan province — a place known as the 'City of Oil'. In Cimahi, West Java, every day 500 people line up for petroleum from early morning to afternoon. The same situation can be found in various cities of Indonesia."

Yet Indonesia produces 1.1 million barrels of oil a day and it is the biggest natural gas producer in the Asia Pacific. Unfortunately, more than 90% of energy industries are controlled by giant foreign corporations. They extract the profits and the people queue for fuel at spiralling prices.

On March 12, Pujiastuti helped organise a demonstration outside the Jakarta headquarters of ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil corporation. ExxonMobil made US$40.6 billion profit in year 2007 — equal to the combined GDP of 120 countries!

Scores of factory workers and their families, bearing empty bottles and jerry cans, formed a symbolic queue outside the oil giant's office. It was part of a campaign by unions and other mass organisations affiliated to the National Liberation Party of Unity (PAPERNAS) demanding the nationalisation of the oil and mining industries.

This was the third protest this year outside ExxonMobil's Jakarta offices and other protests have taken place across the Indonesian archipelago from Sumatra in the west to Sulawesi and Flores in the east.

ExxonMobil is being targeted in solidarity with Hugo Chavez's socialist government in Venezuela, which is fighting court action from that company. Chavez's example in nationalising the country's oil industry and using its profits to help the poor, including in other countries, is finding a resonance on the other side of the world.

GLW works in close collaboration with activists, like Pujiastuti, who all around the world who are bravely resisting the plundering greed of the giant corporations.

This column appeals for your support for the Fighting Fund that helps GLW spread the story of this resistance. But we also run a solidarity People's Power Appeal to help our Indonesian comrades, so you are welcome to add a donation to this alongside your donation to the Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund.

So far this year we've collected $47,993 towards our $250,000 2008 Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund. You can directly deposit a donation to: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007, phone it through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia), or donate online at http://www.greenleft.org.au/donate.php.

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