Spotlight on Indonesia


Workers demonstrate against thugs

On November 6, around 250 demonstrators from the Solidarity Front demonstrated outside the East Java provincial parliament in Surabaya. They were protesting against the stabbing of a fellow worker by hired thugs during a picket at a factory owned the electrical manufacturing company, PT Mepoly, on November 1.

According to the Detik news service, the workers were also demanding the release of nine workers and activists detained when security forces attacked the picket line. Some 50 fleeing workers were beaten, arrested and forced into trucks.

The Solidarity Front is made up of a number of pro-democracy and labour groups including the People's Democratic Party, the Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle, National Student League for Democracy and the Association of Catholic Students. The group was formed to support the PT Mepoly workers.

Residents protest land seizures

Some 500 protesters from 13 neighbourhoods in Jakarta held a rowdy demonstration at the provincial parliament on November 6. They were protesting the seizure of their land for a new railway line by police backed by local thugs, beginning November 3.

More than 1200 people have been affected, most losing their homes and possessions. The project is expected to affect thousands more. The demonstrators — many of them now homeless — plan to stay at the council chambers until they are given a place to live and are compensated for their losses.

One of the protesters, Slamet, told Detik:"Nine trucks full of fully armed Mobile Brigade officers, Fighters of the Front for the Defence of Islam and other people paid by [the government] came ... [but] only the residents who received compensation [for their land should have] had their lands marked [for demolition and destroyed]", he said.

The authorities claim that 48 receipts have been received by the residents but, according to Slamet, only five signed the receipts. "The rest were signed falsely noting the names of residents so that they could immediately move into our land", he said. "All the land of the residents has been bulldozed ... When they evicted us we were only [allowed to] read the work order, they would not even give us a copy", he added.

According to the head of the Urban Poor Consortium, Wardah Hafidz, who accompanied the demonstrators, the evictions are the first since the overthrow of President Suharto. "If this kind of thing continues, it means we've regressed to the New Order. This is clearly a test case for the provincial government. If we just keep quiet, this problem will go on and on", Hafidz said.

Popular discontent against Wahid grows

In the latest sign of growing discontent with President Abdurrahman Wahid, a poll has shown that most Indonesians want him sacked.

The South China Morning Post reported that a random poll, published in Tempo news weekly, found that 65% of respondents want legislators to hold a special session to dump Wahid. Only 35% said he should be given more time to solve the country's problems.

Of those who want Wahid to go, 40% said he had failed to carry out promised reforms and 30% said he was not competent to run the country. Only 49% said that Wahid should be replaced by vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Three students injured after taking police hostage

Three university students were injured after Mobile Brigade troops stormed the University of Tanjungpura (UT) campus in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. The incident occurred after the students refused to release three police officers taken hostage in an attempt force the release of fellow students detained earlier in the day.

Students have been demonstrating almost weekly against the West Kalimantan governor Aspar Aswin since June. According to Detik, on November 9 protesting students at the regional parliament clashed with security guards. Police arrived and arrested three students. The demonstrators responded by pelting police with stones forcing them to retreat, taking the arrested students with them.

Protesters then began a "sweep" operation at a nearby roundabout stopping cars and checking passengers. Three police officers were detained, one had his car torched. The officers were taken to UT, which was then cordoned off by police.

At around 4.30pm a Mobile Brigade unit stormed the university firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the students. Detik said that three students were injured and that police damaged around 50 motorbikes belonging to students. Several officers were seen beating students.

[Visit Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor's web site at for more news updates.]