Suharto's new crackdown


By Max Lane

In the early morning of April 20, security forces raided a house in Medan, North Sumatra, arresting 13 student activists from the Students in Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia (SMID), including its international affairs officer, Bimo Nugroho. The students were severely beaten before being formally detained.

Nugroho has been charged with insulting the head of state, a serious charge under Indonesia's repressive laws. The other students include Saparuddin Siregar, Eleirinda, Tongkam Siregar, Herwin, Iswan Saputra, Acun and Bahar.

The 13 students had been part of a delegation to the North Sumatran parliament protesting against President Suharto's recent threats, following demonstrations against him in Germany, of repressive action against supporters of democratic change in Indonesia and self-determination in East Timor.

"We will take firm action against the national traitors! They are mad, they are crazy, they are irrational", was the outburst from Suharto after he faced a large and rowdy demonstration in the city of Dresden in Germany on April 7. More than 100 demonstrators jeered Suharto in Indonesian as he entered an art museum.

His anger was aimed at Indonesians who were alleged to have supplied the demonstrators with information about the Indonesian dictatorship's occupation of East Timor and other human rights violations.

Since Suharto arrived back in Jakarta, arrest warrants have been issued for three prominent critics of the dictatorship who have been in Europe recently. These are Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a recently sacked member of parliament, Goenawan Mohammad, former publisher of the banned Tempo magazine, and Yenni Rosa Damayanti, a leader of the Indonesian Student Action Front (FAMI), who had been in Europe campaigning in solidarity with the East Timorese people.

Reports from Jakarta say that Yenni will be accused of organising the demonstration in Dresden, Sri Bintang of making speeches and Goenawan Mohammad of preparing the atmosphere for the demonstration by giving a number of interviews during a visit to Germany shortly before Suharto's arrival.

Sri Bintang was served with a summons on the evening of April 16 and has been undergoing daily interrogation since then. Both his car and house have also been stoned. Goenawan Mohammad and Sri Bintang have denied any connection with the demonstrations.

Officials of the Indonesian dictatorship also claim that other participants in the demonstration were Helmi Fauzi, Rezza Muharam, Siswa Santosa, Isti Hajar and Asep Yahya, all prominent human rights activists based in Europe.

In Jakarta on April 13, three more students were arrested during a protest outside the Ministry of Information against the arrest of members of the Alliance of Independent Journalists. The demonstration was organised by the Indonesians in Solidarity with Press Liberation, which includes FAMI, Students in Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia (SMID) and other pro-democracy groups. The three arrested were Wahyu from Patuan University in Bogor and Herlan and Yadi Jamhur from the National University in Jakarta.

The issuing of the arrest warrants was accompanied a series of bellicose statements by presidential and military spokespersons. The coordinating minister for politics and security, Soesilo Soedarman, stated that there were many people organised in non-government organisations and discussion groups who were out to change society and subvert the state ideology. "There is no part of society, the government, the Indonesian Democratic Party, Golkar, the Chamber of Commerce and others who are not infiltrated", he said, "They are not carrying this out openly, but secretly."

Another former military official, Professor Suhardiman, stated that opposition groups wanted to undermine the stability of Suharto's presidency and called for "total consolidation". "If we relax at all, then I am afraid there will be a national incident. We must make sure there is no big social turmoil."

There are widespread rumours in Jakarta of a possible declaration of martial law in May.

Munif Laredo, president of SMID, told Green Left Weekly from Jakarta that human rights violations in Indonesia had become so widespread and such a generalised focus of opposition that it was becoming harder and harder for the government to control the situation. "They shouldn't be surprised if there are demonstrations at home or abroad with so many violations of people's rights now. That's why there were demonstrations a few days ago over press bannings. And next week there will be actions in Jogja and Bandung about the arrest of our members.

"Today [April 21] the women's solidarity organisation will be holding actions against the government's use of various religious regulations to formalise women's role as housewife and to otherwise confine the expanding role of women. A sense of the need to fight human rights violations is spreading very quickly."

The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute issued a statement on April 18 questioning the actions taken against Sri Bintang, Goenawan and Yenni. "The protests that have emerged overseas are partly a result of the suppression of the ability for fair expression of opinion inside Indonesia. It is time to review many of the regulations that restrict the freedom of expression and organisation in the political field."

Politics and security minister Soesilo, in his statement backing Suharto's outburst, also confirmed the danger identified on April 5 by Indonesia's army chief, General Hartono, who warned regional commanders that clandestine elements presented a subtle but dangerous threat to stability, not only in East Timor.

"They may be state or private employees, but they are actually troublemakers. The clandestine movement is not a small problem but must have our serious attention", Hartono told officers in Magelang. Jakarta Post quoted him as asking commanders to submit lists of leaders of any clandestine movement in their area, adding that such movements required close surveillance.

In fact, the Indonesian regime has long been harassed by the East Timorese clandestine movement in Java, which was able to launch the occupation of the United States Embassy last November 12. The student clandestine movement has also been able to smuggle many messages and other information to human rights organisations and solidarity groups outside Indonesia.

On May 19, 1994, Jose Antonio Neves was arrested and on October 12 put on trial charged with supplying international human rights organisations with critical information on Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. He was arrested carrying a letter from guerilla leader Konis Santana addressed to the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor in Manila. The local post office security had also seized letters he had sent. Neves was sentenced to four years in February.

More recently, on March 28 in East Timor, Ignacio de Jesus dos Santos was put on trial accused of organising an anti-government demonstration on the University of East Timor campus on January 9.

Ignacio is one of 13 people the regime plans to bring before the court in connection with a demonstration at the state-run university. He is charged under the anti-subversion law.

Abdul Hasan, the government prosecutor, accused dos Santos of using his house to organise the demonstrators. He has also been accused of using "abusive language and insulting the government" during the campus protest against the occupation of East Timor. As no person accused of political crimes has ever been found innocent by a court under the Suharto dictatorship, it can be expected that dos Santos and the 12 other students yet to be tried will all receive heavy sentences.