Threat to Indonesian dissident in Australia

Issue 

Threat to Indonesian dissident in Australia

By Max Lane

On June 1 police in central Java issued the third summons for Indonesian dissident academic Dr George Aditjondro. Police authorities also stated that efforts would be made to extradite Aditjondro, currently teaching at Murdoch University. These threats were backed up by statements from attorney-general Singgih that "diplomatic pressure" would be used to get Aditjondro back.

Aditjondro is being charged under old colonial laws for "insulting a government body" and possibly also for "insulting the head of state". He told Green Left Weekly, "My campaign is not only for my freedom but also so that all these old colonial laws, now long abolished back in the Netherlands, are also done away with in Indonesia. These laws make the people accountable to the government, instead of the government accountable to the people."

Asked why the authorities are so upset with him, Aditjondro said that it seemed to be sparked by a seminar he gave at the University of Islam Indonesia in Yogyakarta a year ago. "They seem especially upset at my joke that Indonesia was now the Ha! Ha! Ha! state — meaning that the country is controlled by Harto (Suharto), Habibie and Harmoko. Sometimes I make the joke that it is Hahahaha, adding the last "ha" for forestry millionaire Bob Hassan."

Aditjondro was the first to bring to public notice the emergence of a new oligarchy based on the business ties between the family of President Suharto and those of his two close cronies in the cabinet, research and technology minister Habibie and information minister Harmoko.

Timmy Habibie, Minister Habibie's younger brother, has developed joint business projects with Suharto's tycoon daughter, Tutut, in the massively profitable telecommunications sector. Suharto's son, Bambang, through his Bimantara business group, is also working with Timmy Habibie in the petrochemical industry as well as developing industrial estates on the island of Batam, off Singapore.

Aditjondro was also the first to bring to public notice that Harmoko had acquired shares in 30 media enterprises, many since he had been the minister.

"They say my jokes and comments undermine the authority of the government and the military", Aditjondro told GLW. "I am also very disappointed in the attitude of the rectors of my university, the Christian University of Satya Wacana, and the UII for not supporting me. All my comments were made at campus based seminars, and they should be supporting the freedom of academic expression."

Aditjondro has said that the moves against him are part of a general crackdown on the pro-democracy movement and are also aimed at shutting down the postgraduate program in development studies at the University of Satya Wacana. Five other staff members at the university have been sacked, provoking a strike.

A letter signed by 67 Australian academics from 18 campuses calling for all charges against Aditjondro to be dropped has been sent to key ministers in the Indonesian cabinet and was delivered to Habibie during his recent visit to Australia.

The Medical Society for the Prevention of War has written to foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans expressing its concern over the threats from Jakarta against Aditjondro. The WA Greens have raised the issue in parliament. Amnesty International is also preparing a statement.