BY MAX LANE
JAKARTA In a scene reminiscent of the Suharto era, on October 24 a Jakarta court sentenced two pro-democracy activists from the Popular Youth Movement (GPK) to one year in prison for "insulting the head of state".
The two activists 21-year-old busker Muzakir and 20-year-old street peddler Nanang Mamija were arrested at a picket on June 24 outside the Presidential Palace. During the picket, attended by 30 protesters, the two activists stomped on photographs of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Muzakir and Nanang admitted attending the demonstration to demand the resignation of President Megawati and vice-president Hamzah Haz for their inability to lead the government and solve the problems of the poor. Their lawyers argued that the law being used against them should not be implemented in a democracy.
According to a report in the October 26 Kompas newspaper, the judges rejected this argument, stating that the law concerned was "entirely appropriate in a Pancasila society from a moral, ethical as well as politeness point of view" (Pancasila is the official state ideology introduced under the Suharto military dictatorship).
The judges stated that the accused men's actions violated ethical norms and could intensify "tensions between groups" provoking "splits in the nation".
"These sentences, one year each for stamping on a photo, are the beginning of the government's moves to prepare the way for large-scale repression", Ricky Tambah, secretary-general of the GPK, told Green Left Weekly.
"Repression will be the only way it can stay in power. The Megawati government is already facing a lot of discontent. Next year the subsidies on prices of basic goods will disappear completely and prices will rise again."
From Green Left Weekly, October 30, 2002.
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