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Indonesia News Digest 33 – August 31-September 6, 1998

Democratic struggle

East Timor Political/economic crisis Labour issues Human rights/law News & issues Arms/armed forces Economy and investment

 Democratic struggle

Protestors burns posters of Suharto and family

Agence France Presse - September 4, 1998

Jakarta – A group of activists Friday burned caricatures of former president Suharto, his family and close associates in front of parliament, to protest their alleged involvement in bank scams and graft. Some 100 activists, mostly students, from six organisations first demonstrated at the attorney general's office, which is investigating allegations of bank fraud, before taking their protest to the parliament.

The protestors carried pictures or caricatures of Suharto, several of his children and close business associates, including former trade and industry minister Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, who they accused of involvement in the misuse of state liquidity credits channeled to help their ailing banks. "Suharto ...Bring to justice and hang the oppressor," said one poster carrying the caricature of the face of the former president.

Other posters showed Suharto's daughter Siti Hardiyanti "Tutut" Rukamana and his second eldest son Bambang Trihatmojo whom police have said they would question over suspicion of misuse of state credits injected into his Bank Andromeda. Suharto's cousin Sudwikatmono and several leading bankers and business tycoons were also depicted in several other posters carried by the group.

The group in a statement called on the authorities to "arrest and bring to trial all bankers involved in the use of Bank Indonesia liquidity credits totalling 150 trillion rupiah (14.3 billion dollars) without discrimination."

Central Bank Indonesia liquidity credits had been injected into several banks, both state-owned and private, as part of the government's drive to restore health to the country's ailing banking system. Many have accused bankers of misusing the credits to fund affiliated businesses.

Authorities have barred some 90 bank executives from traveling abroad and have arrested at least 24 of them over suspicion of violation of the banking rules. The national police are in the process of investing bank executives to find cases of misuse of state liquidity credits.

The protestors also said Bank Indonesia officials and the finance minister should also be investigated over the liquidity credits. They ended their protest by burning the pictures and caricatures.

Pillagers clash with security forces

Agence France Presse - September 5, 1998

Surabaya – Three people were injured and 32 others arrested when a clash erupted between troops and hundreds of villagers pillaging a teak forest near the town of Ngawi, 150 kilometres (95 miles) west of here, resident sources said Saturday.

"The crowd have cut down around 800 trees in the forest over the past 15 days," a resident source said, adding that the clash erupted when 300 security forces, including anti-riot troops and air-force soldiers, were deployed Friday to stop the plundering.

In the Pekel district of Banyuwangi, 220 kilometres (140 miles) southeast of this coastal East Javanese city, hundreds of angry villagers destroyed 11 hectares (27 acres) of protected forest. The resident source said the villagers were upset at the state Bureau of Forestry (Perhutani) for ignoring their request for ownership rights over the area which has now become protected forest land.

Housewives, activists protest high prices

Agence France Presse - September 2, 1998

Jakarta – About 100 housewives, many with young children, on Wednesday gathered at Jakarta City Hall to demand serious government action to control soaring prices of basic goods.

"The people are hungry" said one of the posters carried by protestors demanding a meeting with Governor Sutiyoso who was not in his office. The housewives said that despite the government's announcement that it would import rice, the nation's main staple food was becoming increasingly unaffordable.

"We demand that (President B.J.) Habibie and Sutiyoso bring prices of essential goods down by distributing them to the right target and through the right channels," the demonstrators said in a statement distributed there.

The statement called on Sutiyoso and Habibie to distribute essential goods in a "just and transparent" manner. They said that current distribution channels were not effective and only helped businessmen or people who could still afford to buy the commodities at market prices.

Food and Horticulture Minister Saefuddin said earlier Wednesday that there was enough rice to meet the domestic demand for the next eight months with a total of some 9.2 million tonnes in rice stocks but admitted that high prices were a problem that the government had to overcome.

White collar workers call for taxes to be suspended

Agence France Presse - September 3, 1998

Jakarta – A group of white collar workers marched in central Jakarta Thursday demanding that the government suspend income taxes if it cannot control spiralling inflation. The 30 office workers marched down the sidewalk of the main Thamrin street waving placards reading "Lower prices," and "We should not subsidize the rich," witnesses said.

Other posters made direct references to alleged human rights abuses by the military during the regime of ousted president Suharto and to the apparent lack of security during the May riots here. "We pay for your uniforms, but where were you in May," read one sign. "Our taxes are not for killers and kidnappers," read another, refering to the kidnapping and torture of political activists in which the military has admitted involevment.

Consumer prices have soared almost 70 percent in the first eight months of the year in Indonesia where the deepening financial crisis is throwing thousands out of work daily as businesses collapse. A few police watched the demonstrators as they marched through lunchtime crowds, but there was no attempt to intervene, an AFP reporter said.

200,000 rally in Yogyakarta

Green Left Weekly - September 2, 1998

Max Lane – On August 26, 200,000 people rallied in Yogyakarta to protest against the refusal of the Indonesian government to ratify Sultan Hamengku Buwono X as governor of Yogyakarta.

The rally adopted a manifesto calling on the government to appoint Hamengku Buwono X; implement Law No. 3, 1950, which grants special status to Yogyakarta; and hold a referendum as soon as possible to allow Yogyakarta's population to affirm their support for the special status.

The region was granted special status in 1950 in recognition of the services provided to the national revolution by the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengku Buwono IX. Hamengku Buwono IX was vice- president to former President Suharto for one term. After his death, Suharto arranged for a member of another branch of the Yogyakarta royal family to become governor.

Hamengku Buwono X is a businessman and land-holder. He has actively campaigned for the regime's party, GOLKAR, in the past but backed the anti-Suharto movement last May.

Protests escalate and PRD flags unfurl

Green Left Weekly - September 2, 1998

By Max Lane and Pramono (in Jakarta) – The frequency of protest actions in Indonesia has increased markedly over the last week. Worsening economic conditions, general anger over the lack of any real changes under the Habibie regime and students' return to campus after a three-month break are a volatile mixture.

Campuses are once again displaying banners rejecting Habibie, condemning the military and demanding that the people be fed. New student movement committees, called Komerad (Student and People's Democracy Committees), are forming.

A broad range of democratic activists organised a National Dialogue for Democracy on August 15-17. Playwright and former political prisoner Ratna Sarumpaet was a key organiser, along with leaders of the Committee for the Preparation for the Legalisation of the People's Democratic Party, known as PRD-Fist, including Ida Fajar and Wignyo Prasetyo.

The meeting, attended by scores of activists, adopted policies, including for an end to the political role of the armed forces and for the formation of a coalition transitional government.

Budiman Sujatmiko for president

The assembly announced its recommendations for president. They are Megawati Sukarnoputri, Abdurahman Wahid, Amien Rais and Budiman Sujatmiko.

According to assembly participants, Rais was the most unpopular candidate. When he visited the assembly and was asked to state his position on the Habibie regime, his ambiguous and hesitant response resulted in him being chanted off the stage with cries of "clown, clown". Wahid also received little explicit support.

Sukarnoputri's recommendation was applauded. When Sujatmiko's name was announced there was loud applause and some activists climbed on to tables to yell their support.

Prominent publisher and journalist Gunawan Muhammed told the assembly that the national dialogue was incomplete without the presence of Sujatmiko. Muhammed published the news weekly Tempo until it was banned in 1994. According to Muhammed, Sujatmiko has a clear political vision and is a leader for the future of Indonesia.

Muhammed is the second prominent intellectual to publicly support Sujatmiko for president. Nobel prize-nominated author Pramoedya Ananta Toer also made the call in a statement supporting the formation of PRD-Fist.

The National Dialogue for Democracy established a working group to formulate recommendations for the establishment of a democratic civilian coalition government.

Another issue raised at the conference was the desire of many people from outside of Java for greater decision-making decentralisation. Some participants raised the issue of separation from Indonesia.

It is rumoured that the PRD will be targeted by Habibie's new unit, National Vigilance Against the Potential for Disintegration, because the PRD is the only organisation to clearly support self-determination for West Papua, Aceh and East Timor.

Solo workers confront military

On August 25, 600 workers from the Tyfontek textile mill in Solo travelled to Jakarta to protest against the sacking of workers who had participated in demonstrations, and for payment of the minimum wage.

The workers also called for the release of labour leader Dita Sari, arrested in 1996. The protest was a part of strike action begun 23 days earlier.

The workers were attacked by the military while they were gathered outside the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute, where they were staying. Twenty workers were injured.

The next day, the workers gathered outside the ministry for labour office. The picket was supported by PRD-Fist, Workers' Committee for Reform Action, the People and Students' Council of Solo and the Megawati Supporters' Committee (KPM).

Labour minister Fahmi Idris eventually agreed to meet a delegation of workers. During the one-hour meeting, Idris avoided taking a position on any of the workers' demands. The workers therefore decided to stay outside the ministry until the minister agreed to travel with them back to Solo.

On August 27, the workers were joined by another 200 people and the newly formed Airline Workers' Solidarity Committee announced its support for the action. The airline workers' committee also launched their own action demanding that former employer Sempati Airlines pay all its sacked workers the legally required redundancy pay.

The Jakarta-based urban poor Pro-Reform People's Movement also sent solidarity greetings to the workers. Idris appeared on TV to denounce the demonstration as one organised by a "third force".

Struggle-PDI defence actions

In Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, large, militant demonstrations have taken place against a congress held by the Suharto-installed Suryadi leadership of the officially recognised Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). The demonstrations were held despite a plea by Sukarnoputri, leader of the unrecognised PDI (Struggle-PDI), that her supporters not protest against the congress.

Seventeen people were injured on the first day when the military broke up the demonstration. Police were used on the second day. National TV broadcast footage of the demonstrations.

In Jakarta, the KPM, headed by Dr Ciptaning, secretary of the Struggle-PDI branch in the industrial estate area of Tangerang, also held a demonstration outside the ministry for defence office. The demonstrators demanded that military personnel involved in the attack on the PDI headquarters in July 1996, which ousted Sukarnoputri from the leadership, be brought to justice. Judges recently declared that they do not have the authority to make decisions against the government on this issue. The KPM also demanded an end to the political role of the military.

According to Dr Syahrir, a political prisoner in the 1970s and now a leading stockbroker, the economy is a time bomb which could lead to anarchy.

He told a seminar in Singapore on August 26 that there are now 20 million unemployed people in Indonesia and another 43 million hidden unemployed. The number of people living under the official poverty line has increased by 400% since 1996, from 22.5 million to 79.4 million. Food prices have risen 83% since the beginning of the year.

Not surprisingly, spontaneous attacks on food sources continue to occur, including attacks by hundreds of people on shrimp farms, granaries and food shops. Two thousand people looted rice mills in East Java on August 27. Demonstrations also occurred on August 26 against the arrest of villagers who were said to have taken a truck-load of fruit from a plantation.

Students protest against soaring prices

Surabaya Post - September 2, 1998

Surabaya – Over 1,000 university students demonstrated peacefully here yesterday against soaring prices of basic commodities. "The government has failed to bring down the prices of basic commodities," student leader Muhaji said during the demonstration, the first large-scale protest here since former President Suharto resigned on May 21.

President B. J. Habibie had promised an economic-reform programme but Mr Muhaji said the government had failed and the economic storm had now whipped up a desire for change. "We believe there will be a revolution in a short time. Look at the intensity of the fight between the people and the government. This is because their voices are not heeded," he said.

Government figures released on Monday said month-on-month inflation was running at 6.3 per cent and that food prices rose by 12.2 per cent in August. Social tension has been building in Indonesia as the economic crisis bites ever deeper into the pockets and stomachs of the people, who are caught between the twin demons of soaring inflation and plunging incomes.

Surabaya's student protesters, who gathered near one of the city's major monuments, also carried banners demanding that the armed forces give up their political role in Indonesia and "return to their barracks".

Irian Jaya independence protest in Jakarta

Agence France Presse - August 29, 1998

Jakarta – About 100 protesters from the province of Irian Jaya picketed the Foreign Ministry yesterday, demanding independence for the former Dutch colony. The crowd, waving separatist "West Papua" flags and wearing "West Papua" T-shirts, sang traditional songs and brandished placards reading: "Stop colonialism in West Papua" and "Remember West Papua is a free nation".

Defence Minister and armed forces chief General Wiranto said last month that raising separatist flags was "treachery".

David Obadiri, of the Institute of the Irian Jaya Community Convention, said the province's 1.5 million people wanted independence. Mr Obadiri asked the Government to hold a dialogue with the province to "discuss our problems", which included resolving the issue of autonomy.

The protesters left after Ghafur Fadyl, director of public relations for the ministry, accepted a petition. "The claim that the people and the region of West Papua were part of Indonesia is a problem which should be re-addressed," said the petition addressed to Foreign Minister Ali Alatas. "The Papuan people and region were never directly involved in any of Indonesia's historical momentum," it said.

The petition claimed the UN-recognised referendum which led to the handover of Irian Jaya was fabricated to fulfil the political interests of Indonesia, the Netherlands, the United States and the UN.

 East Timor

Paper publishes interview with East Timorese guerrilla leader

Lusa - September 3, 1998

Dili – The pro-Indonesian newspaper "Suara Timor Timur" (Voice of East Timor) in Dili on Wednesday published an interview with the second commander of the territory's guerrilla movement. Taur Matan Ruak. The report said the interview had been held last Sunday.

The newspaper report, complete with a photo of the guerrilla leader, quotes Matan Ruak saying that this guerrilla movement was ready to participate in a process of dialogue about the issue of East Timor as long as the process would take place within the framework of the United Nations.

An East Timorese resident in Dili, capital of the occupied territory of East Timor, translated the newspaper report from the Indonesian language (Bahasa) into Portuguese during a telephone conversations with the LUSA bureau of Macau on Wednesady.

Matan Ruak was quoted as saying that his movement would participate "without the noise of arms" if the dialogue on East Timor would be conducted by the United Nations, adding his movement would continues to hold its arms "in the hands" if the initiative of a dialogue would be presented by the Indonesian side only.

In the interview, Matan Ruak was also quoted as saying that the imprisoned guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao continued to be the armed resistance movement's "supreme chief", stressing that he himself was the "vice-commander of the Armed National Liberation Forces of East Timor (FALINTIL) and the chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of Timor Loro Sae". Matan Ruak described Gusmao as the ''supreme chief of the National Timorese Resistance Council and commander of FALINTIL.

In the interview, Matan Ruak reportedly also confirmed that former guerrilla leader Konis Santana and David Alex "are dead", in spite of of persistent rumors to the countrary among many East Timorese. The report also quoted Matan Ruak as saying he believed the people of East Timor wished the FALINTIL should "continue to fight" until East Timor was able to gain the right to freely choose its destiny.

Matan Ruak reportedly also he hopeful that Indonesia was finally able to "think in a positive way" about a solution to the problem of East Timor through a process of dialogue. Matan Ruak also said quoted as saying that his freedom fighters earlier this year contacted Indonesian soldeirs in East Timor by radio, stressing he knew that the Indonesian soldiers based in East Timor "do not want war anymore". However, Matan Ruak said the Indonesian soldiers had ceased communicating with FALINTIL by radio in July.

The guerrilla movement's second commander also said that the following Indonesia's political changes earlier this year even someone like him had "now the right and freedom to walk in the streets of Dili". The "Suara Timor Timur" newspaper was founded in March 1986. It managed by Salvador Ximenes, a GOLKAR deputy in the Indonesian parliament in Jakarta, representing East Timor.

Life expectancy in East Timor less than 50 years

Lusa - September 2, 1998

New York – East Timor's life expentancy is less than 50 years, according to a UN report released in New York on Wednesday.

The life expectancy for men in East Timor amount to just 46.6 years, while women in the territory occupied by Indonesia can expect to live average of 48.4 years. The life expentacy in Indonesia amounts to 63.3 years for men and 67 year for women.

According to UN population report, East Timor has one of the lowest expectacy rates of the world's less populated countries and territories.

East Timor also one of the highest infant morality rates in the world, amounting to 235 per 1,000 newborns. The UN report also points out that just 7.5 per cent of East Timor populations lives in urban areas.

Hunger strike demands Xanana Gusmao's release

Agence France Presse - September 3, 1998

Jakarta – Fourteen prisoners in the troubled territory of East Timor on Thursday entered the fourth day of hunger strike to press for the release of jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, an official said Thursday.

"Fourteen inmates are staging a hunger strike and they are now being treated at the policlinic in the prison," John Domingus, a jail guard at Becora prison at the East Timor capital of Dili, told AFP by telephone. Domingus said the 14, who he did not identify, started the hunger strike on Monday but were taken to the clinic on Wednesday.

He said they were refusing to eat and drink until the government releases Gusmao and "have been given intravenous feeding by the doctor." Gusmao is serving a 20-year term in Jakarta's Cipinang prison. He was captured in 1992 and later jailed to life for plotting against the state and possession of weapons. But former president Suharto later commuted his sentence.

Since the fall of Suharto on May 21, the new Indonesian government has released about 70 political prisoners, including East Timorese, but excluded Gusmao. Jakarta has said it was only willing to free Gusmao, 52, as part of an acceptable solution in East Timor.

It has also offered to grant autonomy to the territory in return for international recognition of Indonesian sovereignty. Gusmao has insisted that Indonesia must allow a self-determination referendum in East Timor.

 Political/economic crisis

90 percent of publishers halt operations

Agence France Presse - September 1, 1998

Jakarta – The crippling economic crisis that has engulfed Indonesia since July has forced 90 percent of the country's book publishers to halt operations, a report said here Tuesday.

About 90 percent of Indonesia's 587 book publishers have stopped operating, the head of the Indonesian Publishers' Association, Rozali Usman was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying. Usman also said the estimated number of book titles published this year would reach only about 2,000 titles compared to the 4,000 titles last year.

He said the crisis, which has led to soaring paper prices, has forced those publishers still in operation to cut down on titles, the number of copies and to use lower-quality paper. Usman was speaking after the signing of an agreement between a foundation controlled by the association and the Ford Foundation, under which the US institution will provide 400,000 dollars a year to subsidise about 130 book titles.

The subsidy will cover 90 percent of production costs for books on anthropology, art and culture, literature, history, human rights, demography, sociology and education, he said.

The crisis, which has seen the rupiah lose about 70 percent of its exchange value against the dollar, has led to soaring prices of paper which is mostly imported. Weakened buying power, as wages stay stable while prices continue to soar, has also affected book purchases.

Student rioters 'coerced by outsiders'

South China Morning Post - September 4, 1998

High school students arrested for their part in a violent riot this week in troubled Aceh province said they were asked to riot by strangers.

Two people were killed on Tuesday when security forces fired on rioters in the provincial capital, Lhokseumawe. Two days of violence, largely targeted at ethnic Chinese-owned businesses, led to the cancellation of a troop withdrawal from Aceh, once a centre of separatist rebellion.

North Aceh police chief Lieutenant-Colonel Iskandar said yesterday: "A hundred high school students have been detained for questioning. The students said they were asked by unknown men to riot."

One student said several men were waiting at his school when classes ended and told students to riot in the city, at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. "The men threatened to beat us if we refused, so we went along. There were trucks waiting for us outside our school to transport us to the city centre," he said.

A resident said he saw a man handing out money on Tuesday night to five students in the city centre. "The riots were not started by the locals. We did not recognise many of the people who were rioting in the city," said one resident.

Aceh legislator Saifuddin Ilyas said the riots had been engineered by outsiders and that he had seen scores of students being unloaded from trucks to loot and damage shops, the official Antara news agency reported. "For example, during the riots, I saw the students looking confused as to which shops they should damage. This means they were outsiders brought into the area," Mr Ilyas said.

More ethnic Chinese residents were seen checking into guesthouses yesterday amid fears they might be attacked. Others remained camped at Lhokseumawe's military command post.

Laid-up buses and cars stripped for parts

Straits Times - September 4, 1998

How do you keep a fleet of buses and cars on the road when the cost of spare parts has skyrocketed by over 300 per cent? The answer: Find parts from other vehicles. "Motor cannibalism" has kept the transport industry alive in the crisis – but only barely.

Some operators say that they will be out of business in three to six months if things do not turn around.Nearly 20 per cent of transport firms operating taxis and mini-buses in Medan have closed down since early this year, the victims of rising expenses and rapidly falling income.

Consider the cost of running a mini-bus. The driver has to fork out 20,000 rupiah (S$4) daily for rental, 20,000 rupiah for petrol and 6,000 rupiah for parking space at the bus terminal. The total cost is 46,000 rupiah – an amount drivers are finding hard to earn.

Despite the corroding effects of inflation in the past year, commuters are typically still being charged 500 rupiah for a ride. The reason is not altruism but fear of losing even more customers. "The only way out for us is to increase fares," said bus driver Indra Hanafi who works for the Koperasi Angkutan Medan. "But we all know that when fares go up, fewer people will use our buses."

In the meantime, the prices of spare parts have kept on rising. Tyres, for example, now cost 125,000 rupiah each, more than double the price before the crisis. Imported spare parts are even more expensive. Shock absorbers once cost 90,000 rupiah per unit. Now the price has skyrocketed to 400,000 rupiah.

A spare-parts distributor in Medan, who wanted to be known only as Ah Fang, said his store, Van Motors, had suffered a 40 per cent drop in business as prices for imported electrical gadgets shot up in the past six months. He asked: "Many drivers cannot even meet the daily expenses. How do you expect them to buy new parts for their vehicles?"

Transport operators have developed a novel way around the problem in the form of "motor cannibalism". Mr Willy Wongkar, a supervisor at the PT Udentimex workshop in Medan, said that in a fleet of 10 taxis, for example, two are sidelined so that the operators can use the parts of these vehicles if any of the other eight are in need of them.

"It is better for them to reduce the numbers on the road," he said. "They cannot bring in the money even if they are operational." He added that his workshop used to get 10 to 15 taxis turning up a day for repairs or servicing last year. Now it only gets five cars at most. "They even bring their own spare parts now," he said. "If the crisis is hurting them, it is also hurting us."

Indonesia Faces Potential Famine

Stratfor Global Intelligence update - September 3, 1998

Already pummeled by the general Asian economic collapse and the downturn in crude oil prices, Indonesia is facing yet another crisis – impending famine. The Indonesian newspaper "Kompas" reported on August 28 that rice supplies in Rengasdengklok, Jatirage, Plumbonsari, and Cilamaya are depleted. The South Sulawesi logistics board reportedly has 10 months' supply of rice on hand, while in Bali, the rice supply situation will reportedly be "critical" in four to five months. Kompas cited Agriculture Minister Soleh Solahuddin as attributing the rice shortage and accompanying price rise to speculating farmers who were hoarding rice in an attempt to drive up prices. Soleh reportedly warned that "famine might occur between October and December, in which case the logistics board would implement a large 'market operation.'"

Indonesia's official "Antara" news agency reported on September 2 that failed harvests and distribution problems threaten thousands with food shortages. Antara reported that "about 1,800 people in West Java province have already run out of rice, and another 84,000 are in danger." After receiving aid shipments from Thailand and China, East Kalimantan province reportedly has a three month stockpile of rice. Antara added that the provinces of East Nusa, Tenggara, East Timor, and Irian Jaya also face food shortages. The situations in East Timor and Irian Jaya are already unstable, as both have active, militant separatist movements.

Compounding the crisis, Indonesia's economic woes forced Jakarta on September 2 to cut subsidies and eliminate import duties on sugar, flour, and soybeans, effective immediately. Announcing the decision, Industry and Trade Minister Rahardi Ramelan said "there will be no more subsidy and monopoly. We will leave it to the market mechanism." Ramelan blamed farmers for setting the high sugar prices, and said that "the rise in the inflation rate is mostly caused by these basic commodities." Subsidies currently remain on rice and cooking oil, but Agriculture Minister Soleh said on August 26 that a rise in the price of rice was "inevitable."

The sudden lifting of fuel subsidies earlier this year sparked riots throughout Indonesia. The lifting of food subsidies just as shortages set in can lead to no better. Indonesia is receiving some food aid from the United States, Australia, Japan, Germany, Norway, and other countries and international organizations, but with China and perhaps Russia soon to face food shortages as well, it is questionable as to whether or not sufficient aid will be available to forestall civil unrest.

With famine poised to compound the country's existing economic collapse, Indonesia's foremost question is whether the army, and therefore the country, will remain intact through the ever- increasing crisis. Its second question is, what regime will the country see next? President Habibie is a non-starter. Indonesia's two most likely options are a Suharto-style kleptocratic dictatorship or a Sukarno-style charismatic, nationalist dictatorship. As the former is the freshest failure in the public's mind, and as recrimination for the country's economic woes is already falling on the Chinese minority, the second option is the most likely. It is not a healthy time to be a foreigner in Indonesia.

Rice favorite target for looters

Agence France Presse - September 3, 1998

Jakarta – As Indonesia sinks deeper into its worst economic crisis for decades, rice has increasingly become the favorite target of looters and robbers, reports said here Thursday.

In the Central Java district of Banyumans, farmers were now camping in their fields to prevent looters from snatching their rice harvest in the dark, the Jakarta Post daily said. Marauding groups, sometimes reaching 20 people, have been sighted in several districts along the southern coast of Central Java, harvesting rice in in the dead of the night, the daily said.

A farmer in Legok village, Banjarnegara district, said thieves had cleaned out his rice field one week before he planned to harvest it, taking away two tonnes of unhusked grain. Another farmer in the same village, said thieves had taken off with 22 sacks of freshly-cut unhusked rice that he had left to dry under the sun.

In the rice-producing island of Lombok, east of Bali, a mob intercepted trucks transporting rice and plundered them, the daily said.

In the district of Bondowoso in East Java earlier this month, scores of rice mills were attacked and rice, husked or unhusked, was taken. Newspapers have carried reports that in some cases, robbers forced mill employees to mill unhusked rice for them to carry away.

Indonesia is facing a crippling financial crisis which has brought the country's economy to its knees, pushing up prices of goods, including essentials, amid rising unemployment and poverty.

For many, the high price of rice has made the nation's staple food unaffordable and the UN World Food Program says many are surviving on one meal a day. The International Labor Organization (ILO) warned Monday that the crisis was likely to drive two out of every three citizens below the poverty line next year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organizaton (FAO) has estimated that more than 7.5 million Indonesians were likely to experience "acute household food shortages" during the next 12 months.

Villagers forced to eat leaves

South China Morning Post - September 2, 1998

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Villagers on the islands of Flores are eating leaves and jungle fruit because they can no longer afford rice.

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet Alexander Talo said 13,000 Flores residents were eating tamarind leaves and mangrove fruits. "When people are starving, we should not try to cover it," Mr Talo said.

On the whale-hunting island of Lembata, thousands have not eaten rice for three months as prices skyrocket. Mr Talo said 45 villages in the Sikka regency were suffering food shortages.

In Jakarta and Java, rice prices have risen sharply in the past two weeks, spurred by rumours of unrest, price rises and shortages. Prices now range from 2,400 rupiah (HK$1.68) to 6,000 rupiah a kilogram, compared with 800 and 1,200 last year.

Buyers at the Palmerah market in West Jakarta waited yesterday for cheap government rice to be sold off the back of trucks after a rush sale on Monday. Housemaid Wati queued in vain for three hours to buy 2kg of rice. "I can't afford it at these prices. I'll go home if the cheap rice doesn't come," said the 34-year- old, whose husband looks after their two children in Central Java.

Ethnic Chinese rice trader Lina closed the metal shutters of her shop on Monday after thugs demanded she pay security money. "They were selling cheap rice and women were crying because they couldn't get some," she said. Her shop is leaking after being partly burned during the May riots. "I lost 3,000 bags of rice in May with looting and I'm so scared it will happen again."

Motorcyclist Sir Alwi said he wanted to buy more rice because he had heard rumours the price would increase to 10,000 rupiah a kilogram. Stockpiling and smuggling are now on the increase.

South Sulawesi Governor H. Z. Palaguna said traders were smuggling rice through Kalimantan to neighbouring countries. "The South Sulawesi rice is stockpiled before being sold to Malaysia and Singapore," said Mr Palaguna, whose province is the biggest rice producer after Java.

Jakarta traders are venturing to other islands to buy rice directly from farmers where once they would have bought from a middle man. The Kompas daily reported West Java traders had driven to South Sumatra and paid farmers cash for wet rice at prices between 1,200 and 1,800 rupiah a kilogram.

The Government has imported 3.5 million tonnes of rice and plans to import another 600,000 tonnes by the end of the year to maintain supply.

Troops open fire on Aceh rioters

Sydney Morning Herald - September 2, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesian security forces opened fire on rioters in the northern Aceh city of Lhokseumawe yesterday, killing two, and injuring at least a dozen. The shootings threaten the Habibie Government's reconciliation efforts in a province already angered by serious human rights abuses under the former Soeharto regime.

A police spokesman said two people had died and several were injured when troops opened fire in the key industrial city as rioting flared for a second consecutive day. The rioting in Lhokseumawe was sparked when hundreds of people gathered to jeer and throw stones at more than 650 troops who were withdrawing from the town as part of the Government's reconciliation effort in the troubled province.

The deputy police chief, Major Amrin Remico, said the clashes came as hundreds of people attempted to loot shops and offices damaged in Monday's rioting. He said the unrest was reported to have spread to four other areas of north Aceh – Samudra, Peusangan, Jeumpa and Baktia.

Locals contacted by telephone in Lhokseumawe said crowds had gathered to jeer the departing troops, throwing stones and yelling insults as they left the town. The protest then deteriorated into a rampage through the streets, as mobs torched shops and government offices, and looted basic foodstuffs.

Dr Fadli Hanafiah, in charge of the local hospital's emergency ward, said 12 people had been brought in injured after the riots and two had died.

Indonesian newspapers reported that up to 150 prisoners escaped from the local jail during the riots. After tearing down steel gates, crowds raided the jail and helped dozens of prisoners flee, a military spokesman, Colonel Dasiri Musnar, told reporters. Guards fired warning shots, but managed to force only 30 inmates back to their cells.

A human rights lawyer accused agent provocateurs of fuelling the violence in an attempt to create fears of chaos when the military pulls out. "The people are suspicious this is a set-up, this was provoked so the military will have a reason not to withdraw any more troops," said Mr Abdul Rahman Gani, of the Legal Aid Foundation.

Shoot rioters if necessary, officers told

South China Morning Post - August 31, 1998

Greg Torode, Jakarta – Police in the central Javanese city of Cilacap reportedly have been ordered to shoot rioting fishermen if need be. Rioting flared for a second time on Saturday night as thousands of fishermen attacked and looted bosses' homes and public buildings over labour disputes.

Many of an estimated 200 company owners are ethnic Chinese. Their families have fled the port city after workers attacked the Nusantara Fishery Port on Friday, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported yesterday. No reports of injuries have been received.

The latest rioting follows President Bacharuddin Habibie's pledge on Saturday that he would never introduce martial law to quell looting and rioting now breaking out across the nation as inflation surges. "I'm against martial law... it is not democratic," Mr Habibie said. "It's not possible that I would ever do that – it is against my convictions."

Jakarta businessmen say privately they have been fearing for sometime that the military might be forced to bring in new security measures to restore stability during sensitive reforms.

Reports of looting are flooded into Jakarta almost daily, with warehouses and plantations being favoured targets of bands of poor people seeking sugar, rice, coffee and cooking oil.

Hundreds of looters raided shops, mills and plantations in the East Javanese town of Situbondo over the weekend. Troops remained on alert in the town yesterday and there were no fresh reports of violence. "Everything is back to normal and has calmed down," police officer Arjono said, speaking from his office in Bondowoso, 35km southwest of Situbondo. "The security forces are still on the alert."

The state-run Antara news agency said on Saturday a rice mill in Situbondo district was targeted, while another group pillaged a storehouse of rice and sugar stocks. About 600 security personnel were deployed to prevent the looting from spreading to other areas. The mill was in Kapongan sub-district, while the attacked storehouse was in Asembagus, another sub-district about 8km to the east. Situbondo district borders on Bondowoso, where looters attacked and ransacked rice mills and shops in six sub-districts between Tuesday and Thursday.

Habibie's first 100 days tumultuous

Straits Times - August 31, 1998

Jakarta – If life had gone the way he planned nine months ago, Dr B.J. Habibie would be planting tulips, writing a book or two about aeroplanes and just pottering around his retirement home in the northern German town of Hamburg today.

Instead, his last 100 days have been parcelled into endless meetings with all manner of visitors come to cajole, petition, preach, demand, debate and, perhaps more agreeably, comply with his wishes.

The "accidental" President, as Cooperatives Minister Adi Sasono likes to portray close friend Rudi's ascent to the country's hottest seat on May 21, came with a closetful of historical baggage which ensured that he did not have a sweet "honeymoon".

Not that it prevented him from enjoying some of the job perks, like conferring the country's most prestigious medal on his wife and appointing some of his loyal friends to the highest legislative chamber – little mis-steps which can charitably be put to political inexperience, but which a leader with little popular support can ill afford.

Yet if he thought his first 100 days were rough, the next 100 could be even tougher. As the intellectuals' reformasi and an unforgiving economic crunch combined to lift the floodgates on decades of pent-up anger and frustration among the wong cilik (little people), Dr Habibie has tried to stem the tide with food subsidies, amnesties, and promises of justice.

He has also promised to put an end to looting sprees by organised gangs and reigns of terror by the Indonesian military. To do the first, and disrupt the continuous slide into anarchy, he needs a strong and united military.

But to placate public anger over the abuses and extra-judicial killings of the past, he has to distance himself from the military and metaphorically or otherwise, join in its public trial.

A demoralised military already suffering from the privations of budget cuts and diminished "contributions" from the business community might find its rank and file empathising with those resorting to looting sprees to survive.

When civilian forces seek to punish soldiers for carrying out orders emanating from a previous government they can hardly distinguish from the present, then even colonels might have little patience for reformasi. When their commander, General Wiranto apologised for the atrocities perpetuated by the military in the troubled provinces of Aceh, East Timor and Irian Jaya, some colonels were heard muttering about an "excess of reformasi".

The unceremonious sacking of Lt-General Prabowo Subianto last week might not have appeased those who felt he deserved more punishment for ordering the abductions and torture of political activists. But for a military in turmoil, it bore the hallmarks of top brass sacrificing one of its young to political expediency.

Insiders say that in a secret meeting last week, a group of 175 colonels circulated a letter protesting against the "unjust" treatment of Lt-Gen Prabowo's sacking. For them, a key question must have been: Will I be next?

Undoubtedly, a spring cleaning within ABRI is required to sweep out those unable to accept the new political realities – normal laws must now apply. But purge and re-education need to be carried out carefully and sensitively. For Dr Habibie, it is all too inopportune.

In 71 days, the People's Consultative Assembly meets to set a new election time-table. Anything he does until then can be used by opposition elements to turn the meeting into an indictment of his rule and that of his mentor, former President Suharto.

More street demonstrations appear inevitable as students and all manner of activists insist on having their say. Will the soldiers choose sides then, crushing all dissent to prop up a weak leader, or will they join the people to topple one they have learned to hate?

Riots in Aceh town after troops pull out

Associated Press - August 31, 1998

Christopher Torchia, Jakarta – Mobs burned buildings, stoned police cars and attacked ethnic Chinese in northern Indonesia on Monday in the biggest riot since deadly unrest in May helped oust former President Suharto.

The violence in Lhokseumawe, a town in Aceh province, was triggered by bitterness toward the military but ended up targeting Indonesia's Chinese minority, a traditional scapegoat. Soldiers fired warning shots of tear gas but the rioters still left a wide path of destruction, burning a hotel, a ruling party office and part of a shopping center. Many Chinese-owned stores were pelted with rocks.

The Chinese are resented because they dominate business in Indonesia, which is struggling through its worst economic crisis in three decades. A human rights activist, Burhan, said by telephone that he saw a mob throwing stones at a Chinese man. It was not known if the man was hurt, and there were no immediate reports of arrests or injuries.

The unrest in Lhokseumawe erupted after more than 660 Indonesian soldiers left Aceh in a conciliatory gesture by the military, which is accused of atrocities there. When the troops pulled out after a ceremony, some spectators pelted their vehicles with stones, shouting ``Pigs! Dogs!''

A resident of Lhokseumawe said teen-agers in school uniforms set fire to the office of the ruling Golkar party, which has lost credibility for buttressing Suharto's 32 years of autocratic rule. "Many windows were broken, while heaps of debris and stones were scattered along the streets," said the resident, Sugito. "Smoke billowed into the sky after people burned a hotel." Mobs blocked fire trucks that tried to reach the hotel, a fire brigade official said.

Chinese flee as mob fury takes hold

Sydney Morning Herald - August 31, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Hundreds of ethnic Chinese business families fled the central Javanese town of Cilacap over the weekend after mobs torched warehouses, sunk fishing trawlers and attacked shops and homes.

The two days of violence continued overnight on Saturday as local fishermen began stoning and looting the homes of their bosses, many of whom are ethnic Chinese Indonesians. Locals said about 80 per cent of the town's 200 fishery bosses had fled with their families.

The new wave of rioting rekindles fear of further unrest across Indonesia as the economic crisis bites, sharpening divisions between the poor and the relatively affluent ethnic Chinese minority which controls much of the country's commerce.

In East Java, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported looting as villagers, angered over steadily rising food prices, robbed rice mills, shops and plantations. The official Antara newsagency reported mobs looting rice, sugar and other basic commodities in three towns. In Cilacap soldiers were outnumbered by rioters who accused the local bosses of employing unfair fishing practices.

Reports from the town, 250 kilometres south east of Jakarta, said the first rampage began on Friday when 10 fishing trawlers, five cars, and 20 houses belonging to ethnic Chinese were set ablaze. A second more serious wave of unrest began on Saturday night when mobs attacked more homes, government buildings, the central marketplace and the Nusantara Fishery Port and warehouses.

The military said all roads leading into Cilacap had been sealed, and soldiers had been given permission to shoot. The military district chief, Lieutenant Colonel Basuki Kuntadi, said: "We have heard the fishery bosses families have fled to Jakarta, fearing further violence."

The Observer newspaper warned over the weekend that a new round of price increases, particularly for the most sensitive staple food, rice, could again provoke explosive social tensions. The ethnic Chinese minority has traditionally been the target of mob violence because of its relatively affluent position and control over business.

"The rice shortage became acute from December last year, with people in towns queuing for rations and some people in rural areas subsisting on leaves," it said in an editorial. "The shortage was partially brought under control by a feverish importing campaign, but prices of the nine basic commodities remain exceptionally high.

"Several days ago hungry people started looting rice from a warehouse in East Java. If this trend continues it may some day explode like a bomb, signaling the beginning of a social revolution."

 Labour issues

Police guard factories after workers run amok

Agence France Presse - September 5, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian police were on standby to stem industrial unrest at three factories in a West Java city Saturday, a day after a pay dispute at Indonesia's largest polyester producer turned violent.

The day-long protest by some 4,000 factory workers in Purwakarta Friday erupted into the burning of some 30 cars and stoning of buildings when management fell short of meeting the workers' demand for a pay rise.

The workers at PT Indorama Synthetics, the largest polyester producer in Indonesia, asked for a monthly 150,000-rupiah (some 14 dollars) raise, while the management agreed only to a 25,000- rupiah (2.50 dollars) raise plus a 35,000-rupiah (3.50 dollars) additional allowance.

"We are securing three factories today. Indorama was quiet, but some 500 workers of Elegant (factory) are currently demonstrating and Indopanca (factory) workers are on strike," Sergeant Reno (eds: one name) from the Purwakarta police told AFP by telephone. Reno said the police have made no arrests so far.

Some 38 cars were attacked and set on fire by the angry crowd which also managed to damage the office and dormitory of Indorama employees, the Kompas daily reported. Nine rooms of the Rama International School in the compound were also damaged, and a fire truck that came to the location was attacked by the workers.

"Indorama has plenty of factories abroad, it is only fair to raise our income simply to buy rice," one demonstrator was quoted by the state-run Antara news agency as saying. Kompas reported that the average salary for the workers at the factory currently stands at 200,000 rupiah (18.50 dollars), above the minimum wage rate in the area.

Trade union freedom remains a pious wish

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - August 28, 1998

Jean Rom, Brussels – Among the prisoners still held in Indonesia is Dita Indah Sari, the young leader of the PPBI, the trade union arm of the PRD opposition party, who has been languishing in prison since June 1996. Sentenced to five years' imprisonment in 1997 for "subversion", she suffered a particularly severe prison regime until the recent political changes in the country. Last July Fahmi Idris, the new Indonesian Labour Minister, promised a senior representative of the Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging (FNV, the ICFTU's Dutch affiliate) that she would soon be released. The minister declared himself to be "personally concerned" by the case, and committed to obtaining her freedom. Since then, Jakarta has gone silent on this question. Dita Sari's name was not on the list of detainees granted an amnesty last week, during the annual independence day ceremonies. All that has happened is that her sentence has been reduced by one month, according to information received by the FNV in Amsterdam. Her continued detention is all the more surprising as Coen Pontoh and Mohamed Sholeh, two militants involved with Dita Sari in the major labour movements of June 1996 and condemned to similar sentences, were among the waves of prisoners released following the fall of the Suharto regime.

ICFTU sources say the reason for Dita Sari's continued detention is that the release of detainees linked to the PRD is the subject of tough bargaining within the new authorities. Indonesian human rights activists have told the ICFTU that a list of "releasable" detainees has been presented to the government. The list, which had the backing of Justice Minister Mulada, included Dita Sari, but the military within the government then vetoed her release. According to the influential Tapol, published in London, and which is an authoritative source of information on human rights in Indonesia, General Wiranto, head of the Armed Forces (ABRI) and Defence and Security Minister, and General Feisal Tanjung, Minister-Coordinator of Political affairs and Security, maintain the upper hand in these decisions. A number of senior ABRI officers have apparently spoken against the release of activists close the PRD, which has recently been labelled "neo-Communist". The accusation of communism weighs heavy in Indonesia, where everyone remembers the anti-Communist purge which, in the 1960s, propelled General Suharto to power at the cost of over half a million deaths.

With many trade unions throughout the world placing further pressure on the Indonesian government to free Dita Sari (the ICFTU and FNV have again intervened during the last few days, in particular via diplomatic channels), the ILO mission, which has been in Jakarta since Monday morning, will be unable to bring up the case of the detained trade unionists with the government, at least not officially. The remit of the mission, referred to as "Direct Contacts" in UN jargon, is limited to advising the government on adapting the new Indonesian labour laws to international standards. The exercise mainly relates to the Convention on Freedom of Association (ILO Convention 87), which the government has just ratified after decades of ferocious resistance.

Meanwhile, the position of the official trade unions has being growing more complicated from day to day. Riven by strong opposition the current leadership, ever since the latter agreed to withdraw a demand for an across-the-board wage rise, before the government finally gave way under the pressure of unofficial strikes and demonstrations last June, the official trade union appears to have moved beyond the stage of falling apart. Last week, the 13 professional federations affiliated to the former FSPSI single trade union, which was closely controlled by the former regime, announced that they were withdrawing from the organization and would shortly be setting up a new democratic trade union confederation at an extraordinary congress. The leaders of the 13 federations are accusing the FSPSI of "making many mistakes which have caused heavy losses to workers".

Right now, the former leadership and the new structure are each preparing their own meetings. In turn APRO, the ICFTU's regional organization in the Asia-Pacific region, has dispatched its General Secretary, T. Izumi, to the country, to examine the situation closer at hand.

Pressed to define his stand on what the FSPSI President denounces as a "rebellion", the Labour Minister has taken shelter behind the international standards ...in order not to take a position. "The government is bound to respect ILO Convention 87 and to respect trade union freedom and independence... For this reason it cannot interfere in the FSPSI's internal affairs", Fahmi Idris declared a few minutes after receiving the declaration published by the 13 trade union federations.

During this time, movements by Indonesian workers to press their protests and demands keep shaking the country, where the military continue to maintain a heavy hand. Most of these are spontaneous strikes, however, a certain and growing number of actions now appear to be organized by embryonic independent trade unions.

One such case was the demonstration which was severely repressed by the police yesterday (25 August) in Djakarta. 250 workers had travelled to the capital from a textile factory in Surakarta (Central Java, 550 km from the capital) to denounce to the National Human Rights Commission (a semi-governmental body) the non-application of a ministerial decree raising their salaries by 15%. Whilst they were marching to the ILO premises some fifty policemen from a mobile brigade attacked them, beating them with rattan canes.

A number of workers were injured during the police intervention. The group finally found refuge in the premises of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), an NGO close to the independent trade unions, where they waited in vain for the arrival of an ILO representative, who had been invited to visit them. The demonstrators then set out again for the ILO, this time without the police intervening, and came across the leader of the Direct Contacts mission, the Dutchman P.F. Vanderheijden, and the ILO representative in Jakarta, the Australian Alan Bolton, who had gone out to meet them. According to AFP, it was on the street, surrounded by Police Lieutenant-Colonel Imam Haryanta and Regional Military Commander Widodo, that the ILO officials listened to the strikers' demands.

 Human rights/law

Kontras urges probe into Lampung incident

Jakarta Post - September 2, 1998

Jakarta – The government was strongly urged Tuesday to reinvestigate the Lampung incident in February l989, which resulted in scores of deaths. Munir, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), who demanded the reinvestigation, said the death toll could be nearly eight times higher than the Armed Forces' (ABRI) account.

Munir made the demand after meeting with students and human rights activists in Bandarlampung, Lampung. Quoting the investigation report, Munir said at least 246 people, including women and children were murdered during the incident when ABRI troops cracked down on the so-called separatist rebels. "According to the government's version the number of fatalities was only 31," Munir said, as quoted by Antara.

The students and activists, who presented the results of their four-month investigation into the two-day riots to Kontras, were from the Solidarity Team of Lampung Students (SMALAM) and Bandarlampung's Legal Aid Institute.

Munir said the Lampung incident was similar to the massacres in Aceh which reportedly occurred from 1991 to 1998, and Tanjung Priok in 1984. "This case cannot be belittled, it is not very different from the Aceh and Tanjung Priok cases and is proof of the military's repressive measures against people," Munir said.

According to the official version, 27 rebels, three security officers and two civilians died during the crackdown in Lampung in 1989. The violence erupted on Feb. 6, when a group calling itself Mujahidin Fisabilillah, attacked a delegation of local authorities and killed an Army captain in Way Jepara, Central Lampung.

The 500-strong group, led by Moslem preacher Warsidi fiercely resisted ABRI's efforts to retrieve the captain's body on the following day. The military operation was led by the Lampung Military Command, then under Col. Hendropriyono. Lt. Gen. Hendropriyono is currently the Minister of Transmigration.

ABRI commander at the time, Gen. Try Sutrisno branded Warsidi's supporters Moslem fundamentalists. Local people however pointed out the incident was caused by land disputes where farmers resisted attempts to take over their land.

According to the SMALAM's report, about 21 people were Illegally detained for periods from two months up to nine years without trial." They were just jailed without any explanations," said Fikri, one of the' student activists.

The Chinese rapes

Digest 68 - August 31, 1998

Gerry van Klinken – As Nazi Germany blamed the Jews for its economic ills, as Hansonite Australia blames Asians, so now Habibie's Indonesia is moving from mere rhetoric against the Chinese to real acts of terror.

In mid-July the Volunteers Team released a report claiming they knew of 152 women of Chinese extraction who had been pack raped or otherwise sexually abused during the racially charged riots in Jakarta 13-14 May. Twenty of the victims died. Possibly many other victims remained unknown to the Team.

This and other evidence, not all of it as good as the Volunteers Team report, made headlines throughout the world. It evoked outrage against Indonesia and Indonesians among the Chinese community throughout East and Southeast Asia.

Indonesian authorities promised an impartial investigation. However, in mid-August new national police chief Roesmanhadi stated he believed no rapes had occurred. He added that NGOs (meaning the Volunteers Team) who had said they had may be charged with spreading malicious rumours. Lower ranking police officers echoed his words.

Despite protests from Indonesian human rights workers against Roesmanhadi's statement, so many senior government officials reiterated his words that denial of the rapes now appears to be a considered policy.

On 24 August the chief of the intelligence agency Bakin, retired Lt-Gen Moetojib, said he had found no evidence for the rapes. Deputy speaker of parliament Abdul Gafur told an American congressional delegation on 26 August that overseas reporting of the rapes had been distorted by "certain elements".

Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah was quoted on 27 August as saying that Armed Forces Commander Wiranto had submitted a police report to cabinet repeating the official belief that no rapes had occurred. Lt-Gen Yunus Yosfiah challenged foreign investigators to come and see for themselves. To cap it all, Women's Minister Tuty Alawiyah also said after this cabinet meeting that the issue of the rapes, which she said were unproven, had caused the government a lot of problems due to overseas pressure.

Why is the government in such a hurry to deny the rapes occurred when they are attested by reliable sources? The reasons appear to be twofold. One is that denial is an almost automatic response to international pressure. Foreign Minister Ali Alatas also had his say on the issue, along the usual lines that pressure was counter-productive. This is a troubling sacrifice of the truth to diplomatic expediency. However, the other reason, more troubling still, has to do with domestic politics.

Worldwide Chinese solidarity condemning the rapes in turn evoked defensive Islamic sentiment in Indonesia. Anger focussed on one anonymous account by a rape victim widely circulated on the internet ("Vivi") in which rapists shouted praise to Allah ("Allahu akbar") during their vicious act. Some photos of alleged rape victims on the internet have indeed been proven to be false. The Volunteers Team report has meanwhile been ignored.

Popular sentiment has thus subsumed the truth into Chinese-vs- Muslims communal bigotry. Indonesian human rights workers are now widely portrayed on Indonesian internet discussions as "traitors" who deserve to die.

The post-Suharto Indonesian government is so weak, and desperation over the collapsed economy so explosive, that the temptation is strong for top government officials to exploit this communal sentiment. They stand to gain in several ways: they win popularity in large sections of the community (though at the expense of some others), they divide the community and thus paralyse opposition, and they deflect attention from the need for reform. Government denial of the rapes, in my view, must unfortunately be interpreted in this way.

Such disregard for the rule of law at the highest level is a most dangerous development for Indonesia. It represents a direct threat to the safety of the Volunteers Team, as well as to other human rights workers, and to Chinese Indonesians throughout the country.

Frauds may hurt Chinese cause after riots

Istiqlal (SiaR) - August 28, 1998

Jeremy Wagstaff and Jay Solomon – Grisly pictures of Indonesian Chinese rape victims circulating over the Internet and published in major newspapers havestoked international outrage in the last two weeks. The problem: Some of the pictures are fake.

Indonesian human-rights groups fear these fakes could create a backlash in Indonesia and undermine an investigation into what they say were the systematic gang rapes of ethnic Chinese during riots in May. These groups allege that people in government and the military used racism to instigate the riots so they could clamp down on dissent against former President Suharto.

Indonesians are already skeptical about the rape allegations, and the fake pictures are likely to make them more so. Indonesian police chief Lt. Gen. Roesmanhadi threatened Monday to charge human-rights groups with disseminating false information if they cannot produce evidence to back their assertion that as many as 168 women were gang-raped.

Widespread publication of the fakes by activists on the Internet, meanwhile, "is confusing things and discrediting our investigation," said Sandyawan Sumardi, a Catholic priest and the leader of the Indonesian volunteer organization that first reported the accounts of rape. "If they continue, it'll become very dangerous for the Chinese community here."

To be sure, even new President B.J. Habibie concedes Chinese Indonesians were raped and beaten. Mobs looted and burned their houses during the worst three days of the riots, which forced Mr. Suharto to resign after three decades of autocratic rule. Angry about a sick economy and rising prices, the mobs targeted the Chinese minority, from the tycoons who control some of Indonesia's biggest corporations to shopkeepers.

According to the government, 1,200 people died, most of them non-Chinese looters burned alive in shopping malls. Reports of the rapes didn't surface until June but have spread rapidly, largely via a growing number of websites dedicated to highlighting the plight of Indonesian Chinese. Newspapers in Hong Kong and elsewhere ran the pictures, describing them as photos of rape victims.

That the pictures have been accepted so readily illustrates the growing power of computers and the Internet. At least some of the pictures circulating – there are at least 15 – were culled from an Asian pornography web site, a gruesome US-based exhibition of gory photos, and an East Timorese exile homepage on the Internet.

Two pictures portray a woman being raped by two men; several show men in army fatigues abusing a naked woman with sticks, cigarette butts and ropes. The most gruesome shows a naked and bloody woman, apparently dead, violated with a broom handle.

Copies of two widely circulated pictures of a woman apparently being raped by two men turn up in a subscription-based pornographic web site called "Sexy Asian Schoolgirls." The picture files are dated December, making it unlikely the pictures could be of events during the May riots in Jakarta, although it is remotely possible since dates on a computer can be faked. The host of the site wasn't available for comment.

Other photographs have a more complex pedigree. The pictures of men in uniform abusing a woman with sticks, cigarette butts and ropes belong to a batch of pictures that also purport to show the rape of East Timorese women by Indonesian soldiers. East Timorese groups overseas say the pictures were smuggled out in November and have nothing to do with the May riots. (The Indonesian government, and some independent observers, have also questioned these pictures' authenticity, saying they were staged to promote the aims of East Timorese separatists fighting for independence from Indonesia.)

"There's been a massive mix-up. I've been trying to find out who is circulating the photos. Someone is misusing them," said Judith Clarke of the East Timor International Support Centre in Darwin, Australia. Its website has carried the pictures since late last year and Ms. Clarke says the organization believes the pictures to be genuine evidence of Indonesian human-rights abuses – but only in East Timor.

The gruesome picture of an apparently dead woman naked and covered in blood can be found at Gore Gallery, hosted by a 24- year-old resident of Houston, Texas named Michael Hames. Mr. Hames said the photograph had been in his possession for at least nine months and doesn't depict an Indonesian rape victim. "This picture has been floating around the US for ages," he said.

Ita Nadia, a women's rights worker who says she has interviewed some of the victims of the May riots, was quoted in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper as saying the picture is genuine. She declined to comment for this article.

The origin and content of other pictures are harder to verify. Two, posted on one site as "Bodies of raped Huaren (Chinese) women," apparently show two separate, badly burned women, but it's impossible to verify from the pictures whether the women have been raped or even if they are Chinese. "We are confident the pictures were taken in May in Jakarta and suggest rape, but we don't know the cases themselves and cannot confirm they're rape victims," says Tony Djohan of human-rights group Solidaritas Nusa-Bangsa, which carries the two pictures on its website but doesn't contend they portray rape victims.

Some website owners are aware that the pictures they carry are fake but said they published them in good faith. Some pictures were still on their websites Wednesday, and several site managers defended publishing them despite knowing they were not necessarily photographs of Indonesian Chinese victims of the May riots.

"Proving whether the photos are real or not is not the real issue," said Joe Tan of Wellington, New Zealand, who helped organize the World Huaren website. The real issue, he said, "is getting the Indonesian government to admit there is a problem and doing something about it." Others aren't so sure. The host of another site, Indo Chaos, says he hasn't seen any genuine rape pictures and doesn't include any in his site. "Some lunatics have used the fake pictures to send a message that Chinese Indonesians are just making up the rape stories," he said.

Another site, "Indonesian Huaren Crisis Centre," has a gallery of pictures it says it has confirmed as false and asks visitors to point out any other pictures known to be fake. Pictures like these, the site says, could "reduce the integrity of our movement." It calls on readers to alert the center to any other fakes. But even this site carries one of the pictures from the pornographic site, calling it a genuine picture of a rape victim.

The attacks against Chinese are merely the latest in a centuries-old history of racial tension in Indonesia, a poor country that is one of the world's most populous. For centuries the Chinese have been resented by the pribumi, or indigenous Indonesians, for the preferential business arrangements afforded them by Dutch colonizers. Now 70% of the nation's biggest companies are controlled by the Chinese, who make up only 4% of the population. Many others are shopkeepers of modest means who were attacked when inflation drove up the cost of essentials such as rice, angering their pribumi customers.

In Indonesia's post-Suharto spirit of probing the misdeeds of the past, President Habibie has appointed a fact-finding team to look into allegations the riots were instigated by the military and the allegations of widespread gang rape. The rape pictures don't help "create the right atmosphere for an investigation," said the head of the fact-finding team, Marzuki Darusman. "It has the effect of amplifying the drama."

Mr. Darusman said his team has received copies of many of the pictures and is aware of questions about their authenticity. "We're not using the pictures as evidence," he said. There is enough first-hand evidence from the victims that the pictures won't be necessary, he said. The team is due to present to the president a preliminary report next month. But fear of a backlash from the fake pictures grows, and some activists have urged Chinese in Hong Kong, China and elsewhere to tone down their protests at Indonesian embassies.

Father Sandyawan says he believes the fakes are yet another ploy by members of the Indonesian establishment to discredit the investigation. Two of the photographs mysteriously appeared at his office in an envelope months ago, he said, while the East Timorese photos have been sold in Jakarta's black market for months. Disseminating the fakes, he said, "is an act of terror" to sow even more fear amongst the nation's Chinese. "It's used to confuse the public," he added. "But we'll provide the real information."

Tortured activist to sue Prabowo

Agence France Presse - August 30, 1998

Jakarta – A kidnapped political activist plans to file a lawsuit against ex-president Suharto's son-in-law for his involvement in the abduction and torture of scores of activists, press reports said Sunday.

Activist Pius Lustrilanang, who was released by his captors earlier in the year, plans to sue ex-special forces chief Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto for ordering the kidnappings, the Suara Pembaruan evening daily reported.

Armed Forces Chief General Wiranto on Monday announced that Prabowo, once seen as a potential successor to Suharto, had been honorably discharged from the armed forces, citing the allegations of abduction and torture of activists earlier this year.

The decision, based on the findings of a high-level military officers' probe, also saw two other senior officers of the Kopassus elite force stripped of all posts though they were allowed to stay in the army.

Wiranto said the three could still be brought before a military tribunal should there be enough evidence from the court martials of seven Kopassus non-commissioned officers and three soldiers implicated in the same case.

Trimedya Panjaitan who holds power of attorney for Lustrilanang, said he and his client doubted the military's seriousness in prosecuting Prabowo, the Pembaruan reported. "We doubt the military's independence. Just look at the way they have managed to take the Trisakti University case back to the drawing board," Panjaitan was quoted as saying by Suara Pembaruan.

He was refering to the prosecution evidence, dismissed as a cover-up by the defence, in the trial of two police officers implicated in the shooting deaths of six students during a peaceful pro-reform rally in May. The military inquiry team has said Prabowo had admitted during the 15-day long inquiry earlier this month to misinterpreting orders from a superior.

But the council has shed no light on what the order was or who had issued it.

At least 24 activists had been missing since early this year and the nine who have resurfaced have told stories of forced abduction and torture as well as solitary detention. One was found dead.

Wiranto's move had a lukewarm reception among activists, who said the decision was too lenient and would do little to improve the military's image.

 News & issues

Suharto cronies face the music

The Australian - September 4, 1998

Don Greenlees – The slow wheels of Indonesian justice, rusted to a standstill after 32 years of Suharto rule, have finally begun to turn, bringing friends, business allies and even the children of the former president closer to a legal reckoning.

Indonesians are now being treated to the extraordinary spectacle of Suharto family members and business partners being hauled before judicial investigators and the police for hours of questioning over business practices once regarded as immune from the law.

Eldest Suharto son Bambang Trihatmodjo has been summoned over allegations of illegal lending by his failed Bank Andromeda, one of the first banks ordered to shutdown after the economic crisis hit last year. While he was being called for questioning, police were rounding up 10 of the bank's senior executives.

The names include a couple of ethnic Chinese business high-fliers of the Suharto era: Prajogo Pangestu and Henry Pribadi. All are accused of overseeing a breach in rules setting a limit on funds that could be lent to their own business groups.

Mr Trihatmodjo, Mr Pangestu and Mr Pribadi are also the principle shareholders in the multi-billion-dollar Chandra Asri chemical refinery in West Java. It is believed this company is the recipient of loans alleged to breach the 1992 Banking Law. Some heavy lobbying by investors and the direct intervention of Mr Suharto in 1992 allowed the project to by-pass lending restrictions that would have put a stop to the project.

Promising to clean-up corruption, cronyism and nepotism, Indonesian President B. J. Habibie told a session of the Supreme Advisory Council last Sunday that business people who had treated bank funds like personal war chests would have to pay back every rupiah. "If they are not able to repay their debts, they will be punished as severely as possible," he was quoted as telling the closed-door meeting.

Within days of Dr Habibie's speech, some prominent Suharto cronies began to troop before investigators.

Bob Hasan – business and golfing partner of Mr Suharto – was questioned for several hours by a team from the Attorney-General's office over his Bank Umum Nasional, one of the three recently frozen. He faces accusations of violating the legal lending limit and using 150 trillion rupiah ($24 billion) in Bank Indonesia liquidity support to finance his paper manufacturer PT Kiani Kertas.

Facing an election next year in which any connection to the Suharto clan is likely to be a liability, Dr Habibie has sensed the public mood for justice to at least seen to be done.

General denies Sukarno forced to hand over power

Agence France Presse - September 4, 1998

Jakarta – A second general has denied an allegation by a former security guard of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno that he and three other generals forced Sukarno to hand over power to Suharto on March 11, 1966, reports said Friday.

"It is not true that Major General Basuki Rachmat or any of us three carried a handgun when meeting president Sukarno at the Bogor palace," retired general Mohammad Yusuf said according to the Antara news agency. Yusuf said only three generals – he and two other generals who have since died – came to the Bogor palace to meet Sukarno on May 11, 1996.

Sukarjo Wilarjito, 71, a second lieutenant who had been on guard duty at the presidential palace in the city of Bogor on March 11, 1966, has said that four generals had come to see Sukarno. Sukarjo has claimed he witnessed the four, two of them with unholstered pistols, force Sukarno to sign a document empowering then lieutenant general Suharto to take measures to restore order in the country.

The document, later known as the 11 March document, has been officially used to legitimize Suharto's ascent into power during his 32-year iron-fisted rule which ended in May when he was toppled by popular unrest. The official version of the event has said that three generals went up to see Sukarno in Bogor, in the hills outside Jakarta that day. There was no mention of pistols.

Retired general Maraden Panggabean, who Wilarjito said was among the four he saw at the Bogor palace, has already denied he was present on that day. The document empowered Suharto to take the necessary measures to restore order after an abortive coup attempt blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) on September 30 the previous year.

Suharto shortly afterwards banned the PKI, then Asia's second largest communist party after China, and its teachings and launched a campaign against communists and their sympathisers that left over half a million people dead and millions jailed in the following years.

The legislature appointed Suharto as acting president in 1967 and president the following year. Sukarno was first put under house arrest and died in official disgrace in June 1970. March 11 was commemorated annually by Suharto's government and the date has been used for the five-yearly presidential elections that returned Suharto to power six times running.

Suharto: disgraced but not bowed

Asiaweek - September 4, 1998

Dewi Loveard, Jakarta – For a man whose visage was once seen everywhere, former president Suharto has dropped dramatically out of sight since his resignation on May 21. Suharto watchers now spend their time guessing which mosque he is likely to select for his Friday prayer session that week. The last sighting was on Aug. 14, when he turned up at a mosque in the Bimantara building in the company of his second son Bambang Trihatmodjo.

In some ways, the Bimantara mosque was a step down for Suharto after earlier appearances at mosques attached to important military establishments. His companion at many of those occasions was Maj.-Gen. Syafrie Syamsuddin, military commander of Jakarta during the May chaos. Syafrie has now been pushed aside, along with his close associate Lt.-Gen. Prabowo Subianto, Suharto's son-in-law and a prime suspect in the wave of abductions of activists that preceded the March presidential elections.

Former friends and allies – including armed forces commander Gen. Wiranto and even the old guard of retired military officers -- have been steering clear of Suharto. In this new age of reform, it is a liability to be associated with the former First Family. The victory of Habibie-backer Akbar Tandjung as chairman of Golkar at the ruling party's congress in July marked the apparent end of what control Suharto may have had over major political forces.

His fall from grace notwithstanding, Suharto remains unchanged in many respects, not least in keeping his opinions to himself. Asked by a journalist about his health at the Bimantara mosque, he replied: "I'm fine, thanks to God." But when the reporter pressed for his opinion on the current political situation, Suharto's only response was a quiet "ah" before he was ushered away by bodyguards. Son Bambang, normally not one to say much in public, was a little more forthcoming: "We prefer not to say anything at this time because whatever we say will cause a fuss." Most of the time, say reports, Suharto spends his time at home playing with his grandchildren and watching television.

Meanwhile, much talk continues to be generated over the supposed wealth amassed by the Suharto clan. New rumors have it that the family has placed some $8 billion in banks in Austria, although no one has come up with anything in the way of firm evidence. Half-brother Probosutedjo says he has asked Suharto if the allegations have any basis: "When I asked him, he replied, 'I don't have any money.' He said he had no money either inside or outside the country. What he did have was in the foundations."

The many charitable foundations that Suharto once controlled are now also under the spotlight – especially in regards to their role in funding Golkar. One businessman close to the family says that while the foundations did not serve personal ends, they were used to fund programs, especially in rural areas, that helped to cement the vote for Golkar at election time. "One village might have gotten half a dozen water pumps, another a few bulls to improve their cattle strains," he says. "It was made clear that the money came from the president and that Golkar was the vehicle for delivering the goods."

The battle over what wealth the Suhartos may have accumulated is not likely to be a quick one. When the attorney-general was sacked just a few weeks after the Habibie cabinet was formed, observers felt it was because the official had been too diligent. Says one analyst: "If you dig too deep, you are likely to find that too many names surface. You could end up implicating the entire elite of Suharto-era Indonesia."

For the Suharto children, life is now different but not markedly so. The government has taken over some of their interests – the Bank Central Asia, for example, in which eldest son Sigit Harjojudanto and eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana ("Tutut") had a 30% stake – but they are not exactly facing a life of penury. Bambang has stepped down from the boards of all the companies he was involved in, but is believed to remain a significant shareholder in most of them. He and Tutut have reportedly been playing an active role in recent months in the trading of cooking oil, a critical commodity in today's food- short environment. As for youngest son Tommy, his Timor national car project may be in shambles, but he has retained his clove monopoly, which is still bringing in revenues as it has a year's worth of stock that was bought at well below current market prices.

An outcast within this family of outcasts is Prabowo, who got the cold shoulder when he turned up at Suharto's 77th birthday bash in June. (He has since been discharged from the military over the abductions and may face court martial.) Suharto's public displeasure with his headstrong son-in-law, though, may just be a smokescreen for an attempt to get the family back into the picture. A far-fetched scenario? Perhaps, but if Indonesia- watchers have learned anything during Suharto's 32-year rule, it is to never write him off.

US Keeps Pressure on Jakarta

IPS - September 4, 1998

By Farhan Haq, New York – The US Senate's passage this week of restrictions on arms sales to Indonesia and demands for further political reforms have pleased some pro-democracy activists, who welcome the signs that Washington plans to keep some pressure on Jakarta.

However, as Edwin Gozal – a leading member of Indonesia's left- wing People's Democratic Party (PRD) now visiting the United States – argues, the US government is also less likely to criticise Jakarta following the ouster this May of longtime dictator Suharto.

"We don't have any illusions that they will change their policies," Gozal says of the US leadership. Despite continued the torture and detention of opposition leaders by the military- backed regime in Jakarta, he contends, "the United States says, 'Now they're cleaning up'."

At the same time, however, the Senate's passage on Wednesday of language asserting that any US agreement to sell weapons to Indonesia "shall state that the items will not be used in East Timor", invaded by the Indonesian Army (ABRI) in 1975, shows lingering doubts over Jakarta's record. The Senate amendments to the body's larger Foreign Operations Appropriations bill also adds that Jakarta must "release individuals detained or imprisoned for their political views".

Ever since Suharto was replaced by longtime aide Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie as Indonesian president in May – following the collapse of the Indonesian rupiah and student-led riots – Washington has followed seemingly contradictory impulses. On the one hand, it wants to back Habibie as he follows some democratic reforms and pro-liberalisation policies; on the other, it is wary of the eccentric Habibie and remains critical of the regime's still-poor rights record.

The worry for opposition leaders like Gozal, a supporter of the student movement that included the PRD, is that any focus on the recent reforms will lose sight of the ways that the government remains unchanged since Suharto's fall. He says that eight PRD leaders remain in detention, despite Habibie's promises to free political prisoners.

He is equally cynical about the recent ouster from the military of Gen. Prabowo Subianto, Suharto's son-in-law and former head of the dreaded Kopassus military units, by the ABRI Chief of Staff, Gen. Wiranto. "Now Prabowo and Kopassus are described as evil, but (Wiranto) is the same as Prabowo – he is an authoritarian general," Gozal argues. "Prabowo is being sacked, but there's no sign that he will be jailed, or will be taken to a free, independent court to stand trial. They still want to maintain unity within the Army."

Nevertheless, Jakarta has had to change its ways in recent months, with Prabowo's ouster just the latest sign that the most visible symbols of the Suharto era are being gradually eliminated.

Last month, Indonesia agreed to speed up peace talks on East Timor with Portugal and the United Nations, promising a wide- ranging autonomy for the former Portuguese colony within the year. According to Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, the autonomy could allow Timorese to control most aspects of government except for foreign affairs, defence and "certain monetary and fiscal policies".

Yet Jakarta's offer has not satisfied rights groups and supporters of independence for East Timor. "Although President Habibie has said he is willing to negotiate a partial autonomy for East Timor, he continues to oppose a UN-supervised referendum," says John Miller, spokesman for the US-based East Timor Action Network.

Yet Miller contends that the Senate restriction that all US weapons sales – including any transactions involving lethal equipment or helicopters – to Indonesia cannot be used in East Timor means that Congress "is saying East Timor is not part of Indonesia". Moreover, the latest Senate action comes two months after the body unanimously passed a resolution urging President Bill Clinton to work with the United Nations "to support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination" for East Timor.

The pressure on Indonesia to solve the East Timor crisis has led Jakarta to consider many other steps that were once seen as difficult, including the withdrawal of several hundred ABRI troops in recent weeks and the release of some political detainees. But even in those areas, progress has been limited – and Alatas has insisted that Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao will remain in detention even as other political prisoners are freed.

"Xanana Gusmao does not qualify in the present phase of amnesties," Alatas said last month. "He has killed, he has burned villages ...It is for these criminal acts that he has been brought before the court and convicted." Nevertheless, the period since Habibie's rise has seen the release of dozens of other activists, including veteran Indonesian labour leader Mukhtar Pakpahan, who Gozal believes can be a leader of a collective opposition movement.

However, Gozal is skeptical about the prospects for democratic change in Indonesia, noting that restrictions in electoral laws make it difficult for political parties to conduct nationwide campaigns and that the opposition has been "more fragmented" since Suharto's fall. "There is no strong feeling like they had in the past," he says of opposition leaders, including Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesian founder Sukarno, and Islamist politician Amien Rais. Arguing that Rais has seemed more content with Habibie in recent weeks, Gozal complains, "We can't rely on some prima donna political figures ...The students must take the initiative."

Megawati vows to hold congress, contest election

Jakarta Post - September 2, 1998

Bandung – Undaunted by the government's continued recognition of a rival camp, Megawati Soekarnoputri of the splintered Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) vowed on Tuesday she will lead her supporters at the general election next year.

The popular ousted leader told a gathering of thousands of supporters here she would hold her camp's congress in October – rather than December as previously scheduled--to elect a new leadership.

Megawati did not elaborate about the congress, which is expected to be held either in Yogyakarta or Bali. She only said that while she deliberately did not vote in the 1997 organized by former president Soeharto's regime, she would use her right to vote next year. "Whether or not I would still be PDI leader at the time, is not an issue. Leave the question of the party leadership to the congress," she said.

She threatened to stage protests if anyone attempted to disrupt her plan to hold the congress. "Even the new parties can hold congresses without any disturbances. So why can't PDI, which clearly enjoys the support of many people, hold its congress?" she said.

She then called on her supporters to consolidate and prepare for the general election, planned for either May or June next year. She called on them not to be swayed by anybody who tried to buy them off, now that it was evident her supporters represented a real political force. "This is true. The only thing that would weaken PDI would be if its cadres were tempted by money and positions. There are people who have tried to lure PDI cadres in districts, offer them millions of rupiah (in exchange for their support). Don't be tempted," she said.

Megawati, in Bandung to open a branch congress, again attracted the strong support she enjoyed in other parts of the country. Thousands flocked to the meeting site and traffic became very congested, especially after her supporters held a motorcade after the gathering.

She also insisted that, despite mounting calls from various quarters, she would not make up with her rival, Soerjadi, who ousted her in a June 1996 congress in Medan, North Sumatra. "They say I am stubborn. I am not, I am a person of principle and I adhere to party statutes," she said, to hysterical applause from her supporters.

She also said Soerjadi's maneuver in holding a government recognized congress last week in Palu, Central Sulawesi – which elected Budi Hardjono as the new party chairman – was none of her camp's business. "So don't ask me about the result of (the. congress in) Palu. That is none of the PDI's business," she asserted.

Acknowledging that the government appeared to be confused as to how to handle the PDI question and was unable to recognize her camp as the legitimate PDI, Megawati said. "We demand that the government take a clear stance on the matter," she said. "If this is not enough, then maybe PDI should show its force. If all of its 30 million cadres around the country march, how long do you think the line would be? "So, will you be willing to walk in Indian file if I ask you to?" she queried, to which her supporters shouted, "We will!"

Authorities bow to spontaneous appointment of governor

Agence France Presse - September 2, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian authorities have finally given approval for the citizens of Yogyakarta to install the popular head of the region's royal family as their governor, reports said Wednesday.

Hamengkubuwono X (the 10th), the Sultan of Yogyakarta, will be recognised as the governor once the appointment is agreed to by a plenary session of the local parliament as required by law, the Kompas daily said. "What remains to be done is for them to hold a plenary session to legalize the sole candidate," Home Affairs Minister Syarwan Hamid told the newspaper.

A senior home affairs ministry official had earlier said the spontaneous appointment last month of Hamengkubuwono X as governor of the territory of some 10,000 people was against the law. His announcement was greeted by protests and defiance in the city which has special autonomous status, with public leaders and officials threatening to hold a referendum to support the appointmen.

The special status of Yogyakarta, the cultural heart of Java province, was awarded by presidential decree in 1950 for its role in the struggle for independence from the Dutch colonial authorities. Under the decree, issued by then president Sukarno, Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, the head of Yogyakarta's main royal house and father of the current sultan, was named the first governor of the territory.

But a 1974 decree by the government of former president Suharto stipulated that governors should be chosen by the parliament from a list of five government-approved candidates. "There should have been five (candidates) but it turns out that all five of them are the same (candidate), so be it...we agree on the sole candidate and we will legitimise it," Hamid said.

The instalation of Hamengkubowono X last month, had received the support of all five factions of the local parliament. The popular Sultan whose 18th century palace dominates the city, has retained moral authority there.

A pro-reform figure and a member of the country's highest legislative body, the People's Consultative Assembly, he is the eldest of 16 sons of Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, who served once as Suharto's vice president. The post of governor fell free due to the illness of Prince Pakualam, a member of a minor royal house in Yogyakarta, who was appointed by presidential decree as acting governor after the death of the Sultan's father in 1988.

Batam: where the old New Order remains

Asiaweek - September 4, 1998

Jose Manuel Tesoro, Batam – Before he ruled all of Indonesia's 13,000 islands, he was in charge of just one. B.J. Habibie came about Batam the same way he later got the country. It was handed to him by a patron high in government. Not Suharto but one of the ex-president's longtime cronies: Ibnu Sutowo, head of state oil company Pertamina, which once managed the island. Under Habibie (and helped in no small part by Southeast Asia's export and investment boom early this decade), the island gobbled up Suharto's New Order development – progress so fast its residents still gasp in wonder. Slick roads and bright new towns were sliced out of its forested hills. Mountains of red earth were tossed aside to make way for golf links, shipyards and electronics factories. The dust of construction sites was the fresh air of opportunity.

Through Batam soon ran a wonderfully numbing, bountiful flow of money. Total private investment, mostly from Singapore and Japan, reached over $5 billion last year. The island is home to manufacturing and ship repair, as well as a sizable tourist industry. In 1996 Batam was responsible for nearly a tenth of the value of Indonesia's non-oil and gas exports, which then totaled $38 billion. What is the secret of Batam's success? Simple. Its geography is its destiny. Singapore and its wealth are just 20 km away. Habibie embellishes that fact with his own special Balloon Theory. He says Singapore is like a balloon filling up with air. If the air does not find another container, the balloon will burst. Ismeth Abdullah, present chairman of the Batam Industrial Development Authority (BIDA), puts it less graphically: "If Singapore grows, Batam grows."

With the island destined to become rich, who could resist sating themselves on the flood of dollars? Certainly not Batam's laborers, who came from all over Indonesia to earn higher wages -- at least 27% more than they would make in Jakarta today. And certainly not its prostitutes, taxi drivers and hotel workers, who await the weekend influx of lower- to middle-class Singaporeans who spend an average of $180 at the island's slick resorts or flashy discos. Last year more tourists went to Batam than to Bali, to enjoy such attractions as indoor skiing and seafood palaces in which over 3,000 people can gorge at one sitting. While the rest of Indonesia is reeling, Batam is still coasting.

The flood of money has not bypassed the island's bureaucrats. Last financial year the municipal government earned $2.8 million. That is well above the average in Indonesia, but the real money pot belongs to BIDA. Headed by Habibie from 1978 until he became vice president in March this year, BIDA oversees all of Batam's investments and land, as well as the real estate of the islands nearby. It leases parcels out to the factories and hotels, charging tariffs of up to $19 a square meter.

The money certainly tempted Habibie's own family. He made his brother-in-law Sudarsono Darmosuwito chief of BIDA's daily operations. The retired major-general soon built a small business empire. Among other activities, Sudarsono leads a consortium to develop some 350 ha of waterfront land, at the moment occupied by a stilt-and-wooden-walkway slum with a spectacular view of Singapore's towers. His wife, Habibie's younger sister Sri Rejeki Sudarsono, heads the Batam Family Foundation. In June, BIDA denied that her foundation held an informal monopoly over the operation of the island's schools and hospitals. But the Sudarsonos do have an interest in at least one monopoly: the island's water distribution company.

Other Habibie relatives have fed off Batam. Son Thareq Kemal and brother Suyatim "Timmy" Abdulrachman each won rights to build ship facilities on the island. They, and another Habibie son, Ilham Akbar, also have interests in the firm that manages the 320-ha Batamindo Industrial Park, the biggest of Batam's factory complexes. Another company partly owned by Timmy is involved in sea transport. The Habibie family's partners in their many Batam enterprises read like a who's who of the New Order: Suharto crony and tycoon Liem Sioe Liong and sons Bambang Trihatmodjo and Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra.

Money, or even just the promise of it, was what brought them as well as nearly all of Batam's 400,000 people to a place that, for all its development, is desolately artificial, like a factory floor. It's the same money that satisfies citizens and muffles critics, as it did throughout Suharto's New Order. That is why, even now, echoes of the old days reverberate on the island. Don't blame Habibie's family for participating in booming Batam, says local religious leader R.D. Sulaeman. "If it's for the good," he argues, "then go ahead."

There was some change on the island when Batam's man Habibie became president. His brother Junus "Fanny" Effendy, whom he had appointed to succeed him at BIDA, resigned. And, surprisingly, in a place without activist universities or independent unions, there suddenly appeared a "Batam Reformation Committee." Its aim, declares chairman Bambang Sujagad Susanto, is to attack the system that gave rise to corruption, collusion and nepotism. The achievements it claims, though, are far more modest, such as the removal of a fee on exported sand and a 10% value-added tax on goods and services. Are these among the most worrying of Batam's failings? Susanto, sitting in his office under a wall-size picture of himself shaking hands with Suharto, explains: "Ninety percent of Batam's [issues] are economic."

For a reform movement, the group's members are very establishment. The commission includes bureaucrats from BIDA. Susanto, a travel-agent turned shipyard-owner, is the head of the chamber of commerce and a former chief of the local chapter of the ruling group Golkar. Both posts were once held by Habibie's brother-in-law Sudarsono. "If [these people] are there," says a local hotel consultant, "reform won't work on Batam. They will brake, brake, brake." Susanto and Sulaeman (who is not a committee member) explain what they are striving for is "peaceful reformation" – which sounds a lot like reform at a pace that does not shake the foundations of the rich and powerful. "Everyone has an interest," says a local journalist.

If there have indeed been cases where connections were misused, says BIDA's Abdullah, that "belongs to the past." He does pledge greater transparency (in, for example, how BIDA spends the land tariffs it collects) as well as less corruption. But he also has his mind fixed clearly on development and expansion. The island continues to gird itself with infrastructure. The latest, which Habibie inaugurated on August 10, is a lengthy road-and-bridge project connecting Batam with six neighboring islands.

Links are something the hundreds of unemployed young men and women at Batamindo Industrial Park wish they had. They come looking for jobs that no longer exist on their home islands. But unless someone they know gets them past a factory's gates, nobody who matters will see their applications. Just one name on the inside – the flimsiest of connections – can mean the difference between surviving on a paycheck or on handouts. Twenty-one-year- old Nita, from West Sumatra, has been waiting outside factory gates for two months. "This is still the New Order," she says bitterly. "When you see Habibie, tell him this."

Why hold Habibie responsible? Because he molded Batam in the image of the New Order. It is his past; he cannot escape it. The wider responsibility is still Suharto's. Under him, corruption, collusion and nepotism nationwide were not discouraged. The former president's system – in which development and stability took precedence over fairness and justice – would probably have shaped Batam anyway, with or without Habibie. But what is undeniable is that, right up till Suharto's inglorious end, Habibie never fought that system.

New PDI chief gets government recognition

Jakarta Post - August 28, 1998

Jakarta – The government has officially recognized Budi Hardjono as the new chairman of the conflict-ridden Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). Budi was elected to the party's leadership on Wednesday during a congress marred by violent clashes and allegations of political intrigue.

Minister/State Secretary Akbar Tandjung said yesterday in Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi, that the government respected and endorsed the results of the congress held in Palu, Central Sulawesi. He called on the party to consolidate and prepare itself for the general elections scheduled for next year.

He insisted the government had made its stance clear long before the congress began on Tuesday, namely that it would respect all decisions taken at the gathering, including those on the issue of the party's leadership. "The government accepts the congress results with a hope that PDI will take the necessary steps to consolidate and prepare for the next general election," Akbar was quoted by Antara as saying yesterday. Akbar is also chairman of Golkar, which was the dominant political organization under former president Soeharto's regime.

The congress elected Budi to replace Soerjadi, who was elected in yet another government-backed congress held in the North Sumatra capital of Medan in 1996. Soerjadi's election forced popular chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri out of the post. Akbar said the PDI congress had been held in accordance with the party's statute and that Budi won a majority of votes. Akbar also suggested that Megawati should establish a new political party if she wants to continue to be politically active.

The congress, scheduled to last for five days between Aug. 25 and Aug. 29, was cut short and ended yesterday morning as a result of clashes between supporters loyal to Megawati and those who back Soerjadi. Seventeen people, including five police officers, were injured.

Megawati's aide Soetardjo Soeryogoeritno rejected Budi's election. "The results of the congress will not make us back down from our stance. We still don't recognize the congress, and we intend to continue (with our struggle) as usual," he was quoted by Antara as saying. Soetardjo also cold-shouldered Budi's offer of reconciliation with Megawati's camp. "That's only words, the offer has repeatedly been made but never materialized," Soetardjo said.

Soetardjo lashed out at President B.J. Habibie's government, which he said was only a continuation of former president Soeharto's regime. "You can see that the Armed Forces (ABRI) is still applying old policy by dividing the PDI through this Palu congress just like it did in Medan," he said. He speculated the attempts were driven by an agenda to prevent the PDI from challenging Golkar's dominant position.


Kwik Kian Gie, another Megawati loyalist, said the government should be held responsible for the clashes because it had rigged the congress. He said that Megawati did not urge her supporters to go to Palu and stage anti-Soerjadi demonstrations in a bid to disrupt the congress.

Meanwhile, Gunawan Wirosaroyo, secretary to the Central Java PDI chapter, said that the Megawati faction would maintain its demand that provincial authorities dismiss pro-Soerjadi PDI branches in the province. He threatened to call on thousands of Megawati supporters to stage demonstrations until the government met their demand.

Chief of the Central Sulawesi provincial police Col. K. Soebono Adi said Palu had returned to normal following the conclusion of the congress yesterday. "Palu residents have resumed their activities and all participants in the congress have left the city, " Adi said. He also said the police had confiscated molotov cocktails and would investigate where they came from.

Maj. Gen. Suaidi Marasabessy, chief of the Wirabuana Military Command overseeing Sulawesi, said that at least 18 people are under intensive police investigation for their involvement in the violent scuffles. He refused to identify the 18, saying they were arrested for possessing molotov cocktails. "If the police have adequate evidence, they will be brought to court," he said. He did not say where the 18 came from.

 Arms/armed forces

Military returns to riot-hit Aceh

Agence France Presse - September 2, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian armed forces will return to the troubled province of Aceh to restore security after two days of mob riots following a troop withdrawal, army chief General Wiranto said Wednesday. "Because it is ABRI's (the armed forces) responsibility to maintain security in the whole Indonesian territory, ABRI will return and take over security in that (Aceh) area," Wiranto said, after meeting Indonesian President B.J. Habibie.

Tensions were high amid tight security in the town of Lhokseumawe, the scene of two days of rioting. Unrest broke in the North Aceh town shortly after the last batch of outside troops withdrew from the province on Monday. Onlookers hurled stones and insults at the 659 departing troops. The rioting, including looting and arson, carried on into Tuesday when two people died and at least 10 were injured.

Although it started by targetting ethnic Chinese businesses, the rampage later became indiscriminate. Wiranto added the withdrawal of the troops would be "suspended" but he did not elaborate.

The military have said that Monday's pullout was the second and last after an earlier one on August 20 which saw the departure of 250 soldiers. The troops left Lhokseumawe in line with Jakarta's promise to scale down its military presence in the province where soldiers have been accused of massive human rights abuses during a decade-long anti-rebel operation.

"To safeguard projects of vital importance, the number of troops (in Aceh) will be reinforced," Wiranto said without elaborating. Lhokseumawe lies near the huge Arun oil and gas field. "Security personnel are everywhere but we have not received any report of fresh unrest today," said Icut, an employee of the Iskandar Muda Legal Aid Institute in Lhokseumawe, the main town of North Aceh district. "Everything appears calm but you can feel the tension."

The road leading to the center of Lhokseumawe was heavily guarded, a resident housewife who identified herself as Meutia, 27, said. "The situation is calm and under control today," said an officer at the Lilawangsa military command in Lhokseumawe which oversees security in several Aceh district, including North Aceh. He declined to be identified or elaborate.

The head of the Lilawangsa command, Colonel Dasiri Musnar was quoted by the Kompas daily as saying four companies of soldiers from the provincial capital and the neighbouring province of North Sumatra had been dispatched to Lhokseumawe. An Indonesian company consists of about 100 men. "They will remain here until the situation returns to normal like before," Musnar said.

Lieutenant Colonel Saleh of the information centre at the national police headquarters in Jakarta said about 1,000 men were responsible for security in Lhokseumawe. Most people were staying home Wednesday and schools would remain closed for the rest of the week after looting and damage to property continued until late Tuesday, Meutia said. "I don't dare go out of the house with all the looting and vandalism that is going on ...some people are just taking advantage of the situation as it has gone out of control," she said.

Local residents also noted an increase in air traffic, including a jet belonging to the Mobile Oil company which has a huge oil and gas operation in the nearby Arun field. "The Mobile Oil plane has flown at least twice this morning when it usually flies no more than twice a day," Meutia said.

On Tuesday, the unrest also spread to four other sub-districts in North Aceh, police have said. In two of the four districts – Samudra and Peusangan – police spoke of mobs of thousands, mostly school children and youths, ransacking shops there. One of the dead came from Geudon, the main town of the Samudra sub- district, a human rights activist from the Iskandar Muda legal aid institute has said.

[On September 4 Dow Jones Newswires reported that according to the independent Commission for Missing Persons and Victims, the military may have masterminded the riots to ensure that troops would be returned."In our view, the riots were engineered by groups that so far have benefited from the existence of the military operation," said Munir, chief of the commission - James Balowski.]

Military part of the solution to crisis

Agence France Presse - September 2, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesia's armed forces are an "inseparable part" of the country's reform drive and will not tolerate threats to the process, an influential general said here Wednesday.

"ABRI (the armed forces) will be an inseparable part of the reform process and any action which threatens reform must be stopped," Lieutenant General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said.

Yudhoyono, head of the military's social and political affairs, was speaking to foreign diplomats, journalists and businessmen at an executive lunch here as the army ordered troops back into troubled Aceh province. Refering to outbreaks of unrest in some provinces since the onset of the economic crisis and the fall of ex-president Suharto in May, he said ABRI was determined to prevent Indonesia from "collapse, anarchy and disintegration."

"Can this (the legal, political and economic reforms) be carried out without national stability – the answer is No," he said.

The return of troops to Aceh, ordered by armed forces chief General Wiranto followed two days of mass rioting triggered by the withdrawal of a second batch of troops stationed there to fight Islamic separatists. Local leaders and human rights groups have accused soldiers, deployed in Aceh for 10 years, to quash a separatist uprising, of gross human rights violations, for which Wiranto has apologized.

Yudhoyono said that while the armed forces admitted to human rights abuses: "Not everything" ABRI did in the past was wrong. "We have to look at all things comprehensively. ABRI were given a task to maintain order (in Aceh, Irian Jaya and other troubled areas) ...one has to distinguish between counter-insurgent operations and human rights abuses," he said.

"We will not accept that everything done in the past by ABRI was illegal," he said answering charges that the armed forces were as much a part of the problem as the solution to the country's political crisis. "There is a balance in my opinion ...we have learned from the past that too much (security) is counterproductive," he said.

Yudhoyono was cheered when he said that "The biggest mistake ABRI made (under the Suharto regime) was thinking we were responsible for everything. We must realize (now) that we are (just) a part of the whole nation."

However he rejected a suggestion that one way the Indonesian armed forces could cope with regional emergencies was to form a US-style National Guard. "We have to improve the quality and the system, not change the structure," he said, adding that ABRI, whose strength is at around 470,000 men was relatively small for the population of more than 200 million.

Yudhoyono side-stepped the much-debated issue of whether the armed forces should totally get out of politics, and abandon its traditional socio-political role which under Suharto, himself a retired general, gave them enormous power. But he conceded that it would be "lessened" in the reform era, while its "security" role would not be abandonned.

Calls for a review of the army's non-defence role have been mounting, especially since Suharto resigned on May 21. Yudhoyono also warned foreign countries against "intervention" as Indonesia tries to resolve its economic, political and legal crises. "The Indonesian people will not be pleased if there is too much intervention ...we do not want too much interference," he said.

Shots, jeers as troops pull out of Aceh

Agence France Presse - August 31, 1998

Jakarta – Shots were heards as hundreds of onlookers Monday pelted and yelled insults at troops pulled out of the troubled Indonesian province of Aceh, where soldiers fighting Islamic separatists have been accused of human rights abuses.

Some of the more than 1,000 people watching an official ceremony to mark the withdrawal of six companies of soldiers at the Jendral Sudirman field in Lhokseumawe, pelted stones and hurled insults as troop trucks left the venue, a witness said. The crowd called out "Rapists," "Dogs" and "Pigs" and pelted stones as troops left the open field on board some 20 trucks, the witness said. Two shots were fired in the air by some of the departing soldiers, the witness said.

Crowds later stoned some banks and offices as they left the field and some 50 police and the military police were sent to deal with them. "Yes, the crowds have been making some trouble but we have sent units to restore order there," said a policeman on duty at Lhokseumawe, identifying himself as Rahwi. There was no immediate report of arrests.

"It is nothing, just some people making noise and that is quite common here," said Zulkifli, an officer on duty at the military command that overlooks the field. He denied that any stone- throwing had taken place. The witness said while most of the troops were transported by trucks, the members of the elite Kopassus took an airconditioned bus. Several bus windows were damaged by the pelting, the witness added.

The troops pull-out was the second since Military Chief General Wiranto (Eds: one name) pledged to withdraw all non-local troops from the troubled province on August 7. Some 250 troops were recalled from Lhokeumawe on August 20.

"The pull out takes place in Lhokseumawe today (Monday) and involves six companies of soldiers, mostly drawn from other regions in Sumatra," Lieutnenant Colonel Saragi of the armed forces information office here said. He did not give the precise number of troops, but officials have said 729 soldiers were to be pulled out from the autonomous area on August 31. The witness said on Monday 659 soldiers were recalled.

Saragi said the troops to be withdrawn included 28 members of the Kopassus, one platoon of the engineering battalion, and troops from North and West Sumatra.

On Saturday, the military authorities disbanded a "Tactical command" composed of 394 soldiers from North Sulawesi, West and Central Java, which had been deployed in Irian Jaya. The command was operating in the Timika region, near the huge copper and gold mines operated by a subsidiary of the Freeport MacMoRan Copper and Gold Inc, which had been the scene of several kidnapping by separatist rebels as well as tribal fightings.

In the past months, Indonesia has also withdrawn 1,000 combat troops from the former Portuguese colony of East Timor which it invaded in 1975.

 Economy and investment

Anti-corruption groups, World Bank to conduct joint probe

Agence France Presse - September 1, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian anti-corruption NGOs and the World Bank will set up a joint team to probe leakages of project funds made available by the bank to Jakarta, the NGOs said here Tuesday.

"The World Bank will investigate corruption, collusion and nepotism together with the NGOs," said Kastorius Sinaga from the Concerned Citizens Movement on National Assets (Gempita).

Sinaga was speaking at a press conference here after meeting for more than one hour with World Bank Indonesia country director Dennis de Tray at the headquarters of the Legal Aid Institute. In the talks with de Tray, Sinaga was accompanied by representatives from the International Forum for Indonesia's Development (INFID), the Indonesian Social Economic Institute (LPES), the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) and the Indonesian Transparency Society.

At the meeting they discussed a leaked internal World Bank memo that estimated more than 20 percent of funds made available by the bank had been lost through corruption. "It stands to reason that the World Bank profited from this corruption," Sinaga said, adding that more detailed and concrete steps on forming the special investigation committee will be announced in two weeks.

Sinaga said that common corrupt practices in the use of World Bank funds were the mark-up of project costs, unfair tenders and unofficial levies. "(The joint team) is a step forward because the World Bank used to think (corruption) is a domestic affair," the ICW's Todung Mulya Lubis said.

The World Bank has confirmed the existence of the memorandum prepared by the bank's staff in Jakarta, which said more than 20 percent of the money earmarked for World Bank projects in Indonesia had been siphoned off by corrupt officials.

A joint statement made by the NGOs said that the World Bank "never cared about how much of its funds were actually translated into serving the majority of the Indonesian people. "The World Bank tends to set its target more on enlarging its funds, without prioritizing the quality and results of the projects," the statement said, adding that the World Bank's internal weakness centers in the absence of "financial monitoring" and "audit trail" systems.

The groups also said that both the World Bank and the regime of former president Suharto were accountable for the lost money, and thus the responsibility for the amount proven to have been lost through corruption should not be born by the Indonesian people.

Funds in Suharto-linked foundations misused

Agence France Presse - September 1, 1998

Jakarta – A government investigation shows that funds in charitable foundations linked to ousted Indonesian president Suharto were misused and diverted to private firms, a senior minister said Tuesday.

Development Supervision Minister Hartarto Sastrosunarto said the probe launched two months ago by the Attorney General's office and a professional audit team showed signs of abuses of funds in the five largest foundations. "Based on investigation ... there were indications that the use of the foundations' funds was not according to the foundations' charter," Hartarto said, reading from a statement at the Bina Graha presidential office.

Attorney General Muhammad Andi Ghalib said that much of the funds were diverted by improper lending to private firms. "A lot (of the funds) was loaned for the purposes of individual firms. Many used it," Ghalib told reporters.

But Hartato said the government considered, based on the charters of the five foundations, that the funds could not be considered the private property of Suharto. Since the ageing ex-president stepped down on May 21, he has faced and denied allegations that he amassed a fortune during his 32 years in office. Forbes magazine in June listed the Suharto family as worth four billion dollars.

Hartato named the five foundations as the Supersemar, Amal Bhakti Muslim Pancasila, Dharmais, Dakab and Dhana Sejahtera Mandiri, all of which are incorporated as charities and to which civil servants have been forced to donate.

When asked who were among the illegal receivers of the foundation funds, Ghalib gave only the initials "BH" without elaborating. Asked whether BH refered to Muhammad "Bob" Hasan, Suharto's golfing-buddy and one time minister, Ghalib did not reply.

Ghalib also did not answer directly on what action would be taken to follow up on the findings, but said "in a short period the audit's result will be announced." The financial and legal audit on the five foundations were still incomplete, Hartarto said.

Suharto's successor as president, his former vice-president B.J. Habibie, told journalists last month that he believed Suharto was a poor man, but that his cronies were rich. Habibie also conceded that Suharto's children, who have shares in hundreds of businesses ranging from oil and real estate to toll roads, were rich.

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