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ASIET Net News 25 June 21-27, 1999
Jakarta -- Indonesian police Tuesday arrested about 100 students protestors calling for fresh elections and the scrapping of the military's political role, a witness said.
Police rounded up members of the Student and People's Committee for Democracy before they reached the national Elections Committee (KPU) building in Central Jakarta.
"[We] reject the election results carried out by followers of the New Order ... Repeat the elections under true democratic terms," read two out of students seven point demands.
They also charged that the military's dual role had been "the cause for violations in human rights as well as democracy."
Hundreds of anti-riot police and troops roughly loaded the students onto two trucks, after they protested without a police permit as required by law. They had marched from the state University of Indonesia's Salemba campus about two kilometers away.
Tangerang -- Youths chased and forcibly dispersed labor activists grouped in the National Front of the Indonesian Labor Struggle (FNPBI) during a protest outside Tangerang's Women Penitentiary here on Sunday.
Beginning at 10am, some 50 FNPBI protesters demanded the release of jailed labor activist Dita Indah Sari. The protest initially preceded peacefully, observed by police officers and soldiers.
The group began to hold a free-speech forum several minutes later, but it was disrupted by the arrival of several busloads of people identifying themselves from the Tangerang Youths Forum (FPT).
"The group forced us to disperse our peaceful rally," Iqbal of FNPBI told The Jakarta Post. He said the youths unfurled banners and repeatedly chanted "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is great) as they beat the protesters, most of whom were women.
The protesters attempted to flee the scene to avoid an escalation of trouble. Iqbal said the youths chased the demonstrators.
The security personnel, who were apparently caught unaware by the arrival of the youths, attempted to intervene. It instructed both groups to immediately leave the site.
"We earlier thought the two groups were going to hold a joint rally. But when they started to shout at each other, we had to come in and disperse them to prevent further clashes," Tangerang Police chief Lt. Col. Pudji Hartanto said. No injuries were reported and police said no arrests were made during the incident.
Iqbal said Dita was chosen chairwoman of the newly founded forum during a national labor gathering in Bandung, West Java, last month. The protesters, he said, wanted to deliver the "good news" to Dita and visit her after the rally.
The group also demanded the government end the dual function of the Indonesian Military (TNI). "If the government has the guts, it should release Dita and also revoke the TNI's dual function," Iqbal said.
Dita, 25, chairwoman of the Center for Indonesian Workers Struggle, is serving the second year of a five-year sentence. She was charged by then president Soeharto's government under the 1963 Subversion Law. Prosecutors alleged she was guilty of subversion by attempting to overthrow the government with activities in Jakarta, Surabaya and other cities. The subversion law has long been criticized as a tool to suppress opposition.
The organization was recognized to be under the umbrella of the Democratic People's Party (PRD). Along with other PRD activists, Dita was arrested in July 1997 after organizing two labor rallies, each involving about 10,000 people from 10 factories at the Tandes industrial estate in southern Surabaya.
The rallies, which called for minimum wages in Surabaya to be raised from Rp 5,200 to Rp 7,000, ended violently when the military intervened. Dita was transferred to the capital shortly after sentencing.
Tangerang -- Police Sunday arrested about 100 protesters calling for the release of Indonesia's lone female political prisoner after they clashed with another group.
Workers and students gathered outside the Tangerang Women's Prison west of Jakarta demanding that Dita Indah Sari, a labor activist arrested for subversion after organizing a major protest in 1997, be freed.
A local group calling itself the "Tangerang Youth Committee Against Intimidation" faced off with the demonstrators and accused them of being communist, anti-constitution and anti- Muslim.
The group's members then charged the protesters and chased them toward police, who loaded them onto trucks. Police charged the demonstrators with protesting without a permit and attempting to see a prisoner on a Sunday, which isn't an official visiting day.
Dita is a member of the People's Democratic Party, an organization banned during former President Suharto's authoritarian regime but now a legally registered political party. She is due for release in December 2000.
Jakarta -- Riot police dispersed a student street rally at the Semanggi cloverleaf in the heart of the capital on Friday morning, arresting 32 protesters, mostly female students.
According to police, the rally by students from the University of Indonesia demanding the immediate trial of former president Soeharto was illegal because protesters did not give prior notification to police as required by law.
The protest, which began at 6:20am, also disrupted rush-hour traffic along the normally busy roads surrounding the cloverleaf, police said.
The commander of the 100-strong riot police unit, Maj. Soenaryo, said none of the 32 detained protesters would be jailed. He said the protesters would be questioned and identified before being freed later in the evening.
However, a lawyer from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, Daniel Panjaitan, who temporarily acted as counsel for the protesters, said the students had been charged with violating Article 510 of the Criminal Code on holding rallies in public places without giving prior notification to the police. The violation carries a maximum punishment of two weeks imprisonment and a fine of up to Rp 2,250 (three US cents).
The students staged the protest to mark the former president's 78th birthday, which fell on June 8. They said they originally planned to hold the rally on June 8, but changed the date so they would not disrupt the general election.
"It's the right time now to remind people we still have the big issue [of the trial of Soeharto] to solve," one of the protesters said at City police headquarters.
During the protest, the students, attired in long white dresses, placed effigies of Soeharto around the Semanggi cloverleaf and carried small blackboards upon which were written various messages, including Jalan tol mahal, kantong Soeharto tebal (Toll road fees are expensive, Soeharto's pockets are thicker).
Before making the arrests,
several policemen removed the effigies, a number of which were hung from
trees along nearby Jl. Sudirman. The officers also seized the headbands
worn by the protesters, apparently as evidence.
Dili -- The UN Mission in East Timor said Thursday it is checking reports of false identity cards being issued to people not qualified to vote in the territory's ballot on self determination.
"We have had reports that false ID cars are being issued to people. We are interested in acquiring some of these so that we can see what they look like," UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said. "We dont know how widespread it is. We are in the process of acquiring some of these documents."
Some 400,000 East Timorese are scheduled to take part in a UN- supervised vote in August on whether they want to accept Jakarta's offer of autonomy under Indonesia or independence.
The date of the vote had been set for August 8, but UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday said it had been delayed by two weeks because of security and logistical reasons.
Under a formula agreed on in New York on May 5 all people over the age of 17 born in East Timor, or those married to East Timorese are eligible to vote, whether at home or abroad.
Foreign journalists in Dili said that in the past week they had received letters, signed only "victims of intimidation," saying that identity cards were being handed out in at least four districts.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the former Portuguese colony a year later in a move never recognized by the United Nations.
The territory shares a land border with Indonesian West Timor, and is home to several thousand settlers from other Indonesian islands as well as merchants, many of whom have fled the territory since January.
Jean Pierre Catry -- UN Secy Gen Kofi Annan and the Portuguese government have done all they can to facilitate the referendum that will decide the future of East Timor on 8 August. Mr Annan will decide if the referendum can go ahead on schedule or must be delayed. The agreement signed in New York on 5 May between Portugal and Indonesia refers to Security Council resolutions 384 and 389 which call for the withdrawal of Indonesian forces. Under the agreement theses same forces -- responsible for the deaths of 1/3 of the population -- are supposed to guarantee Timorese security.
The purpose of the referendum is to give the Timorese the chance to say whether they want the Indonesians to stay or go. It is to take place without the prior withdrawal of the 30,000 Indonesian soldiers stationed in the territory: an annex to the memorandum just speaks of "redeployment" and no withdrawal has been scheduled. The UN will only send it police monitors (300 at present). The question is to what extent the changes that have taken place in Indonesia and the army inspire confidence.
When President Suharto fell from power in May 1998, his successor, B J Habibie, gave every indication of wanting to resolve the East Timor question which was damaging to Indonesia's image abroad. In June he promised a gradual troop withdrawal. On 5 August, under UN auspices, Indonesia seemed ready to resolve the question for the first time by offering East Timor autonomy.
The offer was less generous than it may seem since it came with one unacceptable condition: the UN and Portugal had to recognise the 1976 annexation of East Timor. Nevertheless, Kofi Annan and the Portuguese government decided to enter into more detailed negotiations. The UN secretariat drew up a framework for autonomy that was as wide-ranging as the limits set by Jakarta would allow. This mean excluding such key sectors as security, foreign affairs and some areas of tax revenue, most importantly oil royalties. The leaders of the Timorese independence movement were willing to accept autonomy as a transitional phase. The people of East Timor took advantage of a reduced police and military presence to demonstrate in favour of independence.
Since then signs of double-dealing by Indonesia have growth. In late July the army arranged for a hundred or so journalists to visit Dili to witness the withdrawal of 1,000 soldiers. But simultaneously thousands of other soldiers were being brought in under cover of darkness. In early October military operations (suspended for four months) resumed and Kofi Annan called for substantial troop reductions. Indonesian foreign minister, Ali Alatas, said that were only 6,000 troops left in East Timor. Three days later, official figures showed the figure to be 21,000. The source of the leak, a civilian official in the military statistics division, also revealed that the figures did not show a further 11,000 soldiers belonging to the military intelligence service (SGI) -- making a total of 32,000 for a population of 800,000 or one soldier for every 25 Timorese.
In November the Indonesian and Portuguese representatives were again in New York when news broke of a massacre of civilians in the Alas region. Portugal called for the talks to be suspended until Jakarta agreed to an inquiry by a UN representative. Jakarta agreed and Tamrat Samuel was sent to Dili. The military prevented him from going to Alas and the inquiry never took place.
In December 1998 the EU heads of state declared that the East Timor question could not be solved without the "free consultation of to establish the real will of the East Timor people". Then on January 27 Jakarta dropped a bombshell. If the Timorese did not accept autonomy they were being offered, the government would have to ask the Peoples' Consultative Assembly (MPR), elected recently, to rescind the 1976 decision to integrate East Timor. The offer seemed too good to be true.
Differences exist at the highest levels on the East Timor issue. Habibie's senior adviser on the East Timor issue conceded that the "president consulted only a few members of his entourage" before taking the decision. Alatas, the most vociferous champion of annexation, was only told a few days before the decision was made public. The proposal mentioned the possibility of the Timorese "rejecting" autonomy. But Alatas continued to say no to a referendum through which the rejection could be expressed.
This time the UN stood its ground and held firm on the referendum issue. Jakarta finally agreed, provided that the word "referendum" was not used. The "consultation" is to be organised by the UN from start to finish -- from compiling the electoral list to announcing the result. The Timorese must say "Yes" or "No" to the autonomy offer. The way the question is worded makes it clear that a "yes" vote means integration with Indonesia, a "no" vote means separation. No one is in any doubt as to the outcome provided it is a free vote.
The whole issue of autonomy is a dead letter. Neither the UN nor Portugal have shown any interest in reviewing Jakarta's amended text, now a wholly Indonesian proposal. As far as they are concerned, the central issues are the voting procedures and security at the ballot box.
In April 1999, Colonel Suratman, military commander for East Timor, announced that 50,000 civilians were to be trained as security guards -- in reality to contain those supporting independence. On 6 April, some 1,200 people took refuge from the militias in a church at Liquia, 30 km from Dili. The Indonesian police stepped in, taking the priests to the military command post. In their absence, riot police threw in tear gas grenades. Once outside the church, the people were at the mercy of the militias. The massacre left 62 dead, 40 wounded, and 14 "disappeared". Jakarta has refused an international inquiry.
In Dili, the militiamen said they would eliminate all Timorese who did not display the Indonesian flag over their doorway. On April 17, 1,500 militia entered Dili and participated in a parade addressed by the pro-Indonesian governor, Abilio Osorio Soares. They then went in pursuit of the independence movement, killing about 30 of them. The Irish foreign minister was visiting at the time, but that did nothing to restrain Suratman and Silaen, respectively military and police chiefs, who claimed they could not intervene as they were "neutral".
The Indonesian leadership continues to deny that weapons are being handed out to civilians and used to kill defenceless people. But Herminio da Costa Silva, the militia "chief of staff", says there is no shortage of money, some of from wealthy Indonesians. Generals Murdani and Sutrisno may be among the donors. The fact is that the Indonesian armed forces are not neutral. Though Suratman and Silaen signed a peace agreement with the independence movement in April, in early May they appeared in public alongside militia commanders and announced that the National Council of Timorese Resistance have been dissolved and "its members now supported integration".
It is no coincidence that the two points on which Indonesia refused to give way -- retention of its own forces and rejection of UN peacekeepers -- are allowing the army the control developments before, during and even after the Timor vote.
One of Indonesia's arguments for integration has been that East Timor is not economically viable. It may not be very big, but there are at least 45 independent countries with a smaller population than East Timor. Although Indonesia has failed to stimulate development in East Timor, in terms of actual resources it has oil, agriculture and tourism.
The 5 May agreement provides for a UN supervised transition period on Indonesian withdrawal. As the UN-recognised administrative power, Portugal has agreed to provide substantial aid. In the face of increasing violence, Xanana Gusmao wrote last April: "Everybody is promising me aid for an independent Timor, but we need aid now."
So long as Indonesia has a greater military presence than the UN, the New York agreement will remain an agreement "in principle" only. The very presence of the military will curtail voter freedom. To ignore it may prove disastrous.
Jakarta -- Exiled East Timorese activist and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta returned to Indonesia after 23 years Saturday, saying he would travel to his homeland even if could not campaign there for independence.
Ramos Horta, who was mobbed by journalists at the hotel where is to attend a four-day meeting of the warring factions in East Timor, also said he had an emotionial meeting with jailed East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao.
"I was speechless, not only meeting him as a leader, but as a human being, one of the greatest human beings I have known in my life" Ramos Horta said. "I gave him a big warm embrace."
The man who has devoted his two decades in exile to campaigning for independence for his people, also said he would accept the condition laid down by Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas for his return to East Timor -- that he not campaign.
"I accept that political condition ... Why? Because the people of East Timor don't need any campaign. They have been there for 23 years, they know [the conditions] better than I do," he said.
Asked if he thought East Timorese could vote without fear of retribution in a UN-conducted ballot in August in which they will chose between independence and autonomy under Indonesia, Ramos Horta replied: "Not at the moment."
"But I believe the conditions can be created in a month or two. I believe President B.J. Habibie and [armed forces chief] General Wiranto ... will put their best efforts together with us to create a condition of peace. Because this not only in the interests of East Timorese, it is the good name of democracy in Indonesia."
He also said he thought Jakarta would accept the outcome of the vote, saying Habibie had pledged to do so, and "this new and democratic Indonesia can do nothing else."
Ramos Horta, vice president of the National Council of Timorese resitance (CNRT), an umbrella organisation for East Timorese pro-independence movements, was granted a visa to attend the reconciliation conference here.
He will join 39 other East Timorese leaders and representatives, many like him exiles, in the second phase of church-sponsored reconciliation talks between the rival East Timorese factions starting Sunday.
The talks, officially known as the Dare II dialogue and reconciliation conference, kicked off Friday between some 20 representatives of the pro- and anti-independence groups in East Timor, including Gusmao.
In Australia earlier this month Ramos Horta had threatened to find a rogue pilot who would fly him into East Timor, visa or not, drawing an angry response from Alatas.
In Dili, Jamsheed Marker, the special envoy on East Timor for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, told journalists he would make sure all sides had equal rights to campaign.
"There cannot be a free and fair ballot, unless all the parties have the rights to campaign equally," Marker said in a press conference shortly before ending a three-day visit there. "This will be our duty to make sure on that," he said.
A spokesman for the organisers of the Jakarta talks, Father Domingos Sequeira, said 60 participants from East Timor and abroad will attend the second dialogue organised by the church. The first was in Dare, East Timor last September.
Organizing the talks are Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo who shared the 1996 Nobel prize with Ramos Horta, and Baucau Bishop Basilio do Nascimento.
Violence between the various factions has spiralled since Jakarta said in January it would let go of the territory it invaded in 1975 if its people rejected an offer of autonomy under Indonesia.
Jakarta -- Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said Wednesday he did not believe it was necessary for the United Nations to delay a self-determination plebiscite in East Timor for two weeks.
Alatas said he was awaiting an official announcement of the postponement from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan but that if it was true, the reasons should be clearly spelled out.
"We do not believe that there should be a delay, we are ready to do it in August, but if a delay is necessary, [then] only for technical reasons," he said.
Annan said in a statement released by the United Nations that the East Timor ballot, originally scheduled for August 8, will be delayed for about two weeks.
"We have delayed it briefly, but the ballot will go ahead in the month of August," Annan said in the statement.
The UN chief cited security and logistical concerns for the postponement. He also said in a six-page report to the UN Security Council that Indonesia and Portugal have "concurred with a two-week postponement of the ballot date."
But Alatas said: "We believe that the security situation is constantly improving and we are quite sure that by the time of August 8, or far before it, the security situation will be fully conducive."
However he added that Jakarta was aware that there had been "considerable delays" in logistical arrangements.
"If that is the reason for the delay, we can be of course rational about it but please use that reason truthfully and not only solely blaming security situation," the Indonesian minister said.
"Suppose a decision is made to propose to Indonesia and Portugal to postpone the popular consultation, then Indonesia would like to see that the postponement is given reasons that are logical and truthful," Alatas said.
"As far as we are concerned we are sticking to what has been explained to us as late as yesterday by Ambassador Jamsheed Marker," Alatas said referring to Annan's special envoy on East Timor, currently on a visit to Indonesia.
Alatas said Marker, who left Wednesday for East Timor after two days in Jakarta, had assured him that a decision had to wait for his report to Annan.
Some 400,000 people in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony annexed by Indonesia in 1976, are to decide in the vote whether to accept autonomy with Indonesia or to become independent.
Annan, who was in Moscow, said that before the plebiscite can be held "we have certain conditions which have to be fulfilled.
"We have to ensure that the security situation [is] conducive [to a vote] and appropriate, that the logistical problems [are] solved, that we [can] deploy everybody on time," Annan told reporters in the Russian capital.
"And so having taken all these factors into consideration, we felt a brief delay would be beneficial," he added.
Violence between pro-Indonesian and pro-independence factions in East Timor has spiralled since Jakarta announced in January that it could consider independence if the East Timor rejected broad autonomy.
Diplomats have blamed much of the violence in East Timor on pro- Indonesian militias. And the principal human rights organization in Dili has warned that Indonesian security forces and militias have been intimidating the populace.
Mark Dodd, Dili -- Relations between the United Nations mission in East Timor (Unamet) and Indonesian Government representatives in the territory have plummeted, with the UN branding claims that its personnel ransacked villagers' homes "nonsense and lies".
Trouble has erupted over a statement released on Monday by the Jakarta government agency KPS, the Peace and Stability Commission appointed by President B.J. Habibie and designed to facilitate reconciliation between East Timor's warring factions.
The statement claimed a UN team of three women and two men went to western Maubara and "illegally searched the homes of local villagers to look for traditional weapons".
In searching the homes of a 54-year-old widow and a 35-year-old farmer in Vaviquina village in Maubara, the team "displayed uncivilised behaviour by searching and displacing all the articles found in these homes as well as clothing, luggage, and threw rice and other foodstocks to the ground", it said.
A copy of the same statement was published by the hardline pro- Jakarta group Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice (FPDK) in the local Voice of East Timor newspaper.
FPDK also called for the UN spokesman for East Timor, Mr David Wimhurst, to be replaced, along with all the UN translators in East Timor, alleging that they were recruited from "anti- integration elements" and displayed pro-independence bias.
In a further sign of Indonesian Government displeasure at the UN's pursuit of illegal weapons, a Dili-based taskforce comprising senior Jakarta bureaucrats and diplomats issued a statement yesterday condemning the UN investigations.
At a UN briefing here yesterday, Mr Wimhurst denounced the KPS statement as "patently false". He said two UN officials accompanied by eight Indonesian police had searched two homes but denied they ransacked personal belongings. The team had obtained the permission of the home owners before searching for weapons.
"It's an astonishing way for an organisation [the KPS] to behave whose mandate is to advance stability and peace to publish information in the local newspaper which in any other country would be libellious," he said.
The UN would take up the issue with the KPS "in the strongest way", he said. "We work in a co-operative manner with the Indonesian police. It is the first time they have made such a statement that is patently untrue."
Meanwhile, the first elements of Civpol, including 15 Australians, have just arrived in East Timor and are being deployed to several trouble spots.
Their duties include helping to secure a safe environment for the referendum offering East Timorese a choice of either wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia or independence, considered the most popular option among the 850,000 population.
The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, is expected to make an announcement within the next 24 hours delaying the August 8 referendum because of security problems and the unlawful participation of local government officials in pro-autonomy political campaigning.
Dili -- A pro-Indonesia group in East Timor Monday called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to replace the UN mission spokesman in East Timor, accusing him of favoring the pro- independence camp.
In a press statement carried in the Suara Timor Timur (Voice of East Timor) daily, the Peace and Justice Forum charged that UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst had been "exceeding his authority".
It claimed Wimhurst always blamed pro-Indonesia supporters and the local authorities for problems in the territory.
The forum "asks the UN secretary General Kofi Annan and the Special representative of the UN secretary General, Jamsheed Marker, to replace David Wimhurst as UNAMET spokesman".
It also called for the replacement of "all translators of the UNAMET who were only recruited from among the anti-integration side".
The statement, signed by the spokesman of the forum, Florencio Mario Vieira, warned that if UNAMET viewed pro-Indonesia supporters as not part of the conflict in East Timor, the forum may reconsider cooperating with it.
The forum, which includes the heads of some pro-Indonesian militia units, claimed the mission has so far ignored several cases of violence against pro-Indonesia supporters by their separatist rivals.
"The statements of the UNAMET spokesman have exceeded his authority, for example by making a case about the visit of Ramos Horta," the statement said.
It was alluding to a statement by UNAMET chief Ian Martin, relayed by Wimhurst last week, that any East Timorese was entitled to campaign ahead of an August 8 ballot on the future of the territory.
The statement was issued after self-exiled East Timorese pro- independence activist and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta said he would try to return home with or without Jakarta's permission.
Jakarta has said the agreement on the balloting agreed with Portugal and the United Nations in May specified that exiled East Timorese could only campaign abroad and would also only be consulted by the UN abroad. Diplomats and UN officials have said there is no such clause in the document.
Tension between the two camps has escalated since Jakarta said in January that it may free East Timor, the former Portuguese colony it invaded in 1975, if the people there rejected broad autonomy under Indonesia in the August vote.
Dili -- The UN mission in East Timor (UNAMET) has opened four voter registration centres for the UN-monitored vote on the future of the territory and four more will be opened by the end of the week, a spokesman said Monday.
"We have now people staffing offices in Dili, Baucau, Suai and Same, and we have teams going out to Viqueque, Los Palos and Ermera to staff those centres and later this week Oecussi and Maliana will also be staffed," UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said.
The eight centers will carry out voter registration for the August 8 poll when East Timorese will choose between autonomy under Indonesia or independence.
UNAMET was deployed following agreement on the autonomy package signed by Indonesia and Portugal at the United Nations in New York on May 5.
The deal specifies that those aged 17 years and above, who have at least one East Timorese parent, or settlers married to East Timorese will be able to vote.
UN teams, which will later include 274 unarmed civilian police, will be helped by up to 4,000 locally hired personnel.
Wimhurst said the special envoy of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Jamsheed Marker was expected to arrive in East Timor on Thursday for a two-day visit.
Marker was Monday scheduled to hold separate meetings in Jakarta with Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, military chief General Wiranto and President B.J. Habibie.
Marker will also meet with jailed East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao at the Jakarta house where he is detained.
Wimhurst said there was still no confirmation on when the first contingent of UN volunteer poll experts will begin arriving in East Timor. They had been initially due to arrive on Saturday after being briefed in Darwin, Northern Australia.
Some 274 UN civilian police from several countries are also due to be deployed to assist and advise the Indonesian police in assuring security ahead of the polls.
Staff Sergeant Larry Busch of the Royal Canadian Mounted police, along with another Canadian, an Australian and a New Zealander are conducting training for the police in Darwin prior to their development in East Timor.
Busch told AFP by telephone from the Royal Australian Air Force base in Darwin where the training is conducted that the briefing took about five days. "They are pretty well briefed, by the time they leave here they are ready," Busch said.
He said the training involved driving practice in the bush, briefings on the electoral process, an extensive background on the entire situation, the history of the territory, the evolution of the situation "and the kind of problems that they can expect on the ground when they get there."
Mark Dodd, Dili -- The United Nation's senior official in East Timor has issued a bleak assessment of human rights in the territory, days after UN officials saw Indonesian soldiers directing pro-Jakarta militiamen as they burnt houses and beat up an old man.
Mr Ian Martin, head of the UN Assistance Mission to East Timor, condemned the Indonesian military for organising and participating in terrorism and human rights violations against the civilian population, increasing the likelihood that the scheduled August 8 referendum on self-determination will be postponed. "We remain very seriously concerned indeed about the security situation, especially in the western districts," Mr Martin said yesterday. "We continue to receive many reports of continuing action by pro-integration militia in the villages - apparently accompanied by and encouraged rather than discouraged by TNI [Indonesian military].
"Not only have we received those reports consistently since we have been here but we have now actually witnessed for ourselves incidents consistent with those reports," he said.
On Tuesday, the UN team encountered three separate groups of Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) militia accompanied by and directed by the Indonesian military, Mr Martin said. The team witnessed one of the groups "in the act of burning personal property, assaulting an old man and seeking to drive the villagers out of their village against their will".
"That is exactly the kind of incidents of which we have had extensive reports," Mr Martin said.
On Thursday, he had seen a squad of Besi Merah Putih being trained by a former member of the Indonesian armed forces. Other UN personnel had witnessed uniformed Indonesian soldiers conducting trainingsessions in the same area.
An Australian member of the UN Civilian Police, Superintendent Steve Polden, inspected a house near their training ground and uncovered several home-made guns, despite a denial they were carrying weapons, Mr Martin said. Both cases were reported and raised at a senior level with Indonesian military and police authorities, he said. The UN mission is also alarmed at an escalating humanitarian emergency caused by "tens of thousands" of internally displaced people -- victims of pro-Jakarta militia violence. Mr Martin described their plight as "a serious obstacle" to voter registration, the first phase of the referendum operation.
Another major concern, expressed in a UN letter to Ambassador Agus Tarmidzi, the head of the Indonesian task force responsible for implementing the referendum, was the persistence of political campaigning by pro-autonomy groups in breach of the May 5 international agreement. "There is mounting evidence that much of this campaigning is supported by public funds, public officials in their official capacity, and that there has been pressure on other public officials to declare themselves for the autonomy option," Mr Martin said. "The agreement, as you know, requires that officials of the government of East Timor may only campaign in their personal capacity."
But Mr Martin acknowledged some progress on reconciliation between autonomy and independence supporters largely due to talks sponsored by the Catholic Church in East Timor. The Jakarta- backed Peace and Stability Commission was also playing a key role in helping foster an atmosphere of trust and confidence, he said.
The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, must decide by Wednesday if conditions in the territory are right for a fair vote. Mr Martin declined to comment on the possibility of a delay.
With just seven weeks to go before the UN conducts a ballot on East Timor's future, an atmosphere of fear and insecurity persists in the disputed territory, Amnesty International delegates returning from a research visit said today at the launch of a major report.
"Serious human rights abuses are continuing and are undermining the East Timorese people's ability to exercise their rights, despite promises made by Indonesia to provide security for the East Timorese people," Amnesty International said. "If people do not feel safe, they will not be able to participate freely in the ballot."
"Responsibility for these abuses lies squarely with the newly- formed civilian militias in East Timor, and with those who have assisted and protected them, namely the Indonesian military forces, and to a lesser extent the Indonesian police."
The UN consultation process is the result of a tripartite agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the UN signed on 5 May 1999. On 8 August 1999 the East Timorese will be able to decide whether to accept or reject a proposal for autonomy with Indonesia.
Amnesty International's report -- based on a May 1999 visit to Indonesia and East Timor -- documents a well-organised campaign to threaten and intimidate the population into supporting autonomy and to disrupt pro-independence groups participation in the ballot process.
Pro-independence activists, students and civil servants are the main targets of this campaign with hundreds being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and ill-treated, "disappeared" or killed by civilian militias, operating with the support and at times direct involvement of the Indonesian security forces.
The current level of violence, ongoing human rights violations and forced relocation of some communities is impacting on all East Timorese, and has led to thousands of people fleeing their homes.
Human rights defenders and humanitarian workers have been threatened and some have gone into hiding. Both domestic and international journalists have also been threatened and beaten in an attempt to prevent them from reporting on militia attacks.
The Indonesian security forces are supporting and at times directly involved in militia attacks and pro-integrationist campaigns, despite Indonesian commitments under the Agreements to provide security to all East Timorese people and guarantee the neutrality of the security forces.
Little, if any, action is being taken to prevent militia attacks, and hold those responsible to account for recent violations. Instead, the Indonesian authorities have recently recruited members of one of the most notorious militias into a civilian defence unit.
"If the Agreements are to have any chance of success, Indonesia must abide by its commitment to protect all East Timorese, to ensure the neutrality of the security forces and start arresting and bringing to justice those responsible for violations," said Amnesty International.
The international community must call on the Indonesian authorities to fulfil the promises they made under the Agreement and let the East Timorese people determine their future freely and without intimidation.
In view of widespread human rights violations by the militias and the links between militia and Indonesian army activities, Amnesty International is urging all governments to conduct an immediate review of all their military and defence links with Indonesia to ensure that such links are not contributing to human rights violations.
The East Timorese National Liberation Army, Falintil, has also been responsible for recent human rights abuses. "The independence leadership must take steps to ensure that Falintil acts in accordance with minimum international humanitarian standards. Their commitment to human rights protection within this process is vital."
"The UN ballot offers the
chance to end 23 years of violence in East Timor," Amnesty International
said. "If the popular consultation is not perceived to be fair by all parties
involved, and the high level of human rights violations persists, the credibility
of the whole process is undermined."
|June 7 election|
Jose Manuel Tesoro, Blitar -- The answer to what Indonesia would look like under Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle might best be found not in the buzzing capital, Jakarta, but in the modest East Java town of Blitar four hours' drive south of Surabaya. The place to look would be in a whitewashed house on Sultan Agung Street where, once a year for over a decade, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life crowd into its banyan-shaded yard to hear all-night Koran readings, poetry recitations and speeches honoring Indonesia's founding president. The house is in Sukarno's family name, and his nearby grave is on a list of national monuments. Yet the growing throngs at the annual June 20 commemoration of his death show that "Bung Karno" belongs not to a family or state but to a significant number of Indonesians who think his nationalism, even his mercurial temperament, are as valid today as they were for his freshly freed republic.
It's safe to say that the vast majority of the faithful voted for Sukarno's second daughter Megawati and her PDI-Perjuangan (as her party is called in Indonesian). And if the PDI-P's 36% grip on the slow count of votes cast June 7 is any guide, its supporters number in the millions. By June 22, the ruling party Golkar had overtaken the National Awakening Party (PKB) to be in second place, with over 18% of half the estimated total vote. Indonesia's complex electoral laws will narrow further the gap between the delegates PDI-P and Golkar can send to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), which chooses the president later this year. (With the counting delays, final tallies may only be released by mid-July.) But the PDI-P's hold on the popular vote makes it less publicly palatable for Golkar to obstruct Megawati's path to the presidency -- should she and her party overcome questions about her gender and her ability to govern.
Then, Sukarno believers may well witness in the months to come what amounts to his resurrection. "Ibu [Mother] Mega will continue that which was put in place by Bung Karno and which was seized by [Suharto's] New Order," says Wiwas, a 27-year-old part-time laborer from Malang, East Java, with the deep conviction of the converted. In this vast, diverse, populous and still largely rural archipelago, only two philosophies have strong and widespread roots: the religious world-view of Islam and the nationalism of Sukarno. Megawati's PDI-P would not have won as many votes as it did in the June polls had its image not already been familiar. "I read Sukarno before I read Albert Camus," says Hotasi Nababan, a US-educated professional who recently joined the party.
"For a fighting nation, there is no journey's end," Sukarno once said. The image of an eternal revolutionary is but one of his many faces. Another is that of a die-hard nationalist who believed in a united Indonesia blind to race, religion and ethnicity, and free from foreign influence and domination. Still another is that of an eclectic thinker who tried to meld nationalism, religion and communism. Megawati, in these pages, once called him "a romantic humanist." He believed in the common folk. "We miss a leader who can protect all of us," says Usman Ismail, a member of the Sukarno Education Foundation. "We miss a leader who can again give Indonesia bargaining power."
One doesn't need to go far to find Sukarno in Sukarnoputri's party. In April the party's research division, headed by economist Kwik Kian Gie, prepared the first draft of a proposed "Broad Outline of National Direction" (GBHN). Aside from selecting the president, the MPR's other significant duty is to debate and approve an acceptable GBHN; both parliament and president are constitutionally bound to implement it. Though the PDI-P's GBHN, a copy of which was obtained by Asiaweek, has yet to be approved by the party's leadership, the document essentially suggests what the PDI-P could do if it takes power.
On nearly every page the GBHN's language recalls Sukarno, from phrases like kedaulatan politik ("political sovereignty") to gotong-royong, which connotes mutual help and cooperation. Its preface speaks of freedom not only from fear and oppression but from "manifestations of colonialism and imperialism." It rejects forming divisions between majority Muslims and minority non- Muslims, and says religious matters should be separate from those of government. It states that people should stand at the center of economic development, and demands that future budgets be balanced without foreign borrowing.
The PDI-P's critics wonder if the party will repeat the first president's rejection of foreign assistance in the 1950s. (After all, Sukarno once famously said: "Go to hell with your aid.") But the PDI-P's GBHN also nods to the realities of the '90s. It rejects monopolies for two reasons: they take advantage of ordinary people and they make markets inefficient. On the eve of her father's death anniversary, Megawati met with the International Monetary Fund's first deputy managing director, Stanley Fischer. (She did not attend the commemoration on June 20.)
The party's plans also show the influence of another figure: Suharto. Its GBHN is a scathing critique of the former strongman's New Order, which had gone all out to prevent Megawati's ascendancy -- and, ironically, only hastened it. "There will not be one class or group that will enjoy the benefits of development while the rest are neglected and marginalized," it says. The document calls for a restoration of the rule of law and a strengthening of the institutions of justice, and wants the legislative and judicial branches to balance the power of the president. It demands clean and accountable government almost as often as it recalls Sukarno. Still, explains a party chair, Mochtar Buchori, "The lapse into Sukarnoism is a temporary thing. Sukarno made many mistakes. We live in different times. Now nationalism is inseparable from regionalism and globalization."
Who will implement all these ideas? Megawati relies far more on trusted advisers and aides than her father ever did. The merchants who blare recordings of her speeches and sell her party's paraphernalia on the road to Sukarno's grave give the impression of a seamless fusion of daughter and father in a cult of personality. But her followers appear to know her better. "As president she will not be alone," says Istono, whose left his home at 2am to be at Sukarno's grave by morning. His wife chimes in: "Her advisers are capable."
But perhaps divided. There is talk of friction within Megawati's party, though officials close ranks in public. "Before the party was small and existed under a lot of pressure," explains another party chair, Dimyati Hartono. "There were those strong enough to resist, and those that weren't." Hence the resentment from longtime loyalists against newcomers. One fairly fresh member is Theo Syafei, a retired general and East Timor veteran who only joined shortly before its congress last year yet is now one of its nine chairpersons.
Megawati's opponents, both Muslim politicians and Golkar officials, have tried to use the backgrounds of her advisers and aides against her. (Kwik is Buddhist, Syafei a Christian.) Muslim figures accuse the PDI-P of proposing too many non-Muslim legislators. "Imagine a country where more than 90% are Muslim run and supervised by non-Muslim people, in the government and in parliament. Where is the voice of Islam here?" fumes Akhmad Soleh, a kyai (Islamic preacher) in South Jakarta. "Our problems are that she is a woman and that her level of religious belief is still in question."
Suharto, in his reorganization of party politics, had fused secular and Christian parties to form the original PDI, of which Megawati's party is an offshoot. (The United Development Party gained all the Muslim-linked parties.) Hartono dismisses the criticism as without basis: "The people are not foolish; they choose according to their conscience."
The irony is that these attacks help perpetuate Megawati's status as a quiet victim, which only enlarges her appeal to the masses. So her opponents are fighting on a battlefield she has already conquered. By emphasizing that current President B.J. Habibie, a Megawati rival, is a good Muslim and not Javanese, his allies are also tapping into the very religious and ethnic fault lines that Sukarno and his supporters rejected. "The most important thing is to unite the nation," says a 25-year-old man from Jember, East Java. "Anyone can be president." In a way, the complex translation of the popular vote into MPR seats is still scoring the PDI-P points, by making the party and its allies look like underdogs -- even though together they have won over two-thirds of the tallied vote and are preparing for power.
Sutarjo Suryoguritno, also a PDI-P chair, says a government under Megawati will take its leaders from across the political spectrum. "Gotong-royong must be enacted," he says. Inclusion could blunt but not necessarily eliminate the attacks on Megawati. On many PDI-P posters reads a quote from Sukarno to Indonesia's younger generation: "Your struggle is more difficult than mine because mine was against foreign invaders, and yours is against your own people." So far, his daughter is winning that struggle.
The PDI-P's plans
Economics: Have a balanced budget without foreign borrowing; place people at the center of development; promote industry to support agriculture; use market forces to encourage efficiency; limit government intervention; eliminate corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN); and abolish monopolies Eliminate barriers to both domestic and international trade
Defense & foreign policy: Raise military professionalism; strengthen the navy and air force; reduce the military's role in day-to-day government; and reject "superpower domination"
Jakarta -- Calls were made Wednesday for two members of Indonesia's Election Commission (KPU) to stand down because of statements they made on small political parties.
Most of the 53 members of the commission walked out of a plenary session demanding Adnan Buyung Nasution, the KPU deputy chairman, and commission member Andi Malarangeng, be dismissed, witnesses said.
Both have said they want representatives of parties which gained less than two percent of the seats in parliament in the June 7 election to leave the commission.
"The meeting of the KPU has decided that the KPU will send a letter to the home affairs minister and to President B,J, Habibie to demand the dismissal of Buyung [Nasution] and Malarangeng from the KPU," commission chief Rudini said. Nasution and Malarangeng are government representatives on the commission.
Rudini said the statements by the two would have posed no problem if they been made in their private capacity. "The problem is that both talked in their capacity as a member and deputy chairman of the KPU," Rudini said.
The session reconvened without Nasution and Malarangeng to discus the problem, the witness said. "What has been said was all a personal opinion, even though I am a deputy chairman, not every statement that I make is made in the name of the KPU," Nasution said.
Rudini said commission regulations mention only that political parties which failed to reach more than two percent of the parliamentary seats in the election would not be able to take part in the next election.
The KPU was appointed by the president for a four year term. It comprises representatives of each of the 48 political parties which contested the June 7 polls and five government representatives.
The latest vote count has shown that only five of the 48 participating political parties have gained enough votes to allow them to get more than 10 seats, or two percent of the elected parliamentary seats.
[On June 25, the Indonesian Observer said that the Commission had revoked its earlier recommendation that the government sack Buyung and Mallarangeng saying "There were some mis-understandings at the meeting, finally both parties forgive each other, agreed to stop the problem handsomely in a family atmosphere - James Balowski.]
Despite international expectations and preparations for chaos to break out in Indonesia during the election period, instead there has been relative calm. Many Asian nations had prepared contingency plans to extract expatriates from Indonesia and to prepare for waves of immigrants fleeing the country, and had warned against unnecessary visits to Indonesia during the election period. All signs pointed to unrest and violence in a country new to free democratic elections burdened by vested interests experienced in manipulating such events. While few if any are disappointed that the elections have proceeded rather smoothly, certainly above the expectations of most foreign observers, the near lack of unrest raises a new question: why haven't there been any major problems?
The Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party (PDI-P) currently holds 37 percent of the vote, with just under 50 percent officially counted. The ruling Golkar Party has 17 percent, third in the official running count behind the National Awakening Party (PKB) with 19 percent. In the unofficial counts, Golkar is actually ahead of PKB. It has long been expected that PDI-P would lead in the elections, as Golkar still remains closely associated in the public eye with the old regime and former President Suharto, and the large Moslem vote was split as various charismatic leaders could not reconcile their personal differences.
It was expected that PDI-P would still have to form a coalition government, and to this extent, things have not yet been decided. It is still possible for the spirit of the elections to be derailed in the coalition-building process. Few parties have proposed concrete coalition plans with any other party, as there is still 50 percent of the vote to count and many are holding out to see how the final vote turns out and which way the other factions turn. Although PDI-P holds the highest place among the parties, it is not a guarantee that it will lead a coalition government, as the parties with smaller votes could still join together to form a government without PDI-P.
While no sure coalitions have yet been formed and the political haggling still appears to be taking place, a new aspect has emerged. Over the past few days, there has been a shift by all major forces in the elections toward either directly supporting a Megawati presidency, or making it clear that they do not oppose a Megawati presidency. Both the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), headed by opposition figure Amien Rais, have said that they do not oppose a woman president. This is a clear indication toward Megawati, whose candidacy has been in question as few of Indonesia's Moslem population seem ready to support a woman president. Both Golkar and prominent Moslem leader Abdurrahman Wahid's PKB have also suggested joining together with PDI-P, and Wahid has said he personally supports a Megawati presidency, but is unsure if PKB's Moslem membership would do so as well. Wahid has instead offered a possible solution to the issue of Megawati's gender conflicting with the religious views of much of the population. Wahid suggested splitting the positions of head of state and head of government between the President of Indonesia and the Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). In this way, Megawati as president would be head of the government, and the MPR chair head of state.
This apparent support for a Megawati presidency brings into question why those who have a vested interest in opposing Megawati have not done so. These would include former President Suharto, who PDI-P says will be tried for corruption, Golkar leaders with close ties to Suharto, and pro-Suharto military elements. Accepting that these parties would have been able to at least disrupt the elections, if not influence them, it suggests that there is some reason for them to allow a Megawati victory. This in turn implies that prior to the elections, there may have been some dealmaking going on to ensure social stability while at the same time protecting the vested interests of all parties concerned.
Prior to the elections, Wahid, who has been referred to several times as Indonesia's potential kingmaker, called for a grouping of the nation's elite to come together and jointly oversee the future of Indonesia. It is possible, despite what at the time seemed like little direct interest from the other parties, that this suggestion may have been taken to heart. Were a deal pre-arranged among Megawati, Wahid, the pro-Suharto and old Sukarno factions of the military, Suharto, and Golkar, it could account for the relative peacefulness of the June elections and the swelling of support behind a Megawati and PDI-P leadership.
For both elements of the military, allowing PDI-P to win helps to ensure social stability by not triggering a backlash to a Golkar victory. It also adds credence to the view that the elections were held in a fair manner, as the leading opposition party beat out the ruling party. If a deal was put in place, it is likely that as time goes on, Megawati will slowly back off of her party's strong anti-Suharto stance. For Suharto and his supporters, this would make possible a short show trial of the former leader and his associates, followed by a likely decline in attention being paid to him. For Megawati, the transition to power would promise to be smooth, with little fear of the military stopping the process. Golkar, for its part, would remain part of the power structure. All the elite would keep their pieces of the pie.
What is clear from the outcome of the elections thus far is that no powerful entities with a vested interest in seeing Megawati lose are threatened by the prospect of her victory. A Megawati victory, backed by many of Indonesia's influential organizations or individuals, would not only offer the greatest prospect of national stability, but also garner the most support from the international community. It seems that the lack of violence and the sudden rush to support Megawati may indicate that a government of national reconciliation is in the works for Indonesia.
IMF sets economic agenda
World Socialist - June 22, 1999
Peter Symonds -- The final count in the Indonesian national election is not due until July 8. And the wheeling and dealing between the major parties to determine who will be the next president and form the next government will only be concluded when the vote in the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) is taken in November. But the basic economic policies of the government, whatever its final makeup, have already been determined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of its $45 billion financial aid package to Indonesia.
Two senior IMF officials -- First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer and Asia Director Hubert Neiss -- flew into Jakarta late last week for a round of talks with the Indonesian government of President B.J. Habibie and with each of the five major parties to emerge from the election. Although all of the parties have agreed to implement the IMF package, the visit was designed to ensure that the next government complies with its strictures. Fischer warned that any major departure from the IMF program could slow the release of money from the multi-billion dollar bailout.
Fischer and Neiss held discussions with opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and one of her chief economic advisers, Kwik Kian Gie, over the policies of her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). During the campaign, Megawati, a daughter of the former Indonesian president Sukarno, sought to appeal to the electorate by posing as a defender of the poor and promising to lift their living standards. Having won the highest proportion of the vote, Megawati is now one of the leading contenders for the presidential post.
Following the talks, Neiss noted that Megawati had "agreed with the basic (IMF) strategy" and therefore he had "no doubt she will continue" the program. Moreover, Kwik's proposal to establish a fixed exchange rate between the rupiah to the US dollar in order to stabilise prices and rein in inflation had been withdrawn in the course of the discussions. "Under the present conditions, the present scenario of the floating rate works well," Neiss said, "So there's no need for change now."
The IMF program is incompatible with the basic needs of the majority of Indonesians. Already an estimated 100 million people are living below the official poverty line, as unemployment levels and prices have soared. Since mid-1997, Indonesia's annual per capita income has plunged from $1,200 to $400. The IMF's detailed economic prescriptions will result in more cutbacks to government spending, the removal of price controls on basic food items such as rice, and further restructuring, bankruptcies and job losses. The Indonesian banking system is weighed down by an estimated $US90 billion in bad loans.
In an interview with the Business Week magazine, another of Megawati's economic advisers, Laksamana Sukardi, said: "We have to call on the Indonesian people to understand the problems and be prepared for more sacrifice." Sukardi, a former Citibank vice- president and former managing director of Lippo Bank, denied that Megawati would adopt "populist economic policies," adding: "We will not depart from the IMF program because we don't have a choice."
Whether Megawati will become the next president is still highly uncertain. With 57 million votes officially counted by Monday morning or about half the total, the PDI-P held 36.5 percent of the vote as compared to 17.8 percent for the ruling Golkar Party and 18.4 percent for the National Awakening Party (PKB) of Abdurrahman Wahid. The United Development Party (PPP) held 9.7 percent of the vote and the National Mandate Party (PAN) of Amien Rais had won 6.7 percent.
As votes from rural areas and outlying islands are counted, Golkar is likely to improve its position and will also benefit from the greater number of seats per population in the outer provinces. In any case, only 462 of the seats in the 700-member MPR are elected; the military, provincial governments and various social organisations appoint the remainder. As a result, no party will hold a clear majority.
The five major parties are jockeying for position in the lead-up to the November MPR session that will choose the next president and vice-president. Although Megawati and Habibie are, for the moment, the two main presidential contenders, none of the other party leaders have ruled themselves out. Furthermore within Golkar, Habibie is under continuing fire over his close connections to former military strongman Suharto, who was forced to step down as president in May 1998. Defence Minister and Armed Forces chief General Wiranto has been proposed as a possible Golkar presidential candidate.
A number of conservative Islamic parties and organisations have opposed Megawati as president on the grounds that a man should hold the post. Others have pointed to the large number of Christian candidates fielded by her PDI-P. The United Development Party (PPP), one of the three officially recognised parties under the Suharto regime, has backed calls by other Islamic groups against Megawati. At the same time, however, PPP chairman Hamzah Haz is seeking to distance the PPP from Golkar, claiming it will not join with the party, nor back Habibie.
Opposition figure Amien Rais, who until recently headed Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Islamic organisation, has backed away from his party's informal electoral alliance with the PDI-P. His party is reportedly split down the middle, with different sections pushing to support Megawati and others backing Habibie. Rais has said he will support neither Habibie nor Megawati.
Rais has warned his supporters that support for Golkar would mean the end to PAN's claims to be a party of reform. "We know the danger if we form a coalition with Mr Habibie is that the students would take to the streets to protest against us. We will be forgotten by Indonesia as a reformist party if we make a deal with Habibie," he said.
Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati's closest ally, has said he cannot guarantee that all his party's parliamentary members will support her. The PKB is based on the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation, which draws its support mainly from conservative social layers in rural areas, particularly of East Java. Wahid is already sounding out other political possibilities -- last week he held separate private talks both with Habibie and with Golkar Party Chairman Akbar Tandjung.
In the international media, the Indonesian elections have been hailed as a genuine democratic vote. American election observers released a statement last week saying that they had witnessed no major irregularities. But allegations of vote buying and miscounting have led to calls for recounts in the capital of Jakarta and in North Sulawesi province. In parts of Aceh in northern Sumatra, the vote is yet to take place as bitter fighting continues between the army and separatist guerrillas.
Of those who have voted, a majority cast their vote for parties such as the PDI-P, PKB and PAN in the belief that these political formations would implement democratic reforms and improve living conditions. Only two weeks after the election day, with half the vote counted, it is already clear that whatever government emerges out of the present political scheming, it will be a feeble coalition beholden to the military and state bureaucracy, with its economic agenda laid out by the IMF.
Jakarta -- Indonesian Home Affairs Minister Syarwan Hamid Tuesday proposed an alliance between incumbent President B.J. Habibie and Megawati Sukarnoputri, the opposition presidential frontrunner from the June 7 elections.
"They can form a positive synergy to bear the heavy burdens of this country," Hamid said, adding that a combined force was "worth much consideration."
Megawati is the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party- Strugglewhich is leading in the vote count and Habibie the candidate of the ruling Golkar Party which Tuesday nudged into second place in the incomplete exercise.
Hamid said such an alliance was not "without grounds". "He [Habibie] has a considerable understanding about it. I can't be alone [in my opinion], that's the point," he said when asked if Habibie would be willing to team up with Megawati.
The minister did not explain how, politically or constitutionally, the two might get together, but said he saw a trade-off as inevitable for a compromise.
"For example we have ten targets, if we compromise maybe we can get five and another side gets five." he said.
Hamid also said he was confident the final results of the historic elections, the first since the fall of Habibie's patron and predecessor Suharto fell from power, would be announced on schedule.
"On July 7, I'm sure the counting will have been completed, that's the limit," Hamid told journalists after meeting Habibie.
The minister urged parties winning the elections to share power "for the country's interests."
"For the sake of the country, they are obliged to sit at one table to discuss and identify the country's problems, and this involves power-sharing" Hamid said.
Earlier Tuesday, military chief General Wiranto called for "maturity" from all parties.
"The solution now is that each (party) should be willing to sacrifice [their interest] for a larger interest, that of the state and the nation," he said.
"This nation needs compromise and dialogue to reach national decisions that are oriented to the interests of the people," Wiranto said.
"And sometimes the dialogue would entail sacrifices from those sides taking part in the dialogue," he added, amid reports the military had been urging a "government of national unity" to avoid a showdown between the opposition and Golkar.
Hamid said the market would react positively to a "distribution of power. But when each party performs a one-man show, people will be worried because such a government is certainly not strong," he said.
The national election commission on Monday said it will postpone the start of compiling checked and approved election results from the 27 provinces, saying many of the results still faced challenges.
The totalling of the provincial results is the last phase in the vote count and many politicians have criticized the exercise saying it may further delay the announcement of results due on July 8.
PDIP is leading the tally with more than 30 percent of the some 60 million vote counted so far, or about half of the expected returns. Golkar Tuesday rose to second place with more than 18.1 percent.
Jakarta -- Indonesia's election commission Monday postponed the start of the national count of the results of landmark elections, because the tallies in many provinces were either disputed or incomplete.
"The vote count at the national level is postponed because according to reports from members of the commission in the provinces, there are still issues of violations which need to be settled first," election commission chairman Rudini said.
Election officials had been due to start compiling a national picture of the approved and checked results from each province.
Under the election process, results from the polling stations are first validated at the sub-district level, then at the district and provincial levels, before being counted again at national level.
However, election committees in several provinces have been calling for either a recount or fresh polls in some of subdistricts amid allegations of cheating, mistakes and fraud.
Many press reports had said the nationwide results of the polls would be announced on June 21. But by midday Monday only just over half of the estimated 112 million votes cast on June 7 had been counted.
"The people should not be under the misconception that today is the finals of the national vote count. It is only the scheduled start for the count at national level," Rudini said, adding the decision on a new date would be made by the commission.
Jacob Tobing, the head of the separate Indonesian Election Comittee said so far only seven of Indonesia's 27 provinces had completed their vote counts and their results were not contested.
Under the electoral laws, the announcement of the results from the provinces had to be made simultaneously, and not one by one, he added. He said so far about 70 percent of the votes had been tallied but some of the results were still contested.
A total of 48 political parties took part in the June 7 elections, the first since the fall of former president Suharto in May 1998.
According to the latest count, the Indonesian Democracy Party- Struggle of opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri is leading the poll with 36.5 percent, followed by the National Awakening Party with 18.4 percent and the ruling Golkar Party with 17.8 percent.
In fourth place is the Moslem United Development Party with 9.7 percent, followed by the National Mandate Party of reformist leader Amien Rais with 6.7 percent.
Jakarta -- The National Elections Committee (PPI) has pledged to investigate the incidence of invalid ballots, which reached 2.7 million as of late Friday. Committee deputy chairman Hasbalah M. Saad said on Saturday it would establish whether the ballots were found before or after the June 7 polls.
"It would be a problem if the invalid ballots were found before the polls," Hasbalah told The Jakarta Post.
The figure was revealed by the General Elections Commission (KPU), the issuer of official poll results. The invalid ballots is among scheduled topics to be discussed in a plenary meeting of the committee on Monday.
It is one of several obstacles holding up the final count. Hasbalah also said the announcement of final results, initially set for Monday, would have to be extended due to the problems.
He said PPI was awaiting results of vote counting in North Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Irian Jaya and North Sumatra.
"The reholding of elections in a number of subdistricts in North and Southeast Sulawesi and North Sumatra is still being arranged while elections in several subdistricts in Aceh have yet to be held," he said.
As of Sunday, the North Sumatra election committee waited reports electoral districts from Medan, Mandailing Natal, Toba Samosir, Sibolga and Dairi. Errors in vote tally were found in the regions.
Deputy secretary of the provincial electoral body, Riz Irawani Hasibuan, said the tallying would have been completed by Wednesday.
Objections marred the completion of the vote tabulation in Central Java and Yogyakarta over the weekend. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) was the runaway winner in both provinces.
In Central Java, the Democratic People's Party (PRD), Democratic Islam Party (PID), New Indonesia Party (PIB), Indonesian Workers Party (PPI) and Workers Solidarity Party (PSP) rejected the polls after the provincial committee chairman, Hadi Pranoto, ignored their protests over irregularities. Hadi said only poll witnesses were entitled to raise objections.
The Yogyakarta electoral body finished the count on Friday night, but failed to submit the results to the PPI after six witnesses and two committee members refused to approve them on Saturday. They cited rampant vote rigging and other election-related violations and technical errors during the count. Two more poll witnesses were absent.
Chairman of the provincial election committee Nur Achmad Affandi said the results would only be sent to Jakarta after the protesters put their objections in writing.
The West Java electoral body also failed to forward its results to the PPI on Saturday. Chairman Djadja Saefulloh told Antara that an error was found in the vote tally conducted in Bogor regency. Unfortunately, representatives of the regency election committee were on their way home from Bandung when the error was discovered.
Hasballah attributed delays in provincial results being sent to PPI to the numerous allegations of polling violations and the slow transfer of votes from villages to subdistricts and to regencies.
"In addition, many political parties contesting the elections refused to accept election results in several regencies."
He said that the official Supervisory Election Committee also was late in responding to reports of violations in regions.
"This means that the supervisory committee is not proactive in handling cases," Hasbalah said. "The mechanism designed by the KPU, the PPI and the supervisory committee to deal with cases did not proceed smoothly in several regions."
Allegations of violations also hampered the tabulation in South Sulawesi and North Sumatra. Among these is a letter dated May 18 from the head of the education and culture office in Nias, North Sumatra, H. Telaumbanua, asking local teachers and civil servants to vote for Golkar.
In Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi, deputy of the supervisory committee Todung Mulya Lubis announced his findings after he checked on demands to repeat the polls in North Sulawesi. He concluded the demand was "only among the political elite" and that the public in the province were not ready for the polls to be reheld.
He told the Post at Hasanuddin Airport that the reholding would only affect from 10 to 100 of about 4,000 polling stations in the province.
He described the poll problems as minor, covering such matters as unstamped ballot papers and double voting. Todung is also national coordinator of the University Network for Free and Fair Elections (Unfrel).
Seth Mydans, Jakarta -- Indonesians have remained remarkably patient as they wait out the slow, confused counting of the parliamentary votes they cast two weeks ago. But it seems that whatever the outcome, the will of the people may in large part be denied.
To begin with, it has become clear that the 112 million votes that were cast in the first free election in a generation were just the starting gun in a rough-and-tumble scramble for the presidency.
Indonesia's excruciatingly complex electoral system is not due to produce a new president until November. Analyzing the numbers and the politics, though, some experts now predict a close finish between the incumbent, President B.J. Habibie, and his main challenger, Megawati Sukarnoputri.
With Mrs. Megawati projected to win a clear plurality of the popular vote, such an outcome would result as much from back-room deals and unelected delegates as from the ballot box.
Second, although the watchword of the election was "reform," none of the leading contenders for the presidency is a reformer at heart. It is possible, some analysts suggest, that once a new government is in place, the momentum for political and social change may peter out.
"I'm not too optimistic that a reform agenda will come from this election," said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a leading political analyst who is also an adviser to Habibie. "The agenda that was upheld by the students and several public figures will be delayed for another five or 10 years."
That agenda includes a reduction of the military's political role; amendments to the vaguely written and undemocratic Constitution; reducing central government control with some form of federalism; independence for the disputed territory of East Timor, and an investigation and possible trial of former President Suharto and his family for corruption.
Indeed, some analysts go so far as to suggest that Habibie, who leads Golkar, the party of Suharto, who was forced to resign last year, is more liberal than Mrs. Megawati, the candidate of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDIP.
"I think there is a lot of sense of irony that Golkar is seen as the status quo party but is headed by one of the most Westernized figures in Indonesian political history, whereas PDIP, the party of reform, is led by a lady solidly rooted in the feudal past," said John Bresnan, an Indonesia expert at Columbia University.
Habibie, though a lifelong acolyte of Suharto, spent 20 years working as an engineer in Germany, where, Bresnan says, he absorbed Western values of democracy and human rights. Mrs. Megawati is the daughter of Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno, and has spent her life within the country's political establishment.
Her reform credentials come from her opposition to Suharto -- or rather, from his opposition to her rising political profile -- rather than from any personal philosophy.
"She's always been very conservative and disappointing to many of us," said Goenawan Muhamad, a writer and political analyst. He noted that when students recently issued a mock "Suharto Award" to enemies of reform, Mrs. Megawati placed fourth, just behind Habibie and two of his ministers.
Though she has remained exasperatingly vague about any political beliefs she may hold, Mrs. Megawati appears to be resisting the main demands of the reform movement that has flourished since it helped to bring down Suharto. Much of her electoral support came from people who yearn for change.
"Now that the election is over, I believe political reform will slow down because the parties that are winning are basically conservative parties," said Hidayat Jati, a political analyst for The Castle Group, a consulting company for foreign investors. "This is clearly not going to be the expected divorce from the past that these college kids and activist leaders and over- enthusiastic voters were looking for."
Jati and the other analysts may well be right, but they are well ahead of the game. Only about 75 percent of the "quick count" has been completed so far, and the official count is only in its early stages.
Remarkably, electoral fraud appears to have played only a peripheral role. Only a few small parties that have been left far behind in the field of 48 are claiming that the overall vote was invalid.
The real problem, most analysts agree, has been inexperience, poor planning, incompetence and confusion.
In an interim report on Sunday, American election monitors from the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute praised "the commitment to democracy, openness and transparency" of the election administration and local monitoring groups. But it said the complicated vote counting system had aroused "confusion and some suspicion" among the public.
Now, as the next stage of the process gets going, people may have even more reason to be confused and suspicious.
With the votes still being counted, the real action has moved behind closed doors, where hard-nosed deals are being cut among parties, factions of parties and interest groups, which notably include the politically powerful military.
This undemocratic procedure is mostly built into the system. If the process were to stop now with the counting of the popular vote, a foreign diplomat said, Mrs. Megawati would be in a position to form a coalition that, under political pressure, might reflect a reform agenda.
"But you bring in all these other elements, and it takes on a very different look," he said. "You get something in which the people's sovereignty has been taken away from them."
The popular vote involved only 462 seats in a 700-member assembly that will choose the next president. The other, unelected, seats will come from the military, from social and professional groups, and from provincial assemblies.
All the seats, both elected and appointed, are subject to lobbying, coalition-building and illegal vote-buying. Parliamentary delegates are not required to support the parties they represent.
Even with all these variables, several analysts said they could see a neck-and-neck race developing between coalitions built around Habibie and Mrs. Megawati.
"I think we are seeing two reasonably evenly-matched coalitions that will emerge from this," a Western election expert said. In such a case, the military -- which has remained studiously neutral -- could be the deciding factor.
Or perhaps not. Having gone through an elaborate parsing of the available numbers, the election expert stepped back and produced a disclaimer. "We are in for a period of complete uncertainty, really," he conceded. "Complete uncertainty."
Dan Murphy -- Ask the average Indonesian who he'd like as his next president and he'll tell you Megawati Sukarnoputri. Ask him why, and he'll cite her pedigree as daughter of Sukarno -- father of the nation and champion of the poor. Now, ask what her policies are. "She's for the little people," says Nahuruddin, a street-side food vendor in central Jakarta. "She's going to lower prices."
The answer rarely gets more precise than that. It reflects exactly the high economic expectations Indonesians will have if Megawati takes the presidency. Many Indonesians have faith that her presence alone will make things better.
In this, she resembles Corazon Aquino, who was elected president during the heady days of the Philippines' People Power revolution of 1986. Both women were thrust to prominence because of their family ties -- Aquino's husband was assassinated politician Benigno Aquino. Like Megawati, Aquino was a political novice with few administrative skills. As such, the Aquino presidency may foreshadow the challenges that lie ahead for Megawati.
Aquino's vast popularity began to sink the moment she was forced to define herself through her policies. She took over an economy which had been contracting 10% annually yet she failed to address fundamental economic problems because of opposition to land reform by the business and political elite. A rebellious parliament and a series of attempted coups also took their toll. By the late 1980s, when the rest of Southeast Asia was growing at 5% a year, the Philippines was crawling along at just 2.4%.
Many view a Megawati presidency as the best bet for restoring legitimacy to the government in the eyes of the people. But it's not likely to meet the economic expectations of folk like Nahuruddin in the near future.
Kevin O'Rourke -- The absence of violence on the June 7th -- and in the three-week campaign period leading up to it -- has been viewed as a major positive signal for the country's outlook. The stock market has rallied, the currency has soared, and interest rates have plummeted. Within the past two weeks a remarkable wave of optimism has swept through Jakarta: there is a distinct feeling that an end to the political turmoil that has deepened the recession might at last be at hand.
However, such optimism may be premature. Indonesia needs more than a mere cessation of violence. It needs the June 7th vote to be viewed as legitimate -- by village, elite, and international communities alike -- and it needs a new president willing and able to carry out a systemic change from crony capitalism to a well- regulated market economy. Neither of these two crucial conditions may be forthcoming.
Several international monitoring organizations have confirmed that the June 7th elections were flawed. There are widespread reports of irregularities both before and after the polls, and there is ample circumstantial evidence that Golkar manipulated results in outer island provinces, particularly the nine in Eastern Indonesia. Golkar is leading the vote count in eight of these provinces, with vote shares that range from 48% in East Timor to 68% in Southeast Sulawesi. The latter is the province with the highest voter turnout: an incredulously high 99.2%. The remote and underdeveloped regions of Eastern Indonesia are the ideal place for manipulating results.
Within the next several weeks it should become clear whether the elections are widely received as legitimate, but even if they are accepted, there is another problem facing Indonesia's political outlook: June 7th produced no clear victor. Although interim results indicate that Ms. Megawati Soekarnoputri's PDI Perjuangan won a 35% plurality of the June 7th parliamentary elections, this by no means guarantees a win in the far more significant presidential election, which will take place in the People's Consultative Assembly, or MPR, in October.
Megawati's chances for the presidency at this stage are more remote than is commonly accepted. To reach the presidency, she must vie with two main sources of opposition. As Indonesia's premier reformist, she represents an implicit threat to entrenched establishment interests, such as conservative elements of the military and Golkar. Meanwhile, as Indonesia's leading secular-nationalist, she is opposed by influential Islamic leaders who fear being disenfranchised yet again, as they were under Presidents Sukarno and Suharto. Indonesia's political contest is as much about reform versus the status quo as it is about Islamicism versus secularism. Megawati's problem is that her contest on both fronts is far from over.
The reason is that Indonesia's electoral system heavily over- represents the "outer islands" beyond Java. Although Java accounts for 58% of Indonesia's population, it has only a 50% share of the 462 elected parliamentary seats, with the balance representing the outer islands. This imbalance is accentuated in the MPR. All 462 elected parliamentarians also sit in the MPR, but they are accompanied by appointed representatives: 38 from the military, 65 from "functional groups", and 135 from regional representatives (five from each of the 27 provinces).
These regional representatives could swing the balance of MPR seats in Golkar's favor: only six provinces are on Java and Bali, where Megawati has fared best. Although Golkar only one 22% of the popular vote on June 7th, it will have a higher share of the parliament's seats, and a still higher share of the crucial MPR seats. In the presidential vote, Megawati might be able to count on support from Gus Dur's National Awakening Party (which won 12% of the June 7th vote), but Golkar could ally with the eight parties in the Islamic Alliance (which won 15%, and will pool their votes). The contest is shaping up to be a very close race.
However, there are a number of proactive steps Megawati could take to boost her prospects. In the MPR, delegates will be able to vote across party lines, and every major party is split by internal cleavages over whom to support for president. Megawati can and must entice elements from other parties to join her alliance. For instance, she can make overtures to reformist members of Golkar who are disgruntled with B. J. Habibie, and she can make concessions (such as key portfolios in a Megawati cabinet), to conservative Muslims opposed to her secularist principles. Striking deals with Golkar would disappoint her ardent reformist followers, and compromising with Islamicists would offend her deeply-loyal non-Muslim constituency. However, Megawati must realize that her supporters will have nowhere else to turn for access to power; these are the types of cold political calculations that Megawati must now make to win the presidency.
One area in which Megawati has been consistently proactive has been in courting the military. This she must continue. A chief concern of the military (and especially its commander, Wiranto) is to protect the vested interests of its generals. This includes both active and retired officers -- most importantly, ex-President Soeharto. There are signs that Megawati has promised Wiranto that she would treat Soeharto with leniency, and indeed, many observers take it for granted that the military will ultimately support Megawati. However, her promises may not be sufficient to win their allegiance. The military might feel more comfortable with a compromise candidate -- particularly one whose supporters are not clamoring for Soeharto's prosecution.
This conjures up a host of other possible outcomes for the MPR. One is that the military supports the incumbent president, B. J. Habibie, in a partnership with Golkar and Islamic parties (with whom Habibie enjoys quite strong ties). However, many within Golkar are stridently opposed to Habibie. More importantly, the military and Golkar must realize that an MPR victory for Habibie would once again bring thousands of angry students onto Jakarta's streets -- and perhaps throughout the cities Java. Therefore an anti-Megawati alliance would be better served to look for a compromise candidate. Wiranto himself had been a strong contender, but his political fortunes appear to be fading. Military abuses continue, and the situation is deteriorating in Aceh -- a province which many Islamicists view as a symbol of their struggle. Wiranto shares Habibie's major weakness: strong ties to Soeharto.
Given these considerations, Indonesia's new front-runner in the presidential race is probably the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono X, who occupies a strategic position at present. As a former (albeit reticent) Golkar official, he is readily acceptable to many within the ruling party. Meanwhile, as one of the first nationally-recognized figures to publicly break with Soeharto, the sultan won a reformist reputation that he has since kept up. Finally, as Java's main sultan, he is strongly supported by Gus Dur's National Awakening Party, which largely represents traditional Javanese Muslims. He may even succeed in attracting grudging support from modernist Islamic parties. The sultan is not popular in the outer islands, where is viewed as a symbol of Java's historic hegemony over the archipelago, but this is compensated for by the fact that Golkar has won much of the outer island vote. Unfortunately, if the sultan can only be brought to power with the assistance of Golkar and Wiranto, Indonesia's process of reformation would probably fall short of what Megawati could achieve as president. As president, the sultan could help restore social and political stability, which would in turn boost the chances for a resumption of economic growth. However, it remains to be seen whether a compromise candidate such as the sultan would be able to carry out the profound systemic transformation that Indonesia desperately requires to put an economic recovery on sustainable footing: namely, a change from crony capitalism to a properly-regulated market economy.
[Kevin O'Rourke is the managing editor of the Van Zorge Report on Indonesia.]
Jakarta -- A students' poll watchdog has said its network of 105,000 observers had found Indonesia's June 7 elections to be free and fair despite instances of irregularities in several areas,
The University Network for Free and Fair Election (UNFREL) said in a statement issued late Thursday its observers reported that 97 percent of voters felt they were allowed cast their ballots freely without intimidation.
UNFREL also said that 97 percent of ballot boxes were secured and 86 percent of the provisional poll results which have been tallied were accurate.
The group deployed 105,000 observers in 22 provinces to monitor the first polls since the fall of president Suharto last year.
However the group recorded an "insignificant" number of cases of intimidation and procedural violations which they said have been reported to the election supervisory committee.
"The findings allow us to conclude that in general the polling and counting processes during the voting day have been relatively smooth," UNFREL said in the statement.
UNFREL said vote-buying -- such as voters being offerred money or food before they went to the polls -- was recorded in provinces such as Sulawesi, Riau, West Java and remote Irian Jaya.
The group suggested the elections commission nullify poll results in North Aceh, East Aceh and Pidie -- three districts in Aceh province worst affected by a decade-long military operation against separatists, the Jakarta Post reported Friday.
"Voters were afraid to attend polling places because of threats and intimidation, not only from separatist movement activists, but also from government officials," it said in a press conference Thursday.
UNFREL said voting in North
Aceh was only held in eight out of 4,512 polling stations, with only 2.2
percent of eligible voters participating. It urged the commission not to
re-run the polls or agree to extend the voting period in the three districts.
Jakarta -- Up to eight people may have been killed and dozens others injured in fresh violence in the southeast of the troubled Indonesian province of Maluku, a report said Monday.
Hundreds of people in at least 14 traditional long motorized canoes attacked the village of Waab in Southeast Maluku before dawn on Sunday meeting armed resistance from the predominantly Christian villagers, the Antara news agency said.
Witnesses told Antara seven of the attackers were killed, believed to have come from the island of Ut about two hours away by boat, and about 40 others were injured in the battle.
A man, identified as Christopol Yamlean, 70, was also killed by shrapnel from a home-made bomb, Antara said, quoting a local hospital source.
At least 430 of the attackers were detained by security forces and were taken to Tual for questioning, the Antara news agency quoted District police chief Lieutenant Colonbel Simson Munthe as saying.
He said that besides coming from Ut, the attackers also included refugees from Ngadi village and Tual. Police in the district town of Tual contacted by AFP Monday declined to confirm the death toll.
Southeast Maluku, and particularly Tual, has been the scene of violent clashes since March opposing Moslem and Christian communities and leaving more than 100 people dead.
Reports of a new outbreak of violence raised tensions in Tual on Sunday, prompting the deployment across town of soldiers dispatched from Java earlier in the year, Antara said.
Violence in Southeast Maluku and Tual erupted after similar clashes in the provincial capital Ambon broke out in mid-January. More than 300 people have been killed in the sectarian violence in Ambon and the other Maluku islands.
Jakarta -- The number of city residents purchasing rice via the city-run inexpensive rice program increased by nearly 70 percent to 118,417 families in May from 69,998 families in March, a city official said on Saturday.
An official of the regional economic bureau, Djodjo Sutardjo, said the sharp increase was caused by a steadily increasing number of unemployed as the economic crisis dragged on.
"The program, meant to help families living below the poverty line, focuses only on the poor and unemployed," Djodjo said.
Data from the bureau showed
that of the 118,417 families relying on the low-cots rice, 31,807 were
from East Jakarta, 25,752 from West Jakarta, 23,649 from Central Jakarta,
23,518 from North Jakarta and 13,691 from South Jakarta. Under the program,
the rice is sold for Rp 1,000 per kilogram.
Jakarta -- Unidentified men shot dead two soldiers in two separate attacks in the troubled Indonesian province of Aceh, reports said here Saturday.
Soldier Rudi Sumianto was shot dead by gunmen as he and another soldier were riding a motorcycle in the Cold Mesjid village, North Aceh district, on Thursday, the Antara news agency said. Sumianto died on the spot, while the other soldier was wounded.
In a separate incident later Thursday, another group of men shot dead Second Sergeant Purwanto in Kubu Mesjid, North Aceh. A civilian was also wounded in the shooting, Antara said.
Another shooting incident took place on the main highway linking the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh and Medan, the capital of the neighbouring province of North Sumatra.
Some men shot at passing vehicles in North Aceh district after dark on Thursday, injuring one driver in the foot, the agency said.
The attacks and shooting were the latest to hit the district of North Aceh, one of three Aceh districts most affected by clashes between soldiers and separatist rebels.
Press reports said at least 11 people had been killed by unidentified groups in Aceh since Monday. Rebels also set fire to hundreds of houses, schools and public facilities in Aceh in recent months.
In the most recent incident, a television relay station and a telephone transmission station in Pidie district was set on fire early this week.
Lhokseumawe -- Thousands of people have fled their homes and taken refuge in and around US oil company Mobil Corp. (MOB) complex in troubled Aceh province after soldiers were deployed in their villages, officials and witnesses said Wednesday.
T.F. Sani, coordinator of a fact-finding team set up by the local government, said they fear violence because of the troop presence. He couldn't provide details on what the soldiers were doing to create such concern. "They are taking refuge around the Mobil Oil complex," Sani said.
Some witnesses said about 9,000 people had fled 16 villages in two districts east of the North Aceh capital Lhokseumawe.
A security officer at the Mobil complex in Tanah Luas, about 24 kilometers east of Lhokseumawe, said about 1,000 villagers had taken refuge within the complex.
"The exodus began Tuesday and they are now being sheltered under tents on the soccer field," added the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. He added that many more villagers sought shelter at mosques and public facilities outside the complex.
Aceh, about 1,750 kilometers northwest of Jakarta, is one of three Indonesian provinces hit by separatist conflict. The others are Irian Jaya, a former Dutch colony on western New Guinea, and the former Portuguese colony of East Timor.
The rebel Free Aceh Movement, fighting for a separate Islamic state in the predominantly Muslim province, escalated its violent activities to coincide with Indonesia's June 7 parliamentary election.
Nicole Gaouette, Banda Aceh -- Ayub Abas calls his work a legacy. "Our parents fought for freedom against Dutch colonizers," he says, stocky in crisp fatigues, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. "This is the same struggle, just a different enemy."
Like his father before him, Mr. Abas wants independence for Aceh, the Indonesian province at the country's westernmost tip. But instead of Indonesia's longtime colonizers, his foe is the central government. Now, after years of Army repression, analysts say Aceh's separatist movement is drawing inspiration and energy from Indonesia's new democracy and East Timor's upcoming referendum. Abas's colleagues mention the inspiration of Kosovo's fight for liberation from Serb control.
But the legacy isn't Abas's alone. Indonesia's new government will inherit the standoff in Aceh, and they're not likely to be happy about it, as the movement could have a significant impact on the rest of the country.
Nationalist politicians and the military fear that if Aceh goes, so might other parts of the 3,000-mile-long archipelago that houses a multitude of ethnicities, dialects, and religions.
Unlike East Timor, which was annexed in 1975, Aceh has been one of Indonesia's 27 provinces since its founding, and its departure would be more significant. Violence in the area is rising and observers say the military is likely to respond with a renewed crackdown.
"The potential for Indonesian disintegration is greater coming from Aceh ... than it ever was from East Timor," says a Western diplomat who requested anonymity. "It's hard to see what will turn the tide. It won't happen right away, but it remains to be seen whether the new government [which will be fully in place in November] can do anything to counter this."
Indonesians aren't the only ones who worry. The US depends on shipping lanes that cross through Indonesian waters and its firms need stability for investments there. Japan relies on Indonesian oil. Indonesia's neighbors watch for any signs of trouble, since it could affect them.
In the small jungle compound where Abas and his comrades discuss plans, there are no signs of trouble or even tension. Camouflage-clad guards stroll around the perimeter, but make frequent stops to socialize with visiting villagers and their children. In a traditional building, raised on stilts and painted peacock blue, a few men offer a prayer to Allah while women below chat in the shade and fan themselves.
Aceh is an intensely Islamic corner of Indonesia, and has long been fiercely independent. It was the last part of Indonesia to fall to Dutch colonizers, and after national independence in 1949 it was home to an Islamic-inspired separatist movement.
The Free Aceh movement, known here as Aceh Merdeka, grew out of 1970s frustration that Mobil Oil Company's development of regional resources mostly benefited Jakarta. Many Acehnese say that before this spring they would have been content with more resources and justice for military abuses. Even women around the separatist compound, many of whom say they are widows courtesy of the Army, say they had high hopes. "Peace would be nice," says Noni, in a cherry-red veil and matching lipstick.
For a while, it looked as if it might happen. In August, the military ended an almost decade-long crackdown in which thousands were killed, according to one US State Department estimate. President B.J. Habibie freed political prisoners, discussed autonomy in Aceh, and passed laws giving provincial districts a greater share of the wealth taken from their land.
But things quickly went downhill. In December, an attack on a bus carrying soldiers was attributed to Aceh Merdeka, prompting increased military sweeps and, say local activists, retribution. In March, Mr. Habibie came to Aceh to promise the advent of better relations. But as he spoke in a mosque in the city of Banda Aceh, the army fired on and killed student demonstrators down the street.
"People expected things to get better, people were excited about reformasi," says student Maksalmina Wahab, using the Indonesian word for the reform taking place in Jakarta. "But they've just gotten worse. In the past, people were only killed in certain areas, now the violence is spreading all over."
More than 80 people have been killed in violent incidents since May, according to press estimates. A series of arson attacks on schools and public transport buses has flared since early June. At least one charred bus skeleton still stands on the province's main two-lane road, and transportation companies are cutting the number of buses traveling the north-south road, especially at night.
Ordinary Acehnese blame the military and military-backed provaca-teurs for these incidents. "It's impossible for it to be [Aceh Merdeka], says Mustafa, a young juniorhigh school math teacher. "They want the community to advance."
But the military insists the separatists are behind the violence and it is beefing up its presence. Last week, it replaced the commander in charge of Aceh's most troubled districts and announced plans to put a senior officer in Banda Aceh for the first time. Analysts say both moves could signal another period of harsh Army control over the area.
Leaders of the separatist group say they will be adopting new tactics to counter the Army. "We're watching East Timor," says Abdullah Syafi, referring to that province's slow lurch toward independence. East Timor has benefited from the work of high- profile activists, including a Nobel-prize winner. But it also has a network of activist groups who lobby governments worldwide and make sure East Timor remains a visible issue.
Unlike Timor, though, Aceh is seen as a more permanent part of Indonesia. In addition, its natural resources are a great source of wealth for Jakarta whereas many of Timor's resources are still untapped. Both reasons will make it harder for Aceh to break away.
Still, Mr. Syafi, a war commander for the Free Aceh Movement, says his group aims to rally the kind of international support Timor has long enjoyed. "We haven't gone into a United Nations meeting yet, but we're working on diplomacy," he says. "NATO got involved in Kosovo, they helped Kuwaitis when Iraq invaded, the UN is in East Timor right now," says Syafi, rapping a knuckle on the wooden floor. "We expect the international community to become more aware of us."
Students are already spearheading another new approach. Taking a page directly from East Timor's book, they've started a campaign for an independence referendum. In rice paddies, beside small farmers' huts, on roads, rooftops, and tree trunks throughout Aceh, signs promote the idea. "We want the military out and a referendum is the best solution. It's the middle way and the democratic way," says student Hafnawi Muhammad, sitting cross- legged on straw mats that cover the floor of a university student union. He says he supports the separatist movement, but that violence is never justified.
Syafi makes no apologies for his group's approach, and refuses to answer questions about his group's size, fighters, training, weaponry, or missions. "[The military] keeps beating us up," he says. "And there is never any accountability."
The question is whether that will change when the Parliament elected in the recent national elections is in place and its members select a president in November. Most analysts don't think so, particularly if nationalist Megawati Sukarnoputri becomes president. "I'd be very surprised if the next government takes on the Army," says a second Western diplomat.
Even so, Indonesia's nascent democracy, Aceh's energized separatists, and the growing calls for a referendum here will make it harder for Jakarta to hold onto Aceh, some observers say. "Is it foreordained that Indonesia will break up? My answer would be no," says Indonesia expert Adam Schwartz. "[But] Aceh's probably not going to stay."
Jakarta -- A human rights group said on Tuesday the military released misleading information about recent unrest in Aceh, including that separatists terrorized residents into fleeing their homes.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) dismissed the military's claim that the Free Aceh Movement forced thousands of people in several regencies to become refugees.
"Most of the refugees have left their homes for mosques, schools and other public buildings because of fears from the heavy military presence in their villages," Kontras coordinator Munir told a media conference.
He said that more than 20,000 Acehnese remained in shelters in mosques, schools and other public buildings in Pidie, North Aceh and East Aceh.
Munir acknowledged that thousands of settlers from Java also fled their homes in South Aceh, West Aceh, Pidie, North Aceh and East Aceh following intimidation by groups of unidentified people.
Aceh has been the site of a decade of military operations against the Free Aceh Movement.
The operation, which began in 1989, ended last year amid accusations of widespread human rights violations by the military. The allegations have fueled widespread hatred of Jakarta and the military among the Acehnese.
Since the formal end to the operation, clashes between soldiers and residents, including rebels, have left more than 80 dead since early May. The figure includes 41 civilians who were shot dead by soldiers in North Aceh on May 3.
"It is impossible to resolve the Aceh problem through the use of force. A number of statements trying to justify the presence of more troops in the province must be rejected, including the plan to reestablish a separate military command in Aceh."
Aceh is under the Bukit Barisan Military Command based in the North Sumatra capital of Medan. The provincial legislative council is among the parties which has requested another command in Aceh.
Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Wiranto sent more than 1,200 reinforcement troops to Aceh shortly after the May shootings. Locals said that their presence only fostered fear.
"Since there is no seriousness from the government to settle the Aceh question, we believe that the involvement of certain parties, such as Amnesty International, the Working Group on Torture and Arbitrary Detention and other UN institutions, is needed," Munir said.
Meanwhile, more than 200 houses in a resettlement area in Geumpang district in Pidie were torched by unidentified groups, Antara reported on Monday.
The news agency quoted Pidie Police chief Lt. Col. Sirwandi Laut Tawar as saying that the area was attacked on late Sunday. It added that four schools also were set on fire. More than 1,000 residents have sought refuge in mosques, schools and government buildings in Geumpang.
Kompas daily reported on Tuesday that two bodies were found Monday near Geumpang. They were two of three men missing for three days after reportedly being taken away by unidentified abductors.
In Central Aceh, residents also found three unidentified bodies with their hands and feet bound in Timang Gajah subdistrict on Monday, the daily said.
North Aceh, East Aceh and
Pidie are the regencies worst affected by the antirebel operations and
are home to the strongest calls for a referendum on self-determination
and a boycott of the June 7 polls.
Sidoarjo -- About 2,000 workers of the nation's largest clove cigarette maker PT Gudang Garam, backed by hundreds of student activists, protested in East Java yesterday to demand higher wages.
"United workers cannot be defeated," shouted the workers, who gathered in front of the tobacco company's factory in the industrial town of Sidoarjo, near the provincial capital of Surabaya.
They demanded the company take back three workers sacked for leading a similar protest on May 11. There were no reports of violence.
Witnesses said activists from the left-wing People's Democratic Party (PRD), whose leader Budiman Sudjatmiko remains in jail after being convicted of subversion by the government of former president Soeharto, helped to organize the protest.
Surabaya has become a hotbed of worker demonstrations as the nation still grapples with its most savage economic crisis in decades.
The fall of the rupiah since July 1997 has undermined workers' buying power by fueling inflation. A typical worker's wage of Rp250,000 per month has shrunk to around US$33 at current exchange rates from around US$100 before the crisis struck. Company officials were not immediately available for comment.
Jakarta -- Hundreds of workers at an underwear factory in Depok who have been on strike since last Tuesday, are receiving plenty of support from locals in the area.
The striking workers have been living at the compound of the factory owned by PT Arista Latinindo Industrial since June 15, demanding that nine people recently sacked by the company be rehired.
Although they're not earning any money now, the striking workers are receiving food and money from passing motorists and sympathetic traders.
The workers say their nine former colleagues were sacked because of their strong involvement in an internal labor union, which always fought to uphold the rights of the staff. Locals supplying the strikers with food say they're impressed by the stand taken by them.
The company, which produces a range of stockings, underpants, bras, panties and gloves, is suffering from big losses, because more and more of its 1,500 staff are joining the strike.
Initially, about 400 were protesting, but that number had yesterday climbed to 600. Many of the factory's machines have been idle since Tuesday, causing considerable concern to the owners.
The striking workers yesterday met with the company's board of directors and failed to reach an agreement. The directors urged the staff to halt the strike, but they replied they would only do so if the nine sacked workers are re-instated.
The strikers said the nine
had never done anything wrong, except upsetting management by defending
laborers' rights. The board of directors refused to rehire the nine, so
the workers said they will continue the strike until the situation changes.
|News & issues|
Jakarta -- Defense Minister/Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) Commander General Wiranto yesterday warned political parties against mobilizing the masses or conducting shows of force as the campaign period is long over.
"The campaign period which allowed political parties to mobilize masses and make shows of force in large numbers is over. The authorities will take stiff measures in line with the existing laws and regulations against groups of people from any political parties who defy law," Wiranto told the press after attending a cabinet meeting on security and law enforcement.
His statement appeared to be aimed at members of the left-wing Democratic People's Party (PRD), who have staged many rallies after the election, protesting against election fraud conducted by the ruling Golkar Party.
Several PRD members in these post-election protests were hospitalized after military personnel beat the living daylights out of them.
Wiranto said his call for no mass mobilizations by political parties was made for the sake of the people, as most Indonesians no longer want to see any more rallies.
PRD activists are tired of being attacked but they won't stop their rallies. Yesterday's three-hour cabinet meeting also discussed matters relating to the planned ballot in East Timor.
Jakarta -- A group of students arrested for staging a "happening art performance" against ex-president Soeharto in South Jakarta last week, yesterday made a mockery out of their trial, by wearing Soeharto masks and cracking jokes throughout proceedings.
But the judge at South Jakarta District Court, Sutan Mangun, was not amused. If anything, he was extremely angered by the students' humorous antics.
The 32 students from the University of Indonesia were arrested on Friday morning for staging their "happening art" in Semanggi without permission from police. Of the students at the trial, 28 wore masks of Soeharto's beguiling smiling face.
Judge Mangun became angry at the beginning of the court session, because when he called out the name of each suspect, to ensure they were all present, each student replied: "Hey judge, you still haven't called Soeharto yet. He's the real suspect." And the jesting students fell about with laughter.
Smiling reporters had to suppress their laughter, fearing they would be thrown out for contempt of court and miss the hilarious proceedings.
Mangun said the court session would not continue until the students took off their masks, but the students said they would only do so if the real Soeharto is dragged to court first.
They want the corpulent Soeharto tried for the rampant corruption, collusion, nepotism and mysterious killings that flourished during his 32-year autocratic rule. "He's the main suspect, not us," said Sunarto, one of the students.
Mangun became more aggravated and warned the students that the penalty for staging a demonstration without permission is one month in jail and a fine of Rp2,000 (27 US cents) each.
The students said they couldn't understand why police arrested them, because they had not been staging a protest, but had merely performed some street theater.
The performance lasted one hour, during which the students used 100 puppets depicting the loathed Soeharto in various positions. They also drew attention to the many decrees issued by Soeharto that enabled his corrupt children and cronies to get rich.
The students said their performance did not disturb traffic, and the police who arrested them were stupid imbeciles, because they had no appreciation of art.
One of the witnesses who testified against the students, First Lieutenant Mujiono, told the judge the "demonstration" lasted for two hours. He was immediately booed and ridiculed by the students.
"He's a liar. It is was only a happening art performance and it lasted for only one hour," said one student.
As proceedings continued, the students completely ignored the judge and other court officials, and chatted noisily among themselves.
The frazzled judge finally said the trial will resume next week, but none of the students were listening to him. After the session, friends of the arrested students went to the office of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation to protest against the arrests and trial.
Jakarta -- The government yesterday released several members of the long defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) from Tangerang Women's Penitentiary, prompting a group of youths to stage a protest.
Members of the Tangerang Student Youth Forum rallied outside the jail, warning that the women may start preaching the forbidden ideology and inflict great suffering upon the nation.
The youths said the women -- members of the PKI's Gerwani unit -- had on October 1, 1965, mutilated the bodies of six slain generals and a lieutenant, before dumping them in a well in East Jakarta popularly known as Lubang Buaya.
The killings were part of what the government claimed was an attempted coup by the PKI.
The youths said the elderly Gerwani members are still fanatic communists and will be a bad influence on society.
Several police were present outside the jail to protect the released women. It appeared police had known the youths' demonstration would take place.
Aware of the tight security, the youths were content to hurl abuse at the women and display banners with slogans condemning communism. The called on the government to ensure that communism never be given an opportunity to re-emerge.
Prior to the botched 1965 coup, the PKI was the biggest communist party in the world, outside of China. Earlier this year the government released several male members of the PKI from East Jakarta's Cipinang jail.
They said the coup attempt was the brainchild of former president Soeharto, who planned it in order to rise to power and crush his military opponents.
Historians have long pointed out that if the PKI had really staged the coup attempt, they would not have focused solely on Jakarta, as they had well-organized networks throughout the nation.
Analysts say that although some PKI members were probably involved in the 1965 killings, they were only following orders from military personnel.
In the wake of the attempted coup, Soeharto managed to oust founding president Soekarno. Communism was banned and about 400,000 alleged PKI members and their supporters were massacred. Entire villages were wiped out during the killings.
In cases where all residents of certain villages were slaughtered, many of the killings occurred at the behest of landlords, who had earlier been outraged when PKI cadres encouraged peasants to take over fields.
Officials in the Education and Culture Minstry have said Indonesian history textbooks may need to be rewritten, following the release of information that most people were once too scared to talk about.
Since the fall of the reviled Soeharto last year, the government has lifted a ban against academic research on Marxism. However, Justice Minister Muladi, a former university professor, has said a ban against publishing such research would remain.
Under Soeharto's authoritarian 32-year rule, possession of books on Marx and Lenin was deemed a subversive act and punishable by imprisonment.
Muladi said the relaxation of the ban on research would uphold the principle of academic freedom. However, publishing texts on communism can still lead to imprisonment. Muladi said college students would be allowed to study communism as long as there was no attempt to preach it to the public.
Jakarta -- President B.J. Habibie on Friday appointed a caretaker attorney general in place of Andi Ghalib who is under an investigation for bribe-taking, the state Antara news agency said.
Deputy attorney general Ismudjoko was named interim attorney general through a presidential decree conveyed by Justice Minister Muladi to the attorney general's office, Antara said.
Habibie suspended Ghalib on Monday amid mounting public pressure for his removal following accusations of bribe-taking by the independent Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW).
The president then named Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Feisal Tanjung as a temporary replacement, but immediately came under fire from lawyers, politicians and even members of his own party who questioned the legality of the move.
Tanjung, they said, was not qualified for the job and the integrity of the attorney general's office had been sullied.
The ICW two weeks ago reported to the military police that Ghalib, a lieutenant general, had some 13 billion rupiah (1.6 million dollars) in bank accounts and time deposits.
The corruption watchdog said some of the money "could be suspected as bribes" from businessmen under investigation for banking law violations.
Ghalib maintained the money was donations to a sports federation that he headed, but the ICW said it had been deposited under his name, not that of the sports foundation.
Ghalib had headed the official inquiry into the wealth of former president Suharto, but he has been widely accused of foot- dragging.