[This item also included a second story titled "Jakarta's time of terror: a Chinese girl's tragic story" which was omitted because an almost identical item appeared in a previous issue of NetNews.]
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
August 19, 1998
Ian MacKenzie, Jakarta – Indonesia's armed forces, who have traditionally regarded themselves as the defenders of the country's unity and stability, are under unprecedented fire as they emerge from the shadow of the former president Suharto's regime. Last week was a black one for the armed forces, known by the acronym ABRI:
Christopher Torchia, Jakarta – Clustered outside an Indonesian courthouse, students clapped when they heard a judge convict two policemen in the killings of campus protesters. Seconds later, they groaned in disappointment when the sentences were announced.
Jakarta – Two weeks after its launch, an Indonesian agency tasked with helping the private sector to restructure its massive external debt has found no takers, an official said Wednesday.
August 18, 1998
Andrew Marshall, Jakarta – The air at the Bekasi municipal dump on the eastern fringes of Jakarta is thick with flies and the stench of a million tonnes of garbage. Ferreting among the mounds of stinking debris, their clothes, hands and faces smeared with grime, are hundreds of Indonesian children who should be at school.
Don Greenlees – Three ageing Indonesian communists, jailed after the abortive 1965 coup, were granted their freedom yesterday in a round of Independence Day amnesties designed to bolster President B.J. Habibie's claims to promoting human rights.
Jakarta – A recent survey on which party people will vote for shows that a majority of people have yet to make up their minds. However, those who have decided tend to support the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) led by Megawati Soekarnoputri.
August 17, 1998
Jeremy Wagstaff, Jakarta – In his first Independence Day speech as president, B.J. Habibie used words and gestures to formally break with the authoritarian regime of his predecessor and paint his vision of a new democratic era. But while his marathon address won modest applause, Mr. Habibie is a long way from winning over the skeptics.
Uli Schmetzer – On the athletic field of this coastal town, Indonesian soldiers armed with American-made M-16 assault rifles and wearing steel helmets stood in the cool shade of teak trees as they made residents of this troubled island line up under the hot midday sun.
August 15, 1998
Lhokseumawe – Local residents and human rights officials in Indonesia's Aceh province said yesterday anonymous groups had sought to intimidate them since the discovery of mass graves in the area, the site of a separatist insurgency that peaked in the early 1990s.
August 14, 1998
Jakarta – The police have arrested 16 people accused of instigating riots in May that caused the death of more than 1,000 people, reports said.
Greg Torode, Jakarta – Ethnic Chinese are starting to flee Indonesia amid threats of rape and rioting surrounding Monday's Independence Day celebrations. Travel agents said flights on Sunday and Monday to Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were almost full. Many Jakarta Chinese said they were preparing to move their families from houses into hotels.
Jakarta – Some 100 East Timorese students from different universities in Indonesia protested Friday demanding the release of jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao and a referendum for the troubled territory.
Jakarta – Around 2,000 villagers in the central Javanese town of Cilacap went on the rampage after their village chief refused to meet them when they came to protest his alleged corruption, reports and police said Friday.
Jakarta – House Speaker Harmoko swore in yesterday 38 new members of the House of Representatives/People's Consultative Assembly (DPR/MPR), including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo and former Jakarta military chief Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, as part of the preparations for the special MPR session in November.
Jakarta – The city military is soliciting help from foreign groups in its effort to identify people spreading rumors on the Internet of renewed riots in the capital.
August 13, 1998
Jakarta – A coalition of political activists protested at the presidential office here Thursday against new regulations restricting public demonstration and putting key installations including the palace off-limits, witnesses said.
Jakarta – Shops were back in business in the small West Java town of Labuan on Thursday, a day after hundreds of people attacked three ethnic Chinese-owned shops there, police said there. "All shops are open again today, including the Ayung, Babah Java and Nang Tung shops," said Corporal Unang of the police in Labuan, a sleepy town on the southwestern coast of West Java.
Gustavo Capdevila, Geneva – Indonesia's government showed concrete evidence of its policy for gradual liberalisation on the human rights front, signing a co-operation agreement with the United Nations (UN) human rights entity.
Jakarta – A wildcat strike by some 5,000 workers at one of the world's largest copper and gold mines, PT Freeport Indonesia, dragged into its fourth day Thursday with no sign of a breathrough, the company said. "We're hopeful, but there's no breakthrough yet," a Freeport spokeswoman in Jakarta told AFP, adding that negotiations were continuing.
August 12, 1998
Actual troop numbers in East Timor since 1975 are not known, but two patterns are apparent: Indonesia has always claimed to have fewer troops in East Timor than actually are there and Indonesia has regularly said that it is reducing troop numbers in East Timor – for the sake of suggesting that there is no military problem – but at the same time has actually maintained troop numbers,
Sydney – The five East Timorese political parties in East Timor have made a combined call for self-determination for their people and set out a plan to end the illegal Indonesian occupation and annexation of their country.
Cindy Shiner, Jakarta – There are two legends in Javanese culture about what happens when a man marries the daughter of a king: The groom could be like Jaka Tingkir, who killed his father-in-law and established a new kingdom. Or he could follow the footsteps of Ageng Mangir, who attempted several coups against another sultan and ended up dead.
Yang Razali Kassim – In a recent gruesome cover story on the situation on Aceh, the Indonesian weekly magazine Gatra recounted the case of a man who was brought at gunpoint by a soldier to a hill in Aceh. Teungku Ayub was given a live demonstration of what could happen to rebels: a fellow villager, tied to a tree, was shot dead and his body left to rot.
Yogyakarta – The Indonesian government is set to free more political prisoners soon, Justice Minister Muladi disclosed here on Monday.
August 11, 1998
Jakarta – The abduction of political activists were not ordered by the Armed Forces' (ABRI) top brass, but were carried out because of then Army Special Force (Kopassus) chief Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto's interpretation of his superiors' instructions, the Officers Honor Council (DKP) concluded yesterday.
Jakarta – A group of some 20 Indonesian activists Tuesday picketted the Myanmar embassy here to demand the release of 18 activists, including three Indonesians, arrested by the military junta in Yangon.
Jakarta – Indonesia has begun rescheduling repayment of its public debt, its top finance minister said Tuesday, as bankers and business confirmed it had failed to meet repayments for the first time in its history.
On Monday, August 10, the State Administrative Court (PTUN) in Jakarta announced the success of a People's Democratic Party (PRD) demand challenging the decision to ban the PRD issued by the Minister of Home Affairs, Yogie S. Memet last year. The decision is therefore no longer valid and the status of the PRD as a banned party has been withdrawn.
S. Karene Witcher, Jakarta – A unit of the World Bank aims to be among the first creditors to push a troubled Indonesian borrower over the brink by using Indonesia's new bankruptcy law.
[This article was forwarded to Joyo without date and publication. The journalist writes frequently about Indonesia for The Guardian (UK).]
August 9, 1998
Carmel Budiardjo – Three events in the past couple of weeks point to a new strategy by the ABRI leadership in projecting a different image for the armed forces in post-Suharto Indonesia:
Jakarta – Indonesian President B.J. Habibie has for the first time in an interview laid out his basic criteria for political parties to qualify to take part in the elections he has promised the nation.
August 8, 1998
Following a flood of complaints from people in Aceh about years of unrestricted abuses by the security forces and reports of the discovery of nearly a dozen mass graves, the armed forces commander, General Wiranto, made an unscheduled 12-hour visit to Aceh on Friday to accounce the ending of special military operations in the region and the withdrawal of "non-organic" troops from th
Jakarta – The mass media has recorded the establishment of 56 new political parties since government restrictions were lifted in the aftermath of Soeharto's resignation. Some have been registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs and some have not.
Jakarta – The armed forces promised Friday to begin removing troops from Aceh province, where the military has been accused of killing thousands of people suspected of being separatists in the last decade. The defense minister and armed forces commander, Gen.
Fourteen non-governmental organisations in Aceh have issued a joint statement in response to the decision announced two weeks ago by the armed forces commander, General Wiranto, to end Aceh's status as a military operational region, to withdraw non-organic troops from the region, and to make an apology for the past actions of Indonesian troops in the region.
August 7, 1998
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Local leaders yesterday rejected a breakthrough agreement to discuss autonomy for their province which they said sidestepped demands for a referendum and the release of jailed resistance leader Xanana Gusmao.
Joyce Teo, Singapore – To stave off severe food shortages in Indonesia during the coming months, the country is importing ever-increasing amounts of rice, mostly with the help of foreign countries, agricultural analysts and industry sources told Dow Jones Newswires.
Jakarta – A group of Muslim students staged a protest at the defense ministry Friday, demanding new investigations into a riot that left more than a dozen Muslims dead in the Indonesian capital 14 years ago.
Jakarta – A rights organization Friday said it suspected Indonesian military involvement in the disappearance of five people after a bloody pro-independence demonstration early last month which left one dead in the remote province of Irian Jaya.
Jakarta – Indonesia's armed forces are readying to step in to protect the country's businesses from looters and thieves as reports mount of people driven to pillage through desperation.
August 6, 1998
Melbourne – Former Indonesian political prisoner and democracy advocate Sri Bintang Pamungkas said on Thursday his party would contest general elections expected next year, questioning whether new President B.J. Habibie could break the legacy of the former Suharto regime.
A representative of the Forum of Concern for Human Rights in Aceh, in a three-day visit to Pidie, North and East Aceh had brought to light 800 cases of atrocities which took place during the period of the military operational designation of the region, including thirty which are particularly gruesome.
Jakarta – A group of retired generals, former Cabinet ministers and senior politicians pledged Thursday to struggle for more democracy in Indonesia as a united front. The group, calling itself "Barisan Nasional," or national front, declared that a major aim would be to weaken the influence of the ruling Golkar party in the government.
August 5, 1998
Andrew Marshall, Jakarta – Nearly half of Indonesias children have failed to enrol for the new school year as deepening poverty forces more parents to put their children to work, the countrys education minister said on Wednesday.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – The armed forces have systematically violated human rights in the province of Aceh and should be brought to justice, a member of a fact-finding team said yesterday.
Jakarta – Indonesian legislators have urged the government and the armed forces to end military operations in Aceh and withdraw combat troops from the province in northern Sumatra, news reports said on Wednesday.
Indonesia's crippled companies can draw little comfort from this week's launch of an agency to help restructure their crushing foreign debts, analysts say – they need hefty debt write-offs, not just rescheduling, to save them.
Surabaya – Thousands of people in East Java armed with knives, sticks and metal chains blocked a planned visit yesterday by Muslim leader Amien Rais to a town near Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, residents said.