Daniel Nelson, Dili – Economic and social rights are as important as traditionally defined human rights, UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson emphasised on her recent visit to East Timor. But many people in what will soon become the world's newest independent country made it clear they had a more pressing priority: justice for past wrongs.
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
August 23, 2000
Dan Murphy, Yogyakarta – At a humble mosque on the gentle slopes below one of Indonesia's largest volcanoes, Ja'far Umar Thalib, commander of a Muslim militia accused of terrorizing the Maluku islands, explains what jihad means to him.
Jakarta – Three people were killed and seven others injured yesterday when police clashed with a crowd defending a separatist flag hoisted in the Indonesian province of Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya.
Police said the clash broke out after about 500 people hoisted the separatist Morning Star flag outside a church in the coastal oil town of Sorong.
Jakarta – Lawyers defending Indonesian military officers accused of human rights violations in East Timor have vowed to use a controversial constitutional amendment to save them from prosecution.
Max Lane – The current session of Indonesia's parliament, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), began with much criticism of President Abdurrahman Wahid by politicians and threats that he would be deposed, forced to appoint a prime minister or made to surrender significant power to vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri. None of it happened.
Makkasar – Fresh sectarian violence hit Luwu regency, South Sulawesi. Masses clashed sporadically between Monday, August 21, until today, August 23. Gunfire volleys were heard in Luwu, located 600 kilometers north of Makassar. Two other settlements were burned.
August 22, 2000
Vaudine England – The Independent Commission on Aceh, which has helped bring soldiers and officers to trial over human rights abuses in the strife-torn province, said in its final report that the Government's current deal with separatist rebels was a failure, and that a threatened crackdown risked an East Timor-like crisis.
Kafil Yamin, Jakarta – Indonesia's still floundering economy has thrown many families across the country into throes of despair and wreaked havoc on relations between husbands and wives.
Seth Mydans, Jakarta – Top military commanders have won a skirmish in Parliament to slow their retreat from political influence. At the same time, they seem to be losing control of many of their troops in the field.
Jakarta – A three-month truce in Indonesia's restive Aceh province enabled rebels to set up a "shadow government" across almost two-thirds of the province, a government commander based there said, arguing the truce must not be extended.
Medan – Some 10,000 public transportation drivers paralyzed the North Sumatra capital on Monday with a city-wide strike. The strikers, who were demanding cheaper spare parts, subsidized fuel and an end to illegal fees, brought business and social activities to a virtual standstill.
Vaudine England, Jakarta – Government ministers admit they were caught off guard by a constitutional amendment which appears to provide legal protection to the generals and other military officers behind last year's violent rampage through East Timor.
Prosecutors say they will name all those officers being held responsible tomorrow, with the view to an eventual trial.
Mark Dodd, Dili – Almost a year since voting to end Indonesian rule, East Timor is about to launch into open politicking about the shape of its independent state once the United Nations interim administration ends.
The UN is to draft legislation allowing political campaigning for the first democratic parliamentary elections next year.
MMI Ahyani/BI & AH, Bandung – Hundreds supporters of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have staged a protest in Bandung. Calling themselves the West Java Community Movement Against Phony Reformists, they demand the dismissal of the PDIP faction leader at the House of Representatives, Arifin Panigoro.
Jakarta – Hundreds of members of the Riau Farmers Association (SPR) yesterday demonstrated outside the main branch of Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) in Pekanbaru city, demanding the disbursement of Rp6.7 billion (US$805,000) in rural assistance loans. The farmers marched to the BRI building after rallying at the provincial legislative assembly.
Jakarta – Suspected militiamen attacked a UNHCR mission in Indonesia bringing aid to a refugee camp in West Timor on Tuesday, badly beating up three of its members, a UN official there said.
"It was totally without explanation," UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) officer Adelmno Risi told AFP by phone from the West Timor capital of Kupang.
Yogyakarta – The Yogyakarta Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) condemned the violence committed against activists and the office of the university student magazine "Arena", Dema, Sena, and the Islamic Religious Endeavor Corps (Kordiska) of Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic Institute (IAIN).
August 21, 2000
Scott Burchill – In his first lecture on Indonesian soil after being banished for 26 years, Professor Benedict Anderson spoke about the bewildered expression on the faces of his Indonesian students over the years at Cornell University whenever he asked them "who in Indonesia today do you admire and look up to?"
Mark Dodd, Aileu – Fighters from the former guerilla resistance force Falintil, in their first move out of forced cantonment since the United Nations entered East Timor, will join UN peacekeepers in hunting down pro-Indonesian militia launching cross-border raids.
Jason Tedjasukmana, Pekanbaru – Syaparudin, a former logger, stands next to the Caltex oil pipeline that stretches for 900 km across the central Sumatra province of Riau. Locals call it the "giant snake," and many of them – including Syaparudin – would like to kill it.
Hestiana Dharmastuti/Hendra & LM, Jakarta – The blame for the disappearance of four activists from the parliament grounds is being laid in many quarters.
Vaudine England, Jakarta – The upsurge in fighting on the border between East and West Timor is the latest sign that the Indonesian military's special forces remain outside the control of the Government, Jakarta-based diplomats say.
Anthony Spaeth – If you stand at the harbor of Surabaya, Indonesia's famed port and second-largest city, you can see the island of Madura only 4 km across the water. For a decade, there was a plan to connect the city and the island with a bridge, but financing never came through and the only progress was a few premature concrete pillars that now stand forlornly in the sea.
August 20, 2000
Jakarta – Indonesia yesterday demanded that separatists drop demands for independence for Aceh, and warned that it was losing patience in the search for peace for the troubled province.
Jakarta – An average of 1.6 million ha of Indonesia's forests are being destroyed every year, mostly by illegal loggers with powerful connections here and abroad, a report said yesterday.
Forestry Ministry secretary-general Suripto said illegal loggers formed mafia-like international networks and that their operations were hard to track down.
August 19, 2000
Jakarta – Hundreds of people from various groups rallied outside the compound of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to express their disappointment with the results of the Annual Session, which concluded on Friday.
Jakarta – Concluding its Annual Session on Friday, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) endorsed nine decrees, two of which certified the military's presence at the Assembly until 2009 and the new tasks for Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Robert Go, Jakarta – One of the most amazing outcomes of the recent MPR session must be that the rupiah continued to strengthen even as legislators bashed President Abdurrahman Wahid's 10-month-old government over the sluggish pace of economic recovery.
Jakarta – Employees of coal mining firm PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) in Sangata regency, East Kalimantan, ended their strike on Friday after assurances were made that the company would not fire them.
Jakarta – Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab on Saturday said some soldiers might have encouraged the pro-Jakarta militias in the border area of East Timor.
"It is possible that certain individual [soldiers] have encouraged the militias' operations, but as an institution it is obvious that the military doesn't want the incidents to happen," Shihab told journalists.
Jakarta – Human Rights Watch on Saturday slammed Indonesia's MPs for passing a law that could let former president Suharto and senior military officers escape punishment for gross human rights abuses, including those in East Timor.
Devi Asmarani and Robert Go, Jakarta – No fire on the streets and smaller fireworks than expected in Indonesia's parliament complex. The first annual session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) ended with an anti-climax yesterday with the last tap of Speaker Amien Rais' gavel.
Banda Aceh – A commander of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) separatist rebels in restive North Aceh regency Abu Sofyan Daud conceded that the movement has special links with officers in the Indonesian Military (TNI).
Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta – Indonesia's discredited military yesterday won a blanket amnesty for past human rights abuses. Human rights activists are furious that a decree blocking prosecution of troops involved in abuses in provinces such as East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya was passed by the People's Consultative Assembly with little debate.
August 18, 2000
Warren Caragata, Jakarta – If anything represents the uneasy muddle that is Indonesian politics these days, it may well be Golkar, the party of discredited ex-president Suharto.
Jakarta – President Abdurrahman Wahid led on Thursday a solemn commemoration of Indonesia's 55th anniversary on the grounds of the official residence, Istana Merdeka, as students staged noisy demonstrations in the Monas Square nearby the palace.
Shinta NM Sinaga/Swastika & LM, Jakarta – The Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggle (FNPBI) led by Dita Indah Sari marked the final day of the annual session of the Assembly by amassing workers and members at the parliament to express their frustration with the so-called representatives of the people.
Irna Gustia/Swastika & LM, Jakarta – A Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) investigation into a foundation owned by the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) has uncovered corruption to the value of Rp 70 billion (US$ 8.4 million). The BPK has promised to complete their investigation next week.
Abdul Haerah HR/BI, Makassar – Up to a hundred low paid workers and waterside labourers who demanded a 100% pay rise have been forcefully removed from Makassar harbour side in Makassar on Saturday . Security officers from the Makassar Police force have removed the protestors who have been conducting their protest in the area since Friday.
Aulia Andri/Swastika & Lyndal Meehan, Jakarta – The People's Democratic Party (PRD) did not just demo on the final day of the annual parliament session in the capital, Jakarta.
Jakarta – People across the country, including those in troubled areas, marked the 55th Independence Day on Thursday with solemn ceremonies and traditional games. No reports of violence were recorded.
August 17, 2000
Marianne Kearney, Jakarta – Removing the military from politics was one of the key agendas of the reform movement in 1998, yet legislators on a People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) committee recommended this week that the military retain its dual role until 2009.
Andrew Perrin, Ainaro – Fearing UN peacekeepers cannot guarantee their safety, villagers in East Timor's mountainous central south-west have fled to the forest or formed vigilante groups against possible militia attack.
Marianne Kearney Jakarta – President Abdurrahman Wahid's pre-Independence Day address to Parliament yesterday began and ended with his trademark humour and, this time, legislators laughed with him, indicating that much of the tension between the two sides had dissipated.
Jakarta – Six students who pulled down the Indonesian flag at the Attorney General's Office in South Jakarta yesterday could be imprisoned for up to four years.
Jakarta – About 1,000 university students staged a peaceful demonstration in Central Jakarta yesterday, to celebrate Independence Day with calls for further reform.
Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta – A leading armed forces reformer has made an unprecedented attack on corrupt generals.
Lieutenant-General Agus Wirahadikusumah called on the Government to cleanse the military and police of what he called the cancer of corruption. "It's now up to the Government – to act or not to act," he wrote in the latest issue of the magazine Tempo .
Maryadi/Fitri & Lyndal Meehan, Pontianak – Today is Indonesian Independence Day. In West Kalimantan, thousands of people are expected to mark the day with a mixture of celebration and protest involving all elements of society, including Madurese refugees of sectarian violence which erupted in 1997.
Hestiana Dharmastuti/Hendra & Lyndal Meehan, Jakarta – Disgraced former dictator Suharto and his cronies can not yet breathe easily. Once again, students gathered together with the City Forum (Forkot) have demanded they be taken to court and again planned to besiege his residence, known as Cendana after the street on which it is located.
August 16, 2000
Marianne Kearney, Jakarta – As politician after politician attacked President Abdurrahman Wahid during this week's general assembly for failing to care for the welfare of Indonesia's "little people", the irony was not lost on these "little people".