Jon Land – Foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer announced on January 12 that the federal government now recognises that East Timor has the right to self-determination.
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
January 20, 1998
January 19, 1998
The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) has received a report from a reliable source that Lucas da Costa, 49, an East Timorese professor from Surabaya, Indonesia, who disappeared on 23 December, 1997, has been released after being arbitrarily detained by the Indonesian authorities.
Jay Solomon and Kate Linebaugh, Tangerang – On a lazy Saturday afternoon in this industrialized zone 40 kilometers west of Jakarta, a group of workers lounge near the gates of the Korean-owned shoe factory where they work, bemoaning their worsening plight. During the past six months, they note, 75% of their colleagues have been laid off, while living expenses have jumped.
Jakarta – A bomb exploded in an apartment in a central Jakarta slum area Sunday night, local residents and police said Monday, while a top military official accused a left-wing party unrecognized by the government as being behind it.
Officials said police have found several bombs in the apartment but only one exploded, injuring three people, one seriously.
Indonesia's best-known labor leader, Muchtar Pakpahan, has long been a vocal opponent of President Suharto. Detained since mid- 1996, the 44-year-old head of the outlawed Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (known as SBSI), is currently on trial for the crime of insulting President Suharto. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
January 17, 1998
Seth Mydans, Jakarta – The International Monetary Fund got virtually everything it wanted from President Suharto. Yet on Friday, one day after he reluctantly agreed to a major restructuring of Indonesia's economy, its weakened currency resumed sliding.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Tension over soaring prices once again spilled over into rioting yesterday in East Java.
Rioters smashed windows, burned goods and forced shopkeepers to slash prices on basic foodstuffs.
January 16, 1998
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia's President Suharto today sacrificed the business privileges of his children and cronies in a sweeping economic reform agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Jakarta – Some twenty prominent government critics, including Megawati Soekarnoputri, Amien Rais, Ali Sadikin and Supeni, urged the government to make urgent economic and political reforms at a meeting here yesterday.
Jakarta – Anti-Indonesian rebels shot dead two militiamen in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in an ambush on a car carrying a village leader, the official Antara news agency reported on Friday.
January 15, 1998
Following a meeting with General Feisal Tanjung, commander in chief of the armed forces, US Secretary for Defence William said that the IMET programme would be continued. He promised General Tanjung that he would immediately press Congress for the programme to be restored.
ETHRC has received reports that Elizio Pinto Guterres Soares (also known as Mito), 25, an East Timorese man studying in Semarang, Indonesia, was arrested and tortured by members of the Indonesian security forces on 1 January, 1998,
Jakarta – Five youths from the troubled Indonesian territory of East Timor spent the night in the French embassy here today after jumping the gate and demanding to be allowed to leave for Portugal, sources said.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Almost 1,500 employees of Indonesia's top timber tycoon have taken voluntary retrenchment from six of his plywood companies in east Kalimantan.
About 1,400 staff have taken voluntary redundancy as part of a rationalisation in Mohammad "Bob" Hasan's Kalimanis Group, the Republika daily reported.
January 14, 1998
Louise Williams – These are terrible times, a taxi driver says openly. "Suharto is all right, but his greedy children are destroying this country." A domestic helper punches her fist in the air and declares her wish to march in a "huge demonstration" against the "father of Indonesia".
Dili – Four East Timorese have been found dead days after they were abducted from their village by a group of unidentified armed men, a local official said.
The four victims from Coilima village, about 60 km west of the territory's capital Dili, were among a group of eight people seized on January 3, Francisco Martins Dias, a local district chief, said.
Jakarta – Some 70 percent of the 286 newspaper publishers in Indonesia are facing dissolution or cessation of publication, if the increase in price of paper continues. The prices set by the producers are out of reach, while revenue from advertising continues to decline, and subscription prices are difficult to raise.
January 13, 1998
Louise Williams, Jakarta – President Soeharto promised a new round of economic reforms during crisis talks with the International Monetary Fund yesterday, in an attempt to turn around Indonesia's ailing economy and hold off a growing challenge to both his leadership and his Government.
Jakarta – Small groups of Indonesian students protested in Jakarta on Tuesday, shouting their support for opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and their anger at an IMF bail-out agreement.
It is highly unlikely that the Indonesian Opposition leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, will unseat President Soeharto when the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) convenes in March.
It has been reported that a National Dialogue will take place on Friday, 16 January.
January 12, 1998
According to Kompas (12 January 1998), the military authorities claim to have shot dead two members of the armed resistance during an encounter with an armed group of 25 people. The incident occurred on 9 January in Buatete Kampung, Hatolia sub-distrcit. in the district of Ermera. The district chief said that the other members of the group fled.
Jakarta – Two prominent government critics supported yesterday Megawati Soekarnoputri's bid for presidency, lauding the bold move as a boost for democratization.
A number of youth organisations went to Parliament on Monday, 12 January, to deliver a statement rejecting the nomination of retired General Suharto for president from 1998-2003.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia's wealthy, including expatriate staff, faced growing community resentment over the weekend as queuing shoppers blamed the greedy upper and middle classes for buying up stocks of rice, noodles, oil and sugar in the major cities.
Jakarta – Hundreds of Indonesians marched some 100 kilometres in East Java to protest high food prices, damaging a shop and one vehicle, a report said Tuesday.
A crowd gathered at the Kalibaru subdistrict in Banyuwangi district on the eastern tip of East Java province on Monday to protest high food prices and later attacked a shop there, the Kompas daily said.
Raju Gopalakrishnan, Jakarta – President Suharto has ruled Indonesia with a strong and sometimes ruthless hand for more than 30 years but analysts fear his indulgence of his six children could have undermined crucial economic reforms.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Opposition figurehead Megawati Sukarnoputri may have nominated herself as a presidential candidate, but she has little chance of success.
What she has done is openly challenge President Suharto and the establishment to address the question of who will succeed him.
In doing so, she has legitimised public discussion of life after Mr Suharto.
January 11, 1998
PIJAR, the Network for Information and Change, has launched a new slogan, Tritura 1998, a Triple People's Demand, which calls for:
January 10, 1998
[The following is a translation of an interview with Nur Hikmah the General Secretary of the National Committee for Democratic Struggle (Komite Nasional Perjuangan Demokrasi, KNPD)]
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Chinese Indonesians were yesterday preparing for an eruption of social violence as the economic crisis threatened to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
"The Chinese here are very worried, because if there is any unrest they are always the first target," businessman Eric Lazuardi said.
Raju Gopalakrishnan, Jakarta – Pressure mounted on Indonesian President Suharto on Saturday as the country's best-known opposition figure demanded the former general quit at the end of his term in March for leading the nation toward economic chaos.
January 9, 1998
Jakarta – Army troops patrolled the streets of Karawang town east of here Saturday a day after rioting and looting left two dead when police opened fire to stem the violence, residents said.
Six East Timorese men will now go to trial for their alleged involvement in the manufacture and possession of home-made bombs. The trials are expected to commence soon.
January 8, 1998
Shops in Jakarta are reporting panic buying by people worried about price rises after another days sharp falls in the value of the rupiah. Some shops have closed altogether because they have run out of stock. The rupiah fell to a record low level, ending down eighteen per cent.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – An Indonesian Muslim leader has called for President Soeharto to be replaced and has proposed an alliance for political reform between key Muslim figures and the pro-democracy leader Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri as the currency continues its slide.
Salil Tripathi, Jakarta – When it comes to cronyism, few can match Indonesia's first family. The six children of President Suharto seem to have a finger in every corporate pie, thanks to the myriad contracts, equity stakes and exclusive licences handed them over the years.
John Aglionby, Jakarta – Demands for an end to President Suharto's 32 years of autocratic rule and outbreaks of social disorder are the signs of increasing political discontent in Indonesia.
Margot Cohen, Jakarta – The rupiah has plunged and urban unemployment is up. Hard times for Indonesia – and hard times call for courage, not caution. That was the message hammered home on December 28, when an unprecedented gathering of Muslim leaders and intellectuals rejected the prospect of a seventh term for 76-year-old President Suharto.
The rupiah fell in value today, Thursday, to below 10,000 to the dollar, from just over 8,000 on Wednesday.
January 7, 1998
Employers affiliated to a number of employers associations have pleaded with the government not to increase the minimum wage for 1998 because of the grave crisis which now has the country in its grip, following the dramatic fall in the value of the Indonesian currency.
Sander Thoenes, Jakarta – President Suharto presented a draft budget to parliament yesterday that would breach targets agreed with the International Monetary Fund and presumes exchange, inflation and growth rates that many economists consider unrealistic.
January 6, 1998
Jakarta – Tens of Timorese students demonstrated on Monday in Semarang, in the centre of Java, against the "police terrorism" and the recent kidnappings of students and an university teacher.
Mariano Lopes, one of the Timorese student leaders told by phone that the demonstration was held in front of the regional parliament of Semarang, 400 km of Jakarta.
The armed forces will not hesitate to cut to pieces (membabat) all anti-government groups, said the commander of ABRI, the armed forces, General Feisal Tanjung, after a meeting with President Suharto. He said that ABRI would be ready to face every threat to security in the run-up to the MPR meeting in March.
January 5, 1998
Yenni Kwok, Bekasi – It is a brave motorist who ventures on to Pantura, the highway that runs for 1,000 hair-raising kilometers along Java's north coast. Trucks and buses are given to bullying anything smaller out of the way as they weave from lane to lane at breakneck speeds.
Jakarta – It is estimated that about 36,000 employees or 60 percent of the entire work force of the automobile and motorcycle parts industry will be put on home standby status, in the wake of lowered sales of the industry's products.
The West Java capital, Bandung erupted in rioting as 30,000 people went onto the streets in support of street traders in a conflict with the local authorities.
The trouble started with a dispute between street traders in Cicadas and municipal security officials who moved in to remove traders, using rough, inhumane methods.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – The Indonesian Government is under strong internal pressure to breach International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity conditions in this week's national Budget as the deepening economic crisis forces massive lay-offs and spiralling inflation.
Jakarta – More than 1,000 people went on a rampage today through the capital of West Java to protest a crackdown on illegal street vendors.