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Indonesia & East Timor Digest

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March 23, 1999

Agence France Presse - March 23, 1999

Jakarta – Hundreds of Indonesian bank employees who lost their jobs when the government shut down 38 banks this month staged a protest march through central Jakarta Tuesday demanding increased severance pay.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 23, 1999

The escalating violence in Ambon and Sulawesi since the fall of Soeharto has led to communities torn apart, with neighbour killing neighbour. Louise Williams reports.

March 22, 1999

ASIET - March 22, 1999

[The following is a speech by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1) on the occasion of his swearing in as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) in Jakarta on March 21.]

Reuters - March 22, 1999

Amy Chew, Jakarta – Indonesia's spiralling violence, fuelled by a brutal economic recession and religious and ethnic tension, threatens to derail the country's first democratic election in more than 40 years.

Agence France Presse - March 22, 1999

Jakarta – One man was killed and 15 injured in a clash between supporters of rival parties campaigning for the June elections in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, a report said Monday.

Agence France Presse - March 22, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – Hundreds of Indonesian youth rallied outside the United Nations office in Jakarta on Monday demanding independence for the troubled Aceh province, witnesses said.

The noisy demonstration by 200 members of Student Solidarity for Aceh comes five days ahead of a visit to the separatist-plagued province by Indonesian President B.J. Habibie.

Agence France Presse - March 22, 1999

Jakarta – Scores of Indonesians from 54 of the archipelago's different ethnic groups, many in native costume, rallied at the national parliament here Monday to demand more control of their lands and respect for their birthright.

Detikcom - March 22, 1999

Sigit Widodo, Jakarta - A third of Pramoedya Ananta Toer's life was spent in jail. But in jail his imagination as a writer did not die. Pram says he does not feel vengeful against the New Order regime, even though the former head of the People's Cultural Institute (Lekra) was jailed without trial for years on Buru island.

March 21, 1999

Asian Wall Street Journal - March 21, 1999

Jamie Mackie, Hong Kong – The ethnic violence that has flared up over the last two months on the island of Ambon, 2,000 kilometers east of Jakarta, has been horrifyingly brutal and intractable. The clashes have claimed the lives of around 200 people, and Indonesia's formidable security forces have been unable to stop the killing.

ASIET - March 21, 1999

[The following is a speech written by jailed chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), Budiman Sudjatmiko which was read at the "Grand Launch" of the PRD on March 21 in Jakarta.]

Comrades in struggle, leaders and members of the PRD,

"I can see clearly, though not completely, so that the darkness will slowly but surely clear away" - Cornel Simanjuntak

Detikcom - March 21, 1999 (slightly abridged)

Sigit Widodo, Jakarta – Although being campaigned against by the New Order regime for two years, the People's Democratic Party (PRD) is determined participate in the coming June elections. This was seen at the "Grand Launch" of the PRD at the Wisma Trisula Perwari Building in Menteng, Central Jakarta on Sunday.

March 20, 1999

CNRT press release - March 20, 1999

Jakarta – The office of CNRT President Xanana Gusmao received information today that a group of about 20 armed and masked men raided the Maliubu hamlet – "suco" of Ritabou, "posto" of Maliana – on the evening of Friday 19 March.

Agence France Presse - March 20, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian police fired warning shots to disperse a mob of hundreds of villagers in North Sumatra demanding the closure of a pulp and rayon mill they charge is polluting their land and a nearby resort lake, reports said Saturday.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 20, 1999

John Martinkus, Atambua – The ragged group of pro-Indonesian militia, armed with spears and knives, were clearly enjoying their task.

March 19, 1999

Agence France Presse - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian's privatisation of state firms in the year to March 31 is likely to raise less that half the targetted one billion dollars, reports said here Friday.

The privatisation scheme is expected to raise just 380 million dollars, the Jakarta Post daily quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Jakarta Post - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Attorney General Andi M. Ghalib played down on Wednesday media reports on the planned sales of three luxurious mansions in London owned by relatives of Soeharto, saying it was irrelevant to the government's investigation into the wealth of the former president.

Agence France Presse - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Four days of ethnic violence in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan has left 51 dead and thousands evacuated, a report said Friday.

The heaviest toll in the daily carnage came Thursday when 33 died, the Kompas daily said, adding 1,900 troops and police had been sent to the Sambas district to prevent the violence from spreading further.

Reuters - March 19, 1999 (abridged)

Lewa Pardomuan, Jakarta – East Timor guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao on Friday rejected an invitation to attend a reconciliation meeting organised by pro-Indonesia Timorese.

Lusa - March 19, 1999

Dili – The commander of a pro-Indonesia paramilitary force in East Timor, Joao Tavares, said Thursday that autonomy within Indonesia was the only course that would avoid a new civil war in the territory.

Australian Financial Review - March 19, 1999

Rowan Callick, Hong Kong – The East Timorese independence movement is prepared to see the United Nations-supervised referendum, scheduled for later this year, postponed if militias in the territory are not disarmed, and if the 20,000-strong Indonesian military deployment is not substantially reduced.

Reuters - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Around 100 people protested in Jakarta on Friday calling for top economics minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita to resign over Indonesia's economic crisis.

A group calling themselves Economic Solidarity with the Indonesian People gathered in the afternoon outside the National Planning Board building, where Ginandjar has his office.

March 18, 1999

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 18, 1999

John McBeth, Jakarta – Ever since then-President Suharto dumped him from the cabinet six years ago, former Defence Minister Benny Murdani has clung to the shadows of Indonesian politics. Some of his critics have refused to believe he had ceased to be a player, seeing his hand in all manner of backroom machinations.

Dow Jones Newswires - March 18, 1999

Kate Linebaugh, Jakarta – As Indonesia's June parliamentary election nears, trading volumes on the Jakarta Stock Exchange are drying up, threatening the country's already shrinking brokerage industry.

With few expecting any substantial spurts of investment in the coming months, analysts say the Indonesian securities industry may see a gradual contraction.

Reuters - March 18, 1999

Sydney – Amnesty International said on Thursday that torture, disappearances and unlawful killings continued in Indonesia despite President B.J. Habibie's human rights reforms since coming to power in May 1998.

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 18, 1999

Gerry van Klinken – Is Indonesia's social fabric disintegrating? Or are the peasants simply in revolt? It's time to take a serious look at the accepted wisdom on what lies behind the epidemic of social unrest in this vast archipelago. Those outside Indonesia have seen their TV screens filled with images of smoke-blackened shops and Indonesian parents weeping over dead children.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 18, 1999

Karen Polglaze, Jakarta – An East Timorese political party called yesterday on Indonesia's peak human rights body to help release resistance leader Jose Xanana Gusmao just as people rallying outside the house where he is being detained demanded he be hanged.

Agence France Presse - March 18, 1999

Jakarta – An attack on a village in Sumatra left one man dead and 25 houses burned down, police and reports said Thursday, amid conflicting reports of who was responsible.

Truckloads of migrants arrived at the village of Dalu-Dalu, in Riau province, early Thursday following a row over unused land on a private plantation where they had settled, the Antara news agency said.

March 17, 1999

World Socialist Web Site - March 17, 1999

Peter Symonds – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced last Thursday that Portuguese and Indonesian representatives had agreed to a "direct" ballot for the people of East Timor to decide on an autonomy plan being drawn up by the Indonesian regime.

Inter Press Service - March 17, 1999

Melbourne – Australia's defence forces have been placed on their highest level of military preparedness since the Vietnam War, in what analysts see as a clear sign of Canberra's growing unease with regional instability across Asia.

Agence France Presse - March 17, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian authorities are to investigate whether relatives of former president Suharto are selling lavish London properties, and have called back his son-in-law from abroad for questioning, officials said Wednesday.

Detikcom - March 17, 1999

Jakarta - The links between Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the People's Democratic Party (PRD) go back some time, starting in 1996. This matter was raised by the PRD's representative in the General Election Committee (KPU), Hendri Kuok, in a special interview with Detikcom at the KPU offices on Wednesday, March 17.

Agence France Presse - March 17, 1999

Canberra – Indonesian soldiers sent to quell religious rioting on Ambon worsened the violence because they were not trained in non-lethal crowd control, the US-based Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

March 16, 1999

Jakarta Post - March 16, 1999

Jakarta – Scattered protests by bank employees greeted the weekend closure of 38 private banks here on Monday as owners of the closed banks mulled whether to sue the government over the move.

Straits Times - March 16, 1999

Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, quietly confident of securing the presidency this year, has vowed to put up a "clean and respectable" government with the will to restore confidence to a country rocked by a financial crisis and ethnic bloodshed.

South China Morning Post - March 16, 1999

Vaudine England, Jakarta – Only three per cent of Indonesians see any connection between democracy and elections – but nearly everyone intends to vote in the country's June poll.

Indonesians also feel cautiously optimistic about their country's direction and future despite their concerns about the economy, according to the first nationwide survey of Indonesians' views.

Lusa - March 16, 1999

Jakarta – More than 200 East Timorese have reportedly been paid sums equivalent to between 50 and 100 euros to take part in a Wednesday pro-Indonesia demonstration in front of the Jakarta residence where East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao is held under house arrest.

Jakarta Post - March 16, 1999

Jakarta – The General Elections Commission (KPU) has set up a seven-member team, called the Team of Seven, to make a draft electoral code of conduct and stipulate internal rulings.

Commission chairman Rudini said it selected seven names from the 53-member commission to form the small team on the issues.

Dow Jones Newswires - March 16, 1999

Jay Solomon, Jakarta – Abdurrahman Wahid, the chairman of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, ruled out supporting opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri for president. Instead, he said NU and its main political arm, the National Awakening Party, or PKB, would back either himself or the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamungkubuwono X.

March 15, 1999

Jakarta Post - March 15, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – The 53 members of the newly established National Elections Committee (KPU) are to convene on Monday morning to discuss a draft code of conduct for election campaigning, which includes a ban on mass mobilization of supporters.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 15, 1999

Michelle Grattan – Australians could be in East Timor by late next month as part of a United Nations contingent helping to plan for a July-August election on independence.

Agence France Presse - March 15, 1999

Jakarta – Leftist author Pramudya Ananta Toer hailed by international critics as Indonesia's leading modern novelist but gagged here until the fall of Suharto, is travel abroad for the first time in 40 years, Fordham University said Monday.

Toronto Star - March 15, 1999

Martin Regg Cohn, Pusong – As Muslim worshippers ambled toward the onion-shaped domes of the village mosque, truckloads of combat troops moved into position. For the soldiers lying in wait, the noon call to prayer was their cue to attack.

Kompas - March 15, 1999 (BBC summary)

Jayapura – Irian Jaya Governor Freddy Numberi has confirmed that the government has rejected the Irian Jaya people's demand for the independence of West Papua (Irian Jaya) which representatives of the Irian Jaya people conveyed to President B.J. Habibie during a recent dialogue.

Reuters - March 15, 1999

Ambon – Indonesian forces on the ravaged island of Ambon have been ordered to shoot residents who refuse to surrender weapons, a senior commander said.

"The security apparatus will take the policy of asking the people to surrender their weapons voluntarily at least three times," Colonel Karel Ralahalu told a news conference late on Sunday.

March 14, 1999

Reuters - March 14, 1999

Andrew Marshall, Dili – East Timor, according to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, is "nothing but rocks." And if this impoverished region chooses independence, it faces the daunting task of building an economy from rubble.

Agence France Presse - March 14, 1999 (abridged)

Dili – The first Portuguese diplomat to visit East Timor since Indonesia's 1975 invasion met with the troubled territory's two Roman Catholic bishops Sunday, amid reports of renewed factional violence.

Agence France Presse - March 14, 1999

Sydney – The Indonesian government remained committed to releasing jailed resistance leader Jose Xanana Gusmao from house detention, possibly before a vote on the future of East Timor, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an interview screened here.

Reuters - March 14, 1999

Soraya Permatasari, Jakarta – Indonesia's textile industry, once a significant national breadwinner, has withered into a shadow of its former self under the strains of the country's deep economic crisis.

Huge exposures to foreign borrowings and expensive raw materials have undermined what was a major export earner.

Associated Press - March 14, 1999

Geoff Spencer, Ambon – Indonesian soldiers raided homes and searched boat passengers Sunday in a security crackdown on the island of Ambon to quell fighting between Christians and Muslims that has killed more than 200 people in less that two months.

Despite their efforts, 15 houses were burned near a military hospital after nightfall.

Sunday Times (London) - March 14, 1999

Labour is exporting more guns and other military equipment to Indonesia than the Tories – in spite of Robin Cook's much-vaunted "ethical" foreign policy. Sales of small arms, including machineguns, have even doubled under Labour.