[This is a slightly summarised translation of an account of events in Sorong, West Papua on 2 July by IHRSTAD, the Jayapura-based Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy - Tapol.]
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
July 6, 1998
July 5, 1998
Jakarta – A Coalition of the Democratic Movement (Koalisi Garakan Demokrasi), which will gather together political [opposition] figures outside of the government, will soon form a pressure group and "moral force" to push for total reform.
Amy Chew, Jakarta – Social pressures are building in Indonesia, where nearly half the population is forecast to be living below the poverty line by the end of the year as jobs dry up and prices soar.
July 4, 1998
Jakarta - The Indonesian military has apologized for shooting at and wounding students during a pro-independence demonstration in the remote province of Irian Jaya, witnesses and press reports said Saturday. Local military commander Colonel Samuel Josef made a public apology Friday in the provincial capital of Jayapura, where the shooting took place, the Kompas daily said.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – On the first day the strike seemed pretty ordinary: hundreds of steel workers milling outside the factory gates on the industrial fringe of Jakarta demanding better food, time off to pray and better wages to cope with rocketing prices.
July 3, 1998
Jakarta – Leading human rights campaigners have dismissed a bill on street protests as the government's bid to restrict citizens' rights to freely express ideas rather than a serious effort to respect freedom of expression.
Jakarta – Three hundred workers dismissed or laid-off from 22 companies in the Greater Jakarta area demonstrated again yesterday demanding that Minister of Manpower Fahmi Idris step down for failing to help them.
United Nations – The United Nations said Thursday it has made no formal proposals to settle the issue of the status of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, annexed in 1976 by Indonesia.
The Darwin-based East Timor International Support Center (ETISC) received information, late this evening, that "nindja" groups have been mobilised by the Indonesian military (Abri) to terrorise East Timorese supporting a referendum for the troubled territory.
Padang – Influential Indonesian Moslem leader Amien Rais on Friday backed a referendum on the future of East Timor. Rais, leader of the 28-million-strong Islamic group Muhammadiyah, said a referendum could be held under the supervision of international agencies.
Jakarta – Since Monday June 29, thousands of traders in the village of Kerang Tengah, in the sub-district of Ciledung, Tangerang, have occupied nine hectors of land owned by PT Bogasari. The same thing was done by thousands of traders from North Jakarta on land owned by PT Subentra in the village of Harjamukti Cimanggis in Bogor, West Java.
July 2, 1998
Jakarta – Indonesia's leading independent trade union has called off all planned demonstrations following appeals from the public and businessmen, its leader said on Thursday.
Irwan Firdaus, Dili – A military court sentenced an Indonesian soldier to 10 years in prison Thursday for killing an East Timorese civilian. Prosecutors accused 2nd Sgt. Slamet, 23, of shooting Herman dos Dores Soares on June 16 in the town of Manatuto, 37 miles east of Dili. They said the victim had been collecting wood by a roadside.
Jakarta – The Ministry of Manpower announced yesterday it will increase minimum wages by an average of 15 percent from August 1. The move is intended to arrest the decline in real wages caused by soaring inflation, Director General of Industrial Relations and Labor Standards Mohammad Syaufii Samsuddin said.
Andrew Marshall, Jakarta – Indonesia is on the edge of an abyss. The country is lurching towards economic disintegration, analysts say, and the only thing that can halt its catastrophic decline is a return of the investor confidence which collapsed last year to set the crisis in motion.
Margot Cohen, Pekanbaru, Riau – A tribal leader reaches over to grasp the gnarled, arthritic hand of a local elder. He straightens one finger and holds it upright. "This is good politics," he announces to the illiterate men, women and children crouched around him on the bare wooden floor. They nod their heads and smile shyly.
July 1, 1998
[In July we interviewed Muhammad Ma'ruf, chief-editor of Pembebasan-Liberation, paper of the Indonesian PRD.]
What is the meaning of the May unrest in Indonesia which led to the downfall of Suharto?
[Belgian trade union activist Mark Slane visited Indonesia in July. These are his impressions on the development of the working class movement after the May events.]
Jakarta – Troops yesterday opened fire with rubber bullets on more than 1,000 workers who were demonstrating for better pay and conditions at a steel factory in Jakarta's Bekasi district, slightly injuring 23 people, residents and police said.
Jakarta – President BJ Habibie has recalled 41 People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) members, part of whom were former high-ranking government officials in former president Soeharto's administration.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Activists and parliamentarians yesterday welcomed a compromise offer from East Timorese independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta on the future of the disputed territory.
Jakarta – Hundreds rioted against a local leader on an eastern Indonesian island on Monday, as sporadic violence hit the country for the second day, news reports said yesterday.
In July we interviewed Muhammad Ma'ruf, chief-editor of Pembebasan-Liberation, paper of the Indonesian PRD.
What is the meaning of the May unrest in Indonesia which led to the downfall of Suharto?
June 30, 1998
Jakarta – Minister of Defense and Security Affairs/Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto admitted yesterday he is still personally close to former president Soeharto but insisted the relationship did not influence Armed Forces decision-making.
Jakarta – Police and soldiers fired rubber bullets on thousands of steel workers staging a violent protest in a West Java town Tuesday, injuring dozens of people.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesian intelligence officers opened fire on East Timorese demonstrators during a visit by three European Union ambassadors to the coastal town of Baucau yesterday, as anti-Indonesian street rallies escalated across the contested territory.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesian soldiers were involved in the disappearances of pro-democracy activists earlier this year, the Commander of the Armed Forces, General Wiranto, has conceded after months of official denials that the military was linked to the abductions, torture and illegal detentions.
June 29, 1998
Jakarta – Government officials and entrepreneurs involved in corruption, collusion and nepotism are parking their money overseas, a newspaper here has reported.
Christopher Torchia, Jakarta – When traffic lights blink red at big intersections, beggars, vendors and street musicians swarm around cars, insistently tapping on rolled-up windows. Cadgers abound now in Jakarta, the jobless victims of a yearlong economic crisis in Asia that refuses to let up. Most evenings, two dozen hustlers jostle on a curb near a cluster of luxury hotels.
Indonesian military along with the Governor Abilio Jose Osorio, forced civilian population, civil-servants and young boys to hold a counter demonstration during the time of Europe Union Ambassadors Delegation visit. All companies and businessman have to provide their cars, without exception for the transportation of demonstrators.
Jakarta – Indonesia's parliament Monday approved a proposal to hold a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to change electoral laws and set the date for general elections. The proposal was made by President B.J. Habibie.
Sander Thoenes, Jakarta – Indonesia will need to use taxpayers' money to bail out some of its banks, further depleting a budget already saddled with an 8.5 per cent deficit, according to a senior International Monetary Fund official.
June 28, 1998
Dili – Security concerns forced three European Union (EU) ambassadors to abandon plans Sunday to attend a mass and visit a university in East Timor, protocol officials said. The change in plans followed clashes in the capital Dili on Saturday between pro-and anti-Indonesian East Timorese around the arrival of the visitors in the troubled former Portuguese colony.
Dili - With the delegation of European Union Ambassadors having set foot on Dili, East Timor's capital, less than an hour on Saturday, riots started in this city of some 170,000 inhabitants. Stone-throwing bouts broke out in the heart of the city between pro-integration plus pro-autonomy groups and those demanding a referendum.
London – During the past week, the Habibie regime has announced two measures which it hopes will persuade the international community that it is dedicated to upholding human rights and to a switch in policy towards East Timor. On Friday 24 July, the Justice Minister Muladi announced the release of fifty political prisoners.
North Sumatra – Members of the parliamentary (DPR) fact-finding team in Aceh held a meeting at the office of the NGO, WALHI, in Bandar Aceh to receive testimony from victims of violations in Aceh. They were moved to tears from some of the testimony they heard.
Dili – Thousands of people shouting "independence or death" on Sunday mobbed a three-man European Uniondelegation in troubled East Timor, witnesses said. The chanting crowd, estimated at some 6,000 and made up mostly of students and youths, ran alongside and behind the car carrying the three ambassadors.
June 27, 1998
[This is the detailed chronology of events from June 27-June 29, from the EU Ambassadors' visit to Dili to the tragic shootings in Baucau. The following information was supplied to East Timor International Support Centre by Yayasan Hak (Rights Foundation). The original report was in Bahasa Indonesia - ETISC.]
Dili – Indonesian troops shot dead one man and seriously wounded two others when rival groups of protesters clashed in a town in East Timor Saturday, witnesses said.
June 25, 1998
Jakarta – Indonesia's government has confiscated millions of dollars of reforestation funds from firms associated with former President Suharto, a senior minister said yesterday. Forestry and Plantations Minister Muslimin Nasution said the funds were retrieved after an investigation into the way the previous administration had re-routed money into Suharto-linked firms.
Jakarta – Megawati Soekarnoputri tops the list by a big margin in a nationwide survey asking people about who they would like to be president. The survey, organized by the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI)'s camp loyal to Megawati, was advertised in various local newspapers last week.
By John McBeth and Michael Vatikiotis in Jakarta – With the army's newfound support, President B.J. Habibie has a stronger chance of guiding his country along the tortuous course of political and economic reform. The following stories look at the challenges he faces, introduce the aides who have refurbished his image, and point to some powerful friends in Malaysia and Germany.
Jakarta – Political forces loyal to former president Soeharto have enormous financial resources at their disposal to engineer a legitimate comeback during the coming elections, politician Soegeng Sarjadi warned here yesterday.
Jakarta – Some 50 people attacked and looted a shopping centre in Indonesia's East Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo on Thursday after a protest rally turned violent, the official Antara news agency reported.
Jakarta – What would be the right present for Habibie on his 62nd birthday? A demonstration. That is what around 200 pro-democracy activists under the banner of the Committee for Total Reform (Komite Reformasi Total, KRT), gave him on Thursday morning (25/6), in front of his residence at Jl. Patra 14, Kuningan Jakarta.
Jakarta – About 500 students staged a protest at the headquarters of Golkar yesterday, calling for the expulsion of two children of former president Soeharto from the dominant political organization.
Muchtar Pakpahan, chair of the SBSI, the Indonesian Prosperity Labour Union has plans to set up a National Workers Party to take on board the political aspirations of workers throughout Indonesia. He has asked Megawati Sukarnoputri to head this party.
Surabaya – The Indonesian army more than doubled its presence at a strike-hit Surabaya factory complex on Thursday as a separate union protest gathered around the local parliament.
Grainne Mccarthy, Jakarta – Indonesia's fourth agreement with the International Monetary Fund was greeted with resounding silence in financial markets Thursday, with many analysts dismissing its budgetary targets as still far too unrealistic.