An Indonesian election monitoring group says the government must share responsibility for widespread violence and unrest during the campaign for this week's general election.
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
May 26, 1997
Michael Shari, Kebumen – Abdurrahman Wahid starts the day with "good morning" instead of "salam alaikum." He wears street clothes and doesn't bother with an Islamic prayer cap unless he's actually praying. He has only one wife instead of the permitted four and asks that she cover her head with a scarf only on rare formal occasions.
Banjarmasin – The number of dead in the Siola Mitra Plaza shopping complex, in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, which burned in the riots which befell that town last Friday (23/5), continues to increase.
The Antara news agency mentions that until 18.00 on Sunday yesterday (25/5), already 131 totally burned corpses have been found on the second floor of the shopping complex.
[The attendance in court of two defence witnesses (a de charge), namely Mr Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao and Mr Sri Bintang Pamungkas did not eventuate on May 26 as scheduled.
Anthony Spaeth – No one doubts that Suharto will win big in next week's election, but volatile Indonesia already is starting to plan a political future without him
May 25, 1997
More than 130 people have died in a blaze set by rioters in the Indonesian province of South Kalimantan.
Michael Maher reports the fatalities are the result of the worst election violence seen in Indonesia in decades.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Indonesian officials have confirmed that at least 130 people died in a massive shopping center fire on the island of Borneo on Friday. As Jenny Grant reports from Jakarta, the blaze began during a riot on the last day of campaigning ahead of Thursday's general election.
May 24, 1997
Seth Mydans, Jakarta, – The Government displayed its power today, using tear gas, rubber bullets and an overwhelming armed presence on the streets of Jakarta, the capital, to quash attempts by its opponents to hold rallies on the last day of campaigning for next week's parliamentary election.
The 1997 general elections campaign ended with the occurrence of a number of riots in some fringe areas of the Capital. Riots also swamped Tangerang, Bekasi, Bangil (East Java) and Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan).
Keith B. Richburg – President Suharto gained a new distinction last week: With the fall of strongman Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, the Indonesian president's 30 years in power now rank him second in tenure, just behind Cuba's Fidel Castro, among the world's leaders.
May 23, 1997
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia's deposed democracy leader, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, announced yesterday she would boycott next week's national elections.
Her announcement came as the armed forces deployed 20,000 additional troops to secure the capital against further campaign violence.
May 22, 1997
Derwin Pereira, Jakarta – The Indonesian Armed Forces (Abri) has denied any involvement in the country's election violence, suggesting instead that the banned People's Democratic Party (PRD) was behind the recent unrest.
May 21, 1997
[Response to the slander by ABRI Social and Political Affairs Chief Syarwan Hamid, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) has masterminded the riots and unrest during the election campaign.]
May 20, 1997
The election campaign of the United Development Party (PPP) of the 14 May, 1997 succeeded in mobilising the critical masses on a broad scale. [Estimated at 1.5 million in Jakarta.] This campaign action was also characterised by the participation of supporters of the Megawati-PDI.
12.30 - Rain poured on the Cawang area and its surrounds. At this time, PPP masses were not yet visible in the areas of Otista, Dewi Sartika or Kalibata. The armed forces [ABRI] themselves had prepared three anti-personnel vehicles and wore stripped clothing and were fully armed, dispersed around the area of the Cawang toll road.
May 17, 1997
Jakarta – Renewed outbursts of campaign violence in several Indonesian towns, including the capital, left scores of people injured, reports said yesterday. In Jakarta, scuffles involving supporters of the ruling Golkar party and backers of the two opposition parties, broke out in at least three places, the Kompas daily said.
Indonesian military authorities say at least 73 people have been killed in clashes and traffic accidents associated with the campaign ahead of the country's general election.
Brigadier General Slamet Supriadi says despite the tensions and ongoing violence, military authorities guarantee Indonesia's security in the lead up to the May 29 general elections
Louise Williams, Jakarta – An elaborate scheme to grant Government employees two votes each in the coming national elections has raised fears that the Soeharto Government plans to cheat to maintain its majority in the face of growing opposition.
May 15, 1997
Lisbon – The Canadian Government is studying insistent Indonesian requests for closer relations between the military of the two countries. Jakarta is seeking training for its army and police, regular exercises with the Canadian Navy, and a military attachZ in Ottawa.
Lisbon – The special representative of the National Council for Maubere Resistance (CNRM) does not believe that the forthcoming round of talks between Portugal and Indonesia on East Timor will produce any concrete results.
Strasbourg – The European Parliament on Thursday urged the European Union to speak out against the Indonesian government, which it accused of stepping up repression in the run-up to national elections on May 29.
May 14, 1997
In Jakarta, hundreds of workers at the troubled Busang gold mine in East Kalimantan province, have taken four people hostage to back up demands for severance pay. Two Indonesian executives of Canadian-firm Bre-X Minerals and two Filipino geologists are being held.
Thirty-three of those arrested during a demonstration on 23 March 1997 at the Mahkota Hotel in Dili, East Timor during a visit to the territory by the United Nations Secretary-General's Personal Representative, Mr Jamsheed Marker, are detained in custody awaiting trial. It was previously believed that only 24 remained in custody.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesian security forces have announced a crackdown on supporters of the democracy leader Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri after her backers and the main Muslim party moved to forge an opposition alliance for the coming national elections.
May 13, 1997
Jakarta – Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse supporters of a Muslim-based minority party in two Indonesian towns, as tension rose ahead of the May 29 general election, residents and newspapers said yesterday. In all, clashes were reported in four towns in central Java on Sunday, all involving campaigning supporters of the United Development Party (PPP), they said.
May 12, 1997
Ong Hock Chuan, Jakarta – As the campaign for the Indonesian general elections on May 27 gathers steam, it has become evident that some of the followers of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was ousted as leader of one of the country's two opposition parties, are throwing their support behind the other opposition party.
Naomi Klein – I'm sitting in a downtown Vancouver coffee shop with Cicih Sukaesih, an Indonesian woman who used to work for Nike. She is telling me, with the help of a translator, about the conditions under which she glued together the soles of big white running shoes.
Greg Earl – If there was a silver lining to be found in the large Busang cloud that descended on Indonesia this week, Bob Hasan was probably always one of the most likely people to find it.
Robin Cook, Britain's new Foreign Secretary, today issued his Mission Statement of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at a press conference, the first time any government has made public its intentions in the realm of foreign policy.
The Mission Statement says among other things:
May 11, 1997
Jenny Grant, Pekalongan - The Muslim-backed United Development Party - or P-P-P rallied in this Central Java town of Pekalongan on Sunday as Jenny Grant reports from the riot-struck town, the local Chinese community feels it is under attack during the parliamentary election campaign.
Jakarta – A former prominent legislator whose book on President Soeharto's government was banned early this year has been charged with insulting the Indonesian leader, his lawyer said today.
May 10, 1997
Jakarta, the army and anti-riot solders backup and allowed youths, members of a Golkar mass organisation to attack and destroy homes and shops of people who were believed to resident's of the pro "Mega-Bintang-Rakyat" coalition. The army also allowed the youths to attack and throw rocks at PPP convoys.
May 9, 1997
Today on May 9, the national leadership of the PRD in coordination with the city leadership of the PRD in eight major cities (Lampung, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang, Surabaya, Palu and Manado) again carried out a graffiti and poster campaign calling on the Indonesian people to boycott the 1997 elections, which are unconstitutional, corrupt and do not promise change towards the
The London Times' diplomatic editor, Michael Binyon reported on 8 May that Robin Cook, the new Foreign Secretary, has told Foreign Office officials that the Government will take a much tougher line than the Conservatives on arms exports and may halt all weapons deliveries to countries with dubious human rights records, such as President Suharto's Indonesia.
Washington – Key members of the US government supported military assistance and training to Indonesia as the best tool to advance democracy there, despite recent calls to sanction it for human-rights violations.
Mr Doug Bereuter, chairman of the House sub-committee on the Asia-Pacific, said at a special hearing on US policy towards Indonesia, on Wednesday:
Early today, 9 May, the Central Committee, in coordination with committees in eight cities, Lampung, Bandung, Yogya, Solo, Semarang, Surabaya, Palu and Menado carried out a second graffiti action, putting up posters calling on the entire Indonesian people to boycott the unconstitutional and corrupt 1997 elections which will do nothing to bring about change and democratic reform.
In accordance with instructions of the KPP-PRD, today on May 9 between 2am and 3am West Indonesian Time (WIB), there was a graffiti action across Semarang.
What follows is a chronology:
May 8, 1997
Montreal – While trade ministers arrived in Montreal to talk about APEC, Warren Allmand, Bob White and other Canadian labour leaders, and Amnesty International also arrived to deliver a very different message.
Surabaya – After scores of AirLangga University (Unair) student held a Golput [White Movement, election boycott] action some time ago, yesterday it was the turn of around 100 17 August University (Untag) Surabaya students to hold a rally. They called themselves the Kelompok Aliansi Mahasiswa Untag untuk Keadilan (Untag Student Alliance Group for Justice, AMUK).
May 7, 1997
[We offer below a summary of the first part of the statement in court on 21 April made by nine activists of the Partai Rakyat Demokratik, the PRD, at the conclusion of their trial, a week before they were all sentenced.
May 6, 1997
The nine PRD activists who were found guilty and sentenced last week on charges of subversion have filed appeals against the verdict with the appeal court.
Susan Sim, Jakarta – The fabled Busang gold mine, once described as the richest find this century with a reputed 71 million ounces of gold, is a scam "without precedent in the history of mining anywhere in the world", a report has concluded.
[Odd indeed that the Suharto regime has chosen to take Buchori and not Soebadio to court for an act that was clearly the latter's responsibility. The reason is not difficult to find, the embarrassment of charging an elderly and highly respected politician from the Sukarno era. Tapol]
Democracy is at its nadir! The sentences meted out to the eleven PRD activists have proven that the New Order regime is an oppressive regime. It proves that fundamental differences of opinion are not allowed in this country. In the history of the world, only dictatorial regimes dare to put political parties on trial.
Former MP Sri Bintang Pamungkas was moved from a detention cell at the attorney-general's office [where he has been held since 6 March] to Cipinang Prison, Jakarta, to serve a 34 month sentence for insulting the president. This followed rejection of his appeal against the verdict by the Supreme Court on 11 April 1997.
May 5, 1997
Jenny Grant, Yogyakarta – Political tension in Central Java is rising after a series of clashes between rival party supporters. Jenny Grant reports from Yogyakarta the killing of a local gangster has added to the uneasiness.
The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) holds grave fears for the safety of four East Timorese men who were arrested on 30 March 1997 in the sub-district of Atabae, Bobonaro, by members of the SGI (Special Intelligence Unit) and Kopassus (Special Forces Command).
A Malaysian citizen and prominent human rights activist, Dr. Syed Husin Ali, was detained at Soekarno-Hatta airport, taken to the hotel where he was participant at a United Nations Seminar and NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine in Jakarta before being deported on 4th of May, by the Indonesian immigration and military.
Derwin Pereira, Jakarta – Indonesian soldiers broke up a demonstration by Muslim youths carrying mock coffins and flaming torches in the Central Java city of Yogjakarta as tensions between rival parties escalated in the run-up to this month's general election.
Eleven activists, including three East Timorese and a journalist, were arrested early today Monday when they entered a factory site in the south of England to protest against the export of armoured vehicles to Indonesia. Seven were released after being held by police for fifteen hours but the three East Timorese and the journalist are still in custody.