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They fell into my trap, says Bintang

South China Morning Post - March 7, 1997

Joe Leahy – Sri Bintang Pamungkas says the Government has played into his hands by detaining him and senior members of his outlawed Indonesian United Democratic Party.

Bintang, the party's founder and chairman, claims his detention is part of a nationwide sweep on dissidents before the national election on May 29.

His wife, Ernalia Sri Bintang, quoted Bintang as making the statements after she met him and two fellow detainees yesterday.

She said the 50-year-old former MP had commented that their detention served only to highlight his cause.

"They are very healthy. When they came in they gave us a salaam merdeka ['long live freedom']," Ms Ernalia said. "Bintang said the Government walked right into his trap. Because of this, PUDI's programme has been given a higher profile.

"The people didn't know about it before because PUDI's following is very small. Now they want to find out."

After Bintang was thrown out of one of Indonesia's three official parties, the United Development Party, in 1995 for allegedly insulting President Suharto, he was sentenced to 34 months' jail on the same charges but until this week he was free pending a Supreme Court appeal.

Ms Ernalia also quoted Bintang as saying he recently received intelligence that all pro-democracy activists would be detained before the election.