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Pro-Mega rally in Jakarta

ASIET - April 17, 1997

Between 10000 and 15000 PDI supporters massed on the streets of Jakarta on April 15 demanding that the elected leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), Megawati Sukarnoputri, be allowed to participate in the May 29 general elections.

According to Media Indonesia daily, Deputy chair of the pro-Mega PDI, Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno had a heated exchange with DPR security forces, asking them to open up the gate to led the crowd in but they refused to do so. In the end, members of the PDI fraction of Parliament came out and met the crowds.

The delegation led by Soetardjo read out an appeal to the MPR, the upper chamber calling on it to remind the government to respect the people's sovereignty and restore the political rights of the PDI members and the Megawati leadership, and urging the government to conduct the elections honestly. Among those signing the statement were twenty PDI functionaries who are still members of Parliament.

The Indonesian media reported the crowd to be around 5,000 while the Jakarta military commander, Major-General Sutiyoso, stated the crowd was 2000.

Eyewitness report

A Jakarta underground leader who was a part of the action told Green Left Weekly over the telephone:

I saw about 5000 people at 10.00am at parliament house. But by 12 noon there were more than 10,000. The masses filled all the left side of the Gatot Subroto toll road, from the cross over bridge to the parliament right down to the Mandala Wanabhakti building. So the masses were packed in about 70 meters by 3 meters deep. The toll had to be closed because it was packed with people. People had come from all around the country.

The military appeared "groggy" in the face of such a large crowd. There were six water cannon, several platoons of troops and nine helicopters in operation.

Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) comrades also participated in the action, starting up an open forum and raising the issue of the election boycott. The boycott issue received a very positive response from the masses. While some of the PDI leaders were nervous about the issue being raised, they did not ban election boycott chants. Indeed several banners from PDI chapters carried the slogan "elections without Megawati are not legitimate".

After the action, the East Jakarta PDI carried out a march and rally along the Gatot Subroto toll road causing a total traffic jam. The crowd kept up "Boycott the election" chants. The military wasn't able to do anything because any attack on the masses would have surely led to an anarchistic response by thousands of people..

The masses had already clashed once with the security foerces when they had been blocked from enetering the parliamentary compiund. They tore down the metal gates and passed them up onto to the toll raod and used them to block the road. The barbed wire fence along the toll road was also torn down.

The PDI officials issued a statement declaring that the elections were legally flawed, politically flawed, morally flawed and violated human rights. The indicated there would be more legal challenges. I think these legal challenges are also being used as arenas for mass mobilisations.