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'Subversive' folk hero urges poll boycott

South China Morning Post - April 22, 1997

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – An activist on trial for the capital crime of subversion yesterday lambasted President Suharto, the Government and court system and challenged Indonesians to boycott next month's elections.

"We refuse to go on with this trial... We will take all responsibility, we don't care how many years we will be in jail. Even the death sentence," said Budiman Sujatmiko, leader of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), in Central Jakarta District Court.

Sujatmiko, 27, and nine of his PRD colleagues were arrested after the July 27 riots in Jakarta last year and charged with subversion.

The Government has accused the PRD of being a communist organisation that helped mastermind the riots.

Sujatmiko and his colleagues have denied any involvement in the unrest that left at least five people dead and 124 injured.

Wearing a red bandana and scarf bearing the Russian-style star of the PRD, Mr Sujatmiko began his three-hour speech by sacking his team of six lawyers. He said they could not help him and his friends find justice in such a corrupt legal system.

"This is something I have to do alone now," Sujatmiko said, embracing his lawyers as they filed out of the packed courtroom to cheers from the crowd.

About 50 riot police secured the courtroom and court building.

The young activist, now a folk hero in Indonesia revered by radical students and activists across the country, said the PRD would continue to support embattled opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Ms Megawati led the Indonesian Democracy Party until she was ousted at a rebel faction congress last June, at the Government's and military's behest.

Speaking in court, Sujatmiko ridiculed his trial as "worthless", citing what he claimed were numerous procedural violations.