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PRD court statement summary

Tapol - 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. This is the section that deals with political structures under Suharto's New Order regime and lambasts the five political laws of 1985, which have been widely condemned by the pro-democracy movement in the past few years.]

This is not a 'pledooi' or defence plea but a Declaration of the PRD's Responsibility addressed to the Indonesian people, not to the courts that are trying us.

The fact that we have been accused of subversion demonstrates that the trial is political. The decision regarding our case rests with forces outside these walls. It has nothing to do with the law and everything to do with politics. There is no such thing as the separation of powers - Trias Politika - it's in the hands of a single man, General Suharto, backed by the armed forces, ABRI, as defenders of the Five Political Laws of 1985.

We are determined to serve the people of our beautiful country so as to ensure that it becomes the property of the people, with people's severeignty fully established.

We have chosen democracy, a political system with parties and a Parliament. It was for this purpose that soon after Indonesian independence was proclaimed, Vice-President Moh. Hatta issued Declaration X enabling people to set up political parties. It is only with the establishment of political parties that political power can be based on the people's will. It is unacceptable for anyone to be charged with subversion just because he or she understands this simple truth.

The events of 27 July 1996 were the culmination of a series of events going back to the internal disruption within the PDI under Megawati's leadership. The bloody onslaught against the PDI head office was the opening salvo of an operation by top army officers to clean up the forces of democracy. We first heard of this attack on the PDI office from one of our comrades, Garda Sembiring. We never believed that such a thing would happen because we thought that the political costs for the government and ABRI would be far too high. Little did we realise that the rulers had not only planned the scenario for the attack but had also decided who would be the scapegoat.

This scenario is reminiscent of the Reichstag Fire which paved the way to Hitler's rise to power. We stand here like the Dutch madman whom Hitler accused of being the communist responsible for a fire that had been started by Hitler himself. This is what gave Hitler the legitimacy to exterminate his political opponents.

Information about the events was reported in such a way as to imply that they were the result of a conspiracy to stage a rebellion, in which the PRD played the leading part. Yet the National Human Rights Commission said not a word about our being involved. As the Commission pointed out, the incident involved violations of the freedom of assembly and association, freedom from fear, freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment, the right to life, the right to the security of the person, and the right to property.

At the heart of the conflict was the question of people's sovereignty and the state of political life. Institutions of the state, the bureacracy and the military, interfered in the internal affairs of one of the parties.

Parties do not control the government and the military; on the contrary, the parties are totally dependent on the government. Under Law No. 3, 1985, the parties have been turned into nothing more than fraudulent electoral machines.

The PDI was the creation of this political system, the essence of which rests in the ability of its bureaucrats and military in interfere in the internal affairs of the political parties and the ability to silence all challenges to the system. As we, standing here, have experienced ourselves, we were only able to challenge the system by signing Interrogation Reports to be charged under a subversion law with the threat of a death sentence hanging over us. Such gagging methods are very effective indeed for rulers who have no moral, constitutional or historical legitimacy.

After the 27 July events, we young people in the PRD lived through very hard times, accused by the dictator General Suharto of being the reincarnation of the PKI and faced with the threat of his guns. The entire state apparatus, from top to bottom, was mobilised to conceal evils in society and alienate the people from the PRD. Even the mass media was forced to spread these lies.

The PRD came into existence in a situation in which none of the parties has the capacity to function independently or have roots in the community. The Suharto dictatorship accused the PRD of being the reincarnation of the PKI because, like the PKI, we have affiliated organisations - a workers union, a peasants union, a students union and a union of cultural workers. But all parties in the old days had similar structures. This is quite normal. Even GOLKAR has its mass organisations.

When the PDI showed signs of becoming an alternative party and restoring links with its mass basis, everything was done to prevent it from consolidating itself. Despite all attempts to prevent this from happening, the PDI was able, at its conference in December 1993 to elect Megawati Sukarnoputri as its chairperson. Under her leadership, the PDI was transformed from an electoral machine into a party dealing with peoples' problems. Issues like reform, the party's independence and upholding the sovereignty of the people were frequently mentioned in her speeches. It's one thing for ideas like these to be discussed in seminars or in journals but quite another thing if they are talked about before the masses.

In the eyes of the rulers, it was one thing for such matters to be raised by extra-parliamentary pro-democracy forces but quite another for them to be raised by a political movement that had representatives in Parliament. The combination of these forces, the extra-parliamentary and intra-parliamentary, terrified the New Order rulers, especially as the 1997 elections and the 1998 MPR session drew near. It gave a new meaning to party political life, with the rulers being forced to accept that this challenge had penetrated the very system which it had created.

From this platform, we want to unmask the system created in a conspiracy between the government and the armed forces. The falsehoods that have stifled the political life of the people are known as the Five Political Laws of 1985, the laws which became the bastion to defend and perpetuate the dictatorial powers of the New Order which is now more than 30 years old. Let us take a closer look at the the evil and falsehoods embedded in these five laws.

Pwrticipation by the people in the political process will always be bereft of meaning where people do not have the freedom to create their own independent parties. Article 1 of Paragraph (1) of Law No 3, 1985 on political parties names three parties, the PDI, the PPP and Golkar. Under this law, no other partiers are allowed to exist. Furthermore these parties are only allowed to have officials at the national capital, the provincial capitals and the district capitals. Below that, they may only have commissioners. This means that parties are prevented from having contact with the masses of the people down to the village level.

Article 10 of this Law establishes the principle of the floating mass, forcing people to become a-political. The people are only allowed a platform once every five years, at the time of an election. This aims to demonstrate that people are only interested in basic needs like food and clothing; their political rights, their concerns for their own future, have been sub-contracted to the rulers.

It is no exaggeration to say that the mass riots that have erupted in the past few months have occurred because people don't have any political channels through which to express their aspirations and find solutions to their problems.

Law No 8, 1985 on social organisations had a direct impact on destroying democratic life in Indonesia by placing social organisations under government guidance, giving the government powers to remove elected leaders if an organisation is deemed to have violated provisions of the Law. Furthermore these organisations may not affiliate to a political party. We state clearly that the basic objective of a political party is to struggle for the interests of its members and therefore needs affiliated organisations.

This Law puts social organisations into the regime's armpit, having destroyed their right to an independent existence. Furthermore the Law stipulates that there may only be a single organisation for each sector, an impossible state of affairs in a society which is so pluralistic in its culture and interests. The prime purpose of this Law is to prevent these organisations from getting involved in practical politics.

As for Law No 5, 1985 on a Referendum, the purpose of this Law was simply to protect the interests of the rulers. The Law is intended to prevent any move to amend the 1945 Constitution. Suharto said at the time that any move to end representation of the armed forces in Parliament would pose a threat to national security. A Referendum is supposed to be a way of testing the opinion of the general public, but not here in Indonesia, where the aim of a Referendum is to protect the interests of those in power.

The Law on Elections is profoundly anti-democratic. It regulates everything in very general terms, leaving it up to the Executive to work out the details. A general election is supposed to provide a constitution basis for changing the government. But under the New Order regime, it is nothing but a farce. It involves a huge squandering of money on somethings that has nothing to do with people's sovereignty. The purpose of the five-yearly exercise is nothing more than to legitimise the regime. All people should have the right to vote and be elected. But here, all candidates are screened according to very vague criteria. The purpose is simply to select individuals who are in tune with the rulers.

The Law says nothing about screening candidates. Article 19 says that candidates may be rejected if they fail to comply with Article 16 but Article 16 says nothing about screening; it only regulates material things. However, Article 19 says that the government will introduce regulations about the nomination of candidates. Presidential Decree No 10/1995 states that the Election Committee shall conduct investigations regarding the nomination of candidates, which only goes to show that the rulers can do just as they like.

The Election Law provides for the establishment of an Election Institute headed by the Minister of the Interior in Jakarta and Election Institutes in the provincial and district capitals, as well as vote-counting committees and voter-registration committees in every village.

This means that the election is completely in the hands of GOLKAR because all officials involved, from the Interior Minister down, are members of GOLKAR. Under such circumstances, how can the fairness of the elections possibly be guaranteed?

The election law turns the other contesting parties into nothing more than 'also-rans', without any chance of playing a significant role in the process. Everything is arranged in such a way that the men in power have conceptualised the system, they are the ones who implement it and and they are the ones who will win. Never imagine for a moment that it will be possible to have free, fair and honest elections until this Election Law has been replaced.

Any political system will have methods for recruitment of people to political positions. In a democracy this should be open and transparent but under the Five Laws, everything is hidden and conspiratorial. A Parliament should be the expression of people's sovereignty with powers to criticise and control the Executive but what we have here is a Parliament composed of people selected by those in power.

There is also a law providing for the appointment of 75 members of Parliament from the armed forces. They are chosen, not elected, and members of the armed forces do not vote. If the armed forces want to have members of Parliament, they should set up their own political party and take part in the election.

The force blocking democracy in Parliament is the alliance between GOLKAR and the armed forces. There can never been any rational, open political dialogue if one side threatens the other with the use of weapons. The method that has been devised for appointing representatives of the people is the most conservative, authoritarian and anti-democratic aspect of the election law.