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PRD not frightened by been declared a 'banned organisation'

Info-Pembebasan (Liberation) - September 28, 1997

[The following is a translation of an interview sent to ASIET by the underground Peoples Democratic Party (PRD)]

Reports have been heard recently among pro-democracy activists of a plan by the New Order dictatorship to announce that the Peoples' Democratic Party and a number of other groups will be declared "banned organisations" (Organisasi Terlarang, OT). As reported by SiaR on September 27, 32 organisations which are part of the Indonesian Peoples' Council (Majelis Rakyat Indonesia, MARI) will be declared as banned organisations. According to information we have obtained, the announcement of the bannings will be made on September 30, at the same time as the G30S (1) commemorations. Consequently, the organisation which are to be declared banned will clearly be identified with the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI).

What follows is an interview with Mirah Mahardika, a leader of the Central Leadership Committee of the PRD (KPP-PRD) and Pembebasan (Libearation) on the question.

Liberation (L): The PRD are to be declared a banned organisation. Do you have any comments about this?

Mirah (M): We are not worried. Since the PRD's declaration by Bung (2) Budiman [Sujatmiko, jailed chair of the PRD] we have explicitly stated that the PRD does not need recognition from the authorities. What we want is recognition from he people. So from the start we have not cared whether our party is banned, its leaders jailed and so on. We have already shown that since the July 27, 1996 crackdown, when the PRD was accused of being the mastermind behind the riots [following July 27] and when its activists became fugitives from justice... that we are no longer recognised by the dictatorship. We no longer have formal legal protection. The people are prepared to house PRD and its mass organisation's activists. The people give us food for as long as we are hunted. The people where we hid protect us. Without the support of the people, certainly we would all be arrested... so we only need the recognition and support of the people. Only that. P: In declaring the PRD a banned organisation, does that mean that the military is free to arrest all PRD activists...

M: The military has always been free to arrest anyone. The military always trample over the law and human rights. Since the July 27 crackdown the military has tried to arrest us, but didn't arrest all of us. And now we are conducting our struggle underground. No one knows the location of our secretariat, who the leaders of the PRD are. So how are they going to arrest us? So in practice, especially for the PRD, it will be no different if the PRD are declared a banned organisation or not.

P: What do you think caused the dictatorship to want to declare the PRD and a number of other groups as banned organisations. Why not earlier, for example after the PRD was accused of being the masterminds behind July 27?

M: Firstly, this is in the interests of the dictatorship's propaganda. The dictatorship always tries to frighten the people by what they refer to as the latent threat of the PKI. It is used by the regime so that people will be suspicious of movements which challenge the authorities. To create a phobia against the pro-democracy movement. According to the dictatorship, the pro-democracy movement is the PKI in new clothing. And according to the regime, is the PKI also not evil?

Secondly, the authorities are under ever more pressure from the pro-democratic movement. The immoral political acts carried out by the authorities to kill the pro-democratic movement have clearly not been effective. Look at the arrests and jailings of pro-democratic activists, the removal of Megawati [as leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party, PDI], the attack on the pro-Megawati PDI offices, the torture of activists, the killing of critical journalists, the terror by the military intelligence and the Pancasila Youth (Pemuda Pancasila) and other kinds of detestable political acts by the government... and what was the result? The result was that the people continued to resist. Thousands of mercenaries were mobilised to silence the people, but still they resisted (3). Despite the propaganda, lies and slander used to vilify pro-democratic groups, the people continued to be sympathetic to the pro-democratic movement. All kinds of "taboo" (4) methods were justified (5), but without success. So declaring [the PRD and other groups] as banned organisations is just a new method which [the regime] hopes will be able to extinguishing the pro-democratic movement. But that's all it is, a hope. It's yet to be proven [effective], ha, ha...

P: So the declaration [of the PRD and other groups] as banned organisations will not be effective?

M: We don't know what will happen. But for the PRD it really has no meaning. We have already demonstrated this since July 27. With regard to other organisations, we pray and hope that it does not cause the movement to retreat. Hopefully the announcement will spur on pro-democratic groups to further improve the quality of the struggle, tighten their ranks and strengthen their organisational structures, harden their cadres, and sharpen their thinking; and most importantly, increase their courage.

P: But the July 27 crackdown caused a number of pro-democratic groups to retreat. Won't the declaration of banned organisations also be so? M: Perhaps there will be some who will be frightened. Certainly the quality of different organisations are not the same. Perhaps there will be some which become more moderate if they are named as banned organisations, or will dissolve themselves. Perhaps there will also be those who become even more radical and militant. But I think this is also a selection process for the organisations struggling for democracy in Indonesia. Let the people see for themselves which organisations are capable of becoming a political vehicle for them. Only those organisations who are able break through the barriers erected by the dictatorship will be able to accompany the people into a brighter world, a democratic Indonesia.

P: Do you have a message for the Indonesian people and PRD cadres?

M: To the cadres throughout Indonesia, my message is that there is no need to panic if the PRD is declared a banned organisation. It will have no effect. We already have a security system which has proved itself in protecting us and our party since the military crackdown last year. Furthermore, our first National Congress [held August 30-31, 1997] was able to further consolidate and tighten the our organisational structures. My second message is that in declaring the PRD a banned organisation, I hope this will push all of us to be more disciplined and careful. But remember, being careful is not the same as being afraid!

To the Indonesian people, I say do not be provoked by the announcement that a number of organisations will be banned. Gather and organise your relatives, friends and colleagues to win democracy and overthrow the Suharto dictatorship. Launch struggles everywhere. But do not to the point where it becomes and issue of SARA (6), such as the attacks against Christians and our Chinese brothers and sisters. Because what causes our suffering is not our Christian and Chinese brothers and sisters, but the economic and political system of the New Order which is unjust and oppressive. The issue of SARA will only weaken us and divide the strength of the people. We must unite all of the peoples' strength in the of the overthrow of the aging New Order dictatorship.

Translators notes:

1. G30S/PKI: Garakan 30 September/Partai Komunis Indonesia, the September 30 Movement/Indonesian Communist Party. An acronym referring to the alleged coup attempt in 1965 which the New Order regime blamed on the PKI. G30S was a grouping of middle ranking officers lead by Lieutenant Colonel Untung, who kidnaped and killed six generals whom they accused of being members of a "Council of Generals" allegedly organising a coup against president Sukarno.

2. Bung: Brother or comrade. The original term used was "pemberontakan".

3. "Pembrontakan" is closer in meaning to "rebellion", "revolt", "uprising" or "mutiny" rather that resist. The original word was "haram", an Islamic term meaning forbidden, prescribed.

4. The original word was "menghalalkan", derived from the Islamic term "halal", to allow or permit something, to make it kosher.

5. Sara: Suku, agama, ras dan antar golongan, An acronym meaning ethnic, religious, racial and inter-group conflicts. A loosely defined term with negative connotations, it is frequently used by the regime to describe conflicts which are deemed to threaten "national unity" or "stability" and are at odds with the state ideology of Pancasila and the concept of "unity in diversity".

[Translated by James Balowski]