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PRD demands release of political prisoners

SiaR - July 31, 1998

Jakarta – Around one hundred people from the People's Democratic Party (PRD), Papuan People's and the East Timore People's jointly demonstrated in front of the offices of the Minister of Justice on Thursday, July 31. They demanded that the government immediately release all political prisoners without conditions.

The action which began at around 10.30am ran smoothly but they failed to meet with Justice Minister Muladi because he was in Bali. However this did not diminish their spirits. They still made speeches, sang songs of struggle and hold up banners reading "People's Democratic Party" and "Free All Political Prisoners Without Conditions".

They were eventually received by Suyanto, an official from the Director Generals office in the Department of Justice and the Secretary General of the Department in the office grounds. During the action they read a statement from the PRD and one from the political prisoners in Cipinang jail.

In the statement the PRD said that the fourth wave of the release of political prisoners was wrong. This was because it did not reflect a genuine desire by the Habibie government to carry out total reform as proven by its failure to give amnesty to the other 200 political prisoners.

"This means that the Habibie government is placing the political enemy's of the Suharto regime as their political enemy's also", said the statement, which as signed by PRD chairperson Budiman Sudjatmiko PRD General Secretary Petrus Haryanto.

The PRD strongly criticised the Habibie government for still maintaining conditions on the release of political prisoners – that it did not included G30S/PKI* prisoners, those who tried to change the state ideology [of Pancasila] and those involved in criminal acts and armed rebellion.

Four PRD members were included in the list of political prisoners which were released in the fourth wave along with 46 others. They are Wilson bin Nurtias, Ken Budha Kusumandaru (both from the Cipinang prison), Coen Husein Pontoh and Mohamad Soleh (Kalisosok prison, Surabaya).

While the chairperson of the PRD, Budiman Sudjatmiko, PRD secretary Petrus Haryanto, Suroso, Pranowo, I Gusti Agung Anom Astika (who are being held in Cipinang), Garda Sembiring (Tangerang prison) and the chairperson of Indonesian Centre for Labour struggle, Dita Sari (Tangerang Women's prison), have not received amnesty from the Habibie government.

"Their release has no meaning at all for the four or the PRD generally. Because all of the PRD members who have been jailed are the victims of the manipulation of the Suharto regime which was unable to prove its case against them in court", said the statement.

They consider that the release of the four PRD members is only "lip-service" so that the Habibie government will be seen to have freed the PRD. But according to the government, in truth the PRD are still considered to be in the wrong because their members are still in jail, and the PRD is still a banned organisations which may not engage in political activity.

"We demand that the government free all of the political prisoners with out it becoming a trade-off for foreign aid", said Budiman in the statement.

* G30S/PKI: Gerakan 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.

[Translated by James Balowski. On August 7, the state news agency, Antara, reported that the Minister of Justice, Muladi, has announced that the government will soon release more political prisoners. No figure was mentioned but he said that the Xanana Gusmao would not be included in the list. He did say that PRD prisoners would be considered and that some elderly (1965) prisoners would be included.]