APSN Banner

Political prisoners launch hunger strike

Agence France Presse - April 7, 1999

Jakarta – Several Indonesian political prisoners, including pro-democracy activist Budiman Sujatmiko, have gone on hunger strike to press their demand for a just and fair election in June, a report said Wednesday.

The prisoners belong to the People's Democratic Party (PRD) which was outlawed under president Suharto. They have refused offers of a pardon from Suharto's successor B.J. Habibie.

The fast at Jakarta's Cipinang jail started Tuesday, according to a party statement quoted by Antara news agency. It was signed by Sujatmiko, the party president, and its secretary general Petrus Hariyanto.

It was not immediately possible to confirm whether the hunger strike had started or how many had taken part in the action. Five members of the PRD are still serving jail sentences at Cipinang and one elsewhere.

The statement said the strike was to "raise the consciousness of all sides" that a free, democratic, honest and just election can only be held after certain requirements were met.

Among those were the ending of the military's role in politics, the freeing of political parties to pick their own ideology and the banning of money politics.

The PRD was banned by the Suharto government which cited its leftist tendencies and its alleged role in a riot here in July 1997. The Habibie government lifted the ban in August last year and it has been cleared to contest the polls.

Under a drive to free political prisoners as part of promised wide-ranging reforms, the government has also freed scores of prisoners including four of the 10 jailed PRD members.

Sujatmiko, who was sentenced to 13 years in 1997 for his alleged involvement in the riot, and five other PRD member have rejected a pardon. They say the Suharto government and not themselves were guilty of a crime.