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SEGERA refutes 'communist' accusations after successful mass action in Riau

Riau Today - May 1-2, 2007

Pekanbaru – Around 1,000 people from the Central People's Movement (SEGERA) have cancelled a May 1 overnight occupation of the offices of the Riau governor because their demands for an investigation into the appropriation of local people's land by the company PT. Arara Abadi have been met.

"We decided not to go ahead and stay there overnight because the results of our meeting with the Riau provincial government were quite satisfactory", said SEGERA Coordinator Suska Rinaldi when speaking with Riau Terkini after the meeting.

There were four points in the agreement that SEGERA considers satisfactory: police will investigate the violence perpetrated by PT. Arara Abadi, the central government will make a decision with regard to the land dispute between the company and local people, the Riau provincial government will allocate 9 billion rupiah to re-survey the disputed land and in June a public tender will be made to select an independent consultant to survey the land.

The SEGERA demonstrators arrived in some 20 trucks and from Jl. Cut Nya Dien held a long-march to the governor's office. Wearing headbands with the words SEGERA, the hundreds of demonstrator marched in file flying Riau Peasant Union (STR) flags with the symbols of a pick and red star. Also visible were flags from the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) and SEGERA itself.

In commemorating May Day, SEGERA also called on the government to increase the standard national wage to between 1.250.000 and 3.250.000 rupiah a month, (this includes wages for low-ranking soldiers and police), the abolition of 'invisible' fees for wage rises, employment opportunities for all job seekers, the abolition of contract labour systems and free education and healthcare for all Indonesians.

‘Communist’ accusations

Prior to this demonstration, SEGERA besieged governor's offices after mobilising around 3,000 demonstrators who then occupied the offices for four days.

The demonstration attracted considerable attention due to the militancy and cohesion of the protesters. The other apparent difference was the unusual symbols they used such as axes, picks and hoes on red flags which reminded people of the flag of the Indonesian Communist Party which was red with a symbol of the hammer and sickle.

It is these images that have resulted in accusations that SEGERA has a communist ideology. SEGERA Secretary General Riza Zulhelmi confirmed that such accusations had been made when being interviewed by dozens of journalists. "We don't understand why Mr. Said Amir Hamzah (the head of Riau BIKKB - Ed.) has made such accusations, that we have a communist ideology", he said.

Zulhelmi explained that Said's accusations were contained in a written report to Jakarta in which he said SEGERA has a communist political orientation. "But this accusation is untrue. Aside from ourselves, our friends from Walhi (Indonesian Environmental Foundation) have also assisted in getting these accusations straighten out", he asserted.

With regard to the symbols that give the impression of being leftist, socialist and communist, Zulhelmi explained that the symbol of an axe, hoe and sickle are a representation of oppression and resistance, while the colour red is the blood of the people. "With regard to our principles, we are based on populist democracy", he explained. (mad)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski from two articles that appeared in Riau Today on May 1 and 2. Despite having the same name, SEGERA Riau is not related to the Solidarity Movement with the People of Aceh.]

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