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Overthrow Suharto with a people's uprising

PRD - December 7, 1997

[The following is a translation of a statement sent to ASIET (Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor) by the Central Leadership Committee of the People's Democratic Party (KPP-PRD) commemorating the invasion of East Timor, December 7, 1975 - ASIET.]

23 years ago, the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), acted despicably and shamefully. They invaded a neighboring country which had only just proclaimed its independence, the Democratic Republic of East Timor. A country which had only just freed itself from the jaws of the "Portuguese Tiger" – was soon swallowed by "Suharto's Tiger". As a consequence of the invasion, thousands of East Timorese people died along with thousands of Indonesian soldiers – who were only the tools of Suharto. Since then, more than 250,000 souls – one-third of the population of East Timor – have died because of the brutality of ABRI.

The harshness of the Suharto dictatorship has not just been applied against the East Timorese but also against its own nation. Since taking power through a military coup in 1965, Suharto has frequently carried out evil political [acts] in slaughtering his own people. The following are examples of the brutality of ABRI:

  • Just in order to talk power, Suharto organised the murder of around two million people; members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), those suspected of being PKI and other supporters of Bung Karno (1). A number were also jailed without trial and became forced labourers on Pulau Baru (2);
  • On September 12, 1984, Suharto's soldiers butchered around 63 Muslims in Tanjung Priok;
  • In February 1989, ABRI slaughtered around 127 Muslims in Lampung;
  • In July 1993, ABRI shot two Islamic scholars at Hour Koneng;
  • In September 1993, four people [in Madura] were shot by ABRI because they refused to be evicted from their land;
  • The killing of around 2000 Muslims in Aceh who were struggling for independence;
  • The slaughter of Ujung Padang students;
  • The attack and slaughter of HKBP Christians in Medan;
  • The attack and slaughter of pro-Megawati Indonesian Democratic Party cadre at their offices;
  • The slaughter of the people of West Papua struggling for independence.

To maintain power the Suharto dictatorship uses other vile methods including terror, abductions, extra-judicial killings as happened to the Bernas journalist, Udin (3), along with jailing pro-democracy activists.

The ABRI invasion of East Timor is an act which clearly cannot be accepted by any nation, including Indonesia itself. This act means to destroy right of other sovereign nations and clearly contradicts the preamble to the 1945 Constitution. Because of this, the People's Democratic Party (PRD), since its declaration in July 1996, made a clear resolution to reject the invasion of East Timor and demand a referendum [under the auspices of] the United Nations for self-determination for the East Timorese people.

As a consequence of this view, the PRD chose to struggle alongside the East Timorese – to face the same enemy – Suharto's New Order. We are certain that the struggle for democracy in Indonesia cannot be separated from the struggle for self-determination in East Timor. The struggle to overthrow Suharto will be easier if the East Timorese continue their resistance. Conversely, the East Timorese struggle for self-determination will become easier after Suharto's overthrow and when ABRI is isolated from politics.

Because of this, the people of East Timor and Indonesia must have one joint agenda which must be shouldered together, the overthrow of the Suharto dictatorship. Suharto must be attacked from a number of fonts: from Indonesia, from East Timor and also from international forums. In this way Suharto's political space will become narrower, his supporters less and his power weaker.

The dictatorship is currently facing all kinds of criticism. Firstly there is a political crisis; everywhere the people are continuing to resist. Riots occur everywhere, one after the other, again and again. The military is obviously unable to handle the riots which are not organised, but a spontaneous act by the people. The power of arms cannot stem the people, many of whom have lost their fear because of the weight of their suffering. ABRI can only turn the issue to become an issue of SARA (4) so that it does not threaten the authorities directly.

At international forums Suharto is more and more isolated. The international community is increasingly aware of the Suharto regime's brutal acts in its colonisation of East Timor, oppression of the prodemocratic movement and its contempt for human rights. A number of times Suharto has been demonstrated against by the people of other countries such as in Dresden a number of years ago, the demonstration by the COSATU trade union in South Africa and several days ago in Vancouver, Canada, during the APEC Summit.

Suharto's isolation in international forums is also reflected in the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two East Timorese figures, Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo. This indicates the level the world community's sympathy toward the East Timorese. And this made the Suharto regime even less popular in the eyes of its own people and the international community.

As well as the political crisis, the dictatorship and other Asian nations are also facing an economic crisis. Although already getting assistance from the International Monetary Fund, this crisis will not improve. Instead it is getting worse: the value of the Rupiah has declined further, the value of shares continues to fall, we are facing the threat of hyper-inflation, the sacking of millions of workers and increased unemployment. There is no indication that the New Order is capable of dealing with this problem.

There is no hope that Suharto wishes to – or is capable of – reforming the political and economic sphere. At each stage of this terrible crisis, Suharto has maintained an attitude of conservatism. A number of paths to reform have already been tightly blocked by oppressive laws and the power of the military. The general elections which should be a tool to channel the aspirations of the people through constitutional change have been manipulated, are fraudulent and carried out under the guns of ABRI. The elections have become no more than a tool for Suharto to maintain his power. The members of parliament who will hold the MPR (5) session in March, 1998, are all loyal to Suharto.

There is no other way to changing the economic and political system except through Suharto's down fall. There is no way to overthrow Suharto except by a peoples' uprising. If there is no longer any democracy the people have the right to make a revolution! If the people no longer believe in the law they have the right to take up arms!

Now is the time to call for Suharto to step down! And this call will only come from the mouths of the millions of poor and oppressed people – not from the members of parliament who have been coopted by Suharto! Because of this, we must organise with the people to confront Suharto's power.

The PRD calls for:

  1. Lunching radical and confronting actions in all Indonesian cities and at Indonesian Embassies overseas demanding:
    • Overthrow Suharto with a peoples' uprising!
    • A referendum for self-determination for the East Timorese people!
    • Abolish the dual function of the military!
    • Withdraw the five repressive political laws!
  2. Boycott the MPR session in March 1998!
  3. Form groups to struggle against Suharto's power!

Jakarta, 7 December 1997
Mirah Mahardika

Translators notes:

1. Bung Karno: Brother/Comrade Sukarno. An affectionate term still widely used by Indonesians to refer to the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno.

2. Pulau Baru: Literally "New Island", Baru Island is part of the Maluku islands group located in the western part of the archapeligo and is was used to intern "class B" political prisoners (prisoner who could not be tried for lack of evidence but were "known" to be guilty). According to Amnesty International, in 1969 it was estimated that 117,000 people were imprisoned there.

3. Udin: (Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin) was a journalist with the Yogyakarta based newspaper Bernas who was beaten to death in his home in August 1996. At the time he was investigating a corruption case involving the regent of Bantul (about 10 kilometers from Yogyakarta), Sri Rosa Sudarmo. Despite the fact that Sudarmo was implicated in the murder, he was never questioned by police. Instead Dwi Sumaji, an employee of an advertising company, was plied with drink, provided with a prostitute, and promised money by police in return for confessing to Udin's murder. Although eventually brought to trial, on November 27, 1997, the case was thrown out by the Bantul district court for lack of evidence.

4. 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".

5. MPR: Mejalis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, People's Consultative Assembly. The highest legislative body in the country with 1,000 members, 425 of whom are elected with the remainder being appointed by the president. It meets once every five years (usually around a year after the general elections) to hear an outgoing report from the president, enact the Broad Outlines of State Policy (Garis Besar Haluan Negara, GBHN) and to vote on nominations for the president and vice-president.

[Translated by James Balowski]