Indonesia Day of Action

Monday, October 28, 1996



On 28 October, the International Day of Action for Indonesia, a number of Canadian NGOs and church and labour groups join Indonesian activists and opposition politicians in calling for democracy in Indonesia. Our concerns are laid out in the attached joint statement addressed to Indonesian President Suharto and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien.


In 1965 - the "Year of Living Dangerously" - General Suharto swept to power in Indonesia, replacing then-President Sukarno in a bloody coup that claimed over half a million lives. He has ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for the last thirty-one years. But on July 27 this year, his attempt to shut down an opposition political party - the PDI, led by Sukarno's daughter Megawati - caused an unprecedented outburst of popular anger.

The Indonesian government has openly admitted to only three deaths, but some government representatives have privately said that they believe some 75 were killed that day. The National Human Rights Commission - a quasi-governmental organisation - has admitted that about 74 people are "missing" even now.

During the events of July 27, a blockade prevented journalists from covering the seizure of PDI headquarters. According to local sources, soldiers seized video footage belonging to Associated Press Television and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In addition, two local journalists covering the crackdown sustained beatings. And since June, senior Indonesian army officers have delivered explicit warnings to the local press about reporting on the conflict with Megawati loyalists. According to local sources, warnings have been issued to two leading dailies - Kompas and Merdeka - for their critical coverage of the crackdown.

Suharto has used the riots to crack down on all forms of peaceful dissent. In recent weeks:

* Almost one hundred people have been arrested and detained for nonviolent political activity. Many have been refused access to lawyers or visits from their family. One family member who was permitted to see his detained relative said that burns and scars from torture were clearly evident;
* House to house searches, raids on university campuses, and arrests of nonviolent activists continue even now;
* Many NGOs working for human rights and democracy, including long-established and internationally respected organisations, have suffered repeated searches of their offices, confiscation of materials, and repeated interrogations of their members;
* The head of Indonesia's largest independent trade union, Muchtar Pakpahan, is in prison awaiting a possible death penalty, although the government cannot name a single criminal act he may have committed;
* Other trade union organisers are being held in isolation cells;
* Journalists already serving long prison sentences for publishing an underground magazine have been transferred to a remote prison where families and lawyers can barely contact them;
* Megawati, and all her supporters, have been prevented from standing in the 1997 elections.

The United States and the European Union have expressed concern to the Indonesian government. The European Parliament has called for an arms embargo and restrictions on trade and diplomatic relations with Indonesia. But the Canadian government has been silent.

We believe that peaceful democratic participation of all sectors of Indonesian society is the best way to address the growing unrest in Indonesia. We do not condone the riots of July 27, but we also strongly condemn the use of force by government troops in dealing with the protesters, and the crackdown which has followed. Most of the NGOs which have been targeted for harassment are seeking peaceful alternatives to violence in their attempt to create social change in Indonesia. They are the best hope for removing the underlying causes of the riots -- decades of repression by the Indonesian government, widespread corruption, growing social and economic disparity and the lack of democratic channels for the expression of the people's frustrations and aspirations.

We call on the Indonesian government to:

* end the wave of arrests and stop all forms of harassment of human rights advocates and supporters of democracy
* drop all charges of subversion; release unconditionally all those who have been arrested for nonviolent political activity, most particularly Mochtar Pakpahan, Dita Sari, Coen Hussein Pontoh and Mohammed Soleh; Budiman Sudjatmiko, I Gusti Anom and Wilson; and journalists Ahmad Taufik, Eko Maryadi and Tri Agus Susanto Siswowihardjo
* ensure that those in custody are not tortured, that they have access to legal counsel of their choice and to family members
* account for all those still "missing" since July 27
* establish the rights of freedom of association, including the right to form or join trade unions, and freedom of expression, including press freedom; immediately repeal all laws and ordinances restricting these basic freedoms
* allow a free and fair referendum on self-determination in East Timor
* halt all military campaigns in West Papua, and the expansion of the Freeport mining operation
* postpone the 1997 elections until such time as candidates can be chosen without government interference or coercion, and a genuinely free election can take place.

We call on the Canadian government to:

* publicly condemn the excessive force used on July 27 and the subsequent crackdown, and call for the release of all those imprisoned for nonviolent political activity
* immediately halt any and all arms sales to Indonesia
* impose a moratorium on any new trade deals or missions with Indonesia, and on any government delegations to Indonesia
* call for the repeal of laws restricting basic freedoms in Indonesia.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Secretary, Anglican Church of Canada
John Vandenberg, Co-chair, Canada Asia Working Group
Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists
Canadian Auto Workers
Abe Barreto Soares, CNRM Canada
East Timor Alert Network, Canada
Indonesia Solidarity Network
Ferry Haryono Machsus, chairman, PIJAR INDONESIA
Peter Hutton, Shair International Resource Centre
Stuart Wulff, South Pacific Peoples' Foundation
Rhea Whitehead, Division of World Outreach, United Church of Canada
Veronica Barufatti