Thursday, November 21, 1996

A Tale Of Two Women Fighting For Democracy

The struggles of Aung San Suu Kyi and Megawati Sukarnoputri have their similarities. 

The Nation, November 21, 1996 

What is the question that opposition leaders Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia, two of the most courageous women in Southeast Asia, would like to ask each other? 

In an interview in Rangoon last week, Suu Kyi told The Nation that she wanted to know what Megawati's response was to the fact that some students in Jakarta brought Suu Kyi's poster to the street during protests to support Megawati. 

''I was actually very surprised when I found out the diversity and also a sense of commonness between us. I saw the picture of young Indonesians showing my poster. However, this puts me in a difficult position myself." 

Suu Kyi also said that she has ''a warm feeling" toward Indonesia and that she had met a lot of Indonesians, including the late President Sukarno, Megawati's father, when he visited Rangoon in the 1950s. 

 In a separate interview in Jakarta, Megawati said she wanted to know what Suu Kyi's house looks like now. ''Is the big bamboo hall still there? Is the street in front of her house still being blockaded?" 

Famous people 

The two are leading pro-democracy activists in the region and they are the daughters of two famous people - Sukarno and Gen Aung San - who helped free Indonesia and Burma respectively from their colonial masters after the World War II. 

But Suu Kyi and Megawati have emerged from the shadows of their fathers to lead the opposition against two of the strongest military rulers in Southeast Asia; Indonesia's Suharto and his New Order regime and Burma's State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc). 

Megawati, who was ousted from her position as chairwoman of the Indonesia Democracy Party by a government-backed candidate, is still widely regarded as the legitimate leader of the opposition in Indonesia. 

''Perhaps the similarity between us is that we are trying to contribute something for the future of our nations," said Megawati, admitting that most people recognise a woman like them because of their fathers and their womanhood. 

She and Suu Kyi have also undertaken their own political struggle. Their opponents, however, do not realise that these women have their own political strength as well. And in a bid to downgrade their political influence, their military opponents have pressured their media to refer to them as Mrs Megawati Taufik-Kiemas and Mrs Michael Aris respectively to highlight their husbands' surnames instead of their more famous maiden surnames. 

Are they going to cooperate, or at least share ideas, on democratisation in Southeast Asia? 

Suu Kyi, secretary-general of the National League for Democracy, refused to condemn the Indonesian regime, saying that ''no other government in the world is worse than the Slorc." 

She also said that the administration of President Suharto has achieved a lot in terms of economic development in Indonesia, while Burma under Slorc has stagnated. Suu Kyi believes that as long as Slorc does not recognise the results of the 1990 general election, it is better for the international communities, including Indonesia, to keep Slorc isolated. 

Megawati cautiously said that Slorc had forced Burma to deviate from the spirit of the Asia-Africa Declaration signed in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 by world leaders from Asia and Africa. 

''Democracy is partly the idea of independence. It is true now that Burma has no democracy and that we should help the Burmese people fight for democracy." 

''It doesn't mean that I want to interfere in Burma's internal affairs but the common platform should be the Asia-Africa Declaration," she noted. 

''If we compare Burma with South Africa, we realise that Burma has been left behind, while South Africa under President Nelson Mandela has already solved its most crucial problem and is preparing for globalisation," she added. 

Suu Kyi criticised the ''constructive engagement" policy conducted by Asean. She said the approach has not led to democracy in Burma, although its supporters believe that her release was due more to Asean's cautious approach rather than the threat of harsher sanctions from the West. 

''It is quite difficult to say whose role is most significant, but to claim that my release was because of Asean is not appropriate as well," she stressed. 

Geographic location 

Megawati believes Burma should become a member of Asean given its geographic location. She hastened to add that Asean membership should not be ''misused to suppress human rights and the opposition" in Burma. 

Slorc is believed eager to join Asean to get a measure of regional support, while it faces international condemnation from Western countries. But Asean members are divided on the timing of Burma's membership. Indonesia and Malaysia agree on letting them join Asean next year, while the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore have expressed some reservations and suggest that membership be delayed. 

How is family life? Both Suu Kyi and Megawati, whose houses had been turned into party headquarters, refused to answer questions about their children and husbands. 

''That is personal. I don't want to answer that question," said Suu Kyi, a mother of two teenage sons.

''The children do not live with their mother anymore now. An uncle takes care of them," said Megawati, a mother of three, declining to give any more details. 

ANDREAS HARSONO is The Nation's correspondent in Jakarta.

Monday, September 02, 1996

Indonesia: From Mainstream to Alternative Media

Andreas Harsono

Jakarta, July 15 - When the Indonesian Armed Forces invited around 40 newspaper editors and television executives to have a luncheon in a military building in Jakarta last June, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Amir Syarifudin asked the editors "not to exaggerate" their coverage on opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. 

Gen. Syarifudin jokingly asked the editors not to use the words "to unseat" and "to topple" in their reporting, suggesting the editors to use the name Megawati Kiemas when referring to the chairwoman of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) - after the surname of her husband - rather than the name she is commonly known by - Megawati Sukarnoputri - after her father, the charismatic and revolutionary President Sukarno, whom President Suharto, the current leader, replaced after an abortive coup d'├ętat in 1965. 

The general also asked the editors “to defend the dignity of the government,” denying earlier media reports that the military is behind the congress held in the city of Medan, in northern Sumatra, to replace Megawati with a government-appointed leader.

It is a custom on the island of Java, the most populated areas of Indonesia, to call someone by his or her first name. “It made no difference to call me after my husband of my father. After all people know that there is only one Megawati,” the leader once said.

The following day almost all of the Indonesian media drastically toned down their coverage on the ongoing street rallies in which thousands pro-democracy activists went to the streets, clashed with riot police and blasted the military intervention on the eve of the congress.

It was quite easy for the military-led regime — whose leader President Suharto rose to power since 1965 after an aborted coup attempt blamed on the communists — to prevent news organizations to cover the protests.

The conventional censorship, however, stopped just there. The public still get the news thanks to the Internet and international radios. Protesters gathering at the PDI headquarters in Central Jakarta distributed printouts of the “Indonesia-L” mailing list. They also faxed the news reports to their provincial offices and plastered the uncensored reports on the wall.

Internet-based reports with titles such as “Officers Accompany PDI Representatives in Congress,” “Army Engineer Congress,” “Journalists Are Beaten and Bribed,” “Army Sets Up Check Points Around Medan,” and “Suharto Himself Appoint Soerjadi” are widely distributed in Jakarta.

Even after the military forcibly took over the PDI headquarters on 27 July, the Internet played a more crucial role to penetrate the information blockade in Indonesia. It has been very important to build public opinion; the military has taken a number of measures to deal with it.

A lecturer at Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta, around 500 kilometers east of Jakarta, has been arrested at his home by soldiers. He was accused of distributing electronic mail messages relating to the 27 July 1996 riots (see Appendix).

Media Closure

It is widely believed here that the powerful Armed Forces toppled the democratically-elected Megawati following a proposal that she run for President in the 1998 presidential elections. The prospect of a challenger to Suharto, himself a former Armed Forces commander, would be unprecedented. He has been elected President on six successive occasions, but no one has ever challenged his nomination and re-election.

Although Suharto is known because of his success to transform Indonesia, once the pariah of the world, into one of the leading economies in the Pacific, along with other countries like Malaysia and Thailand, but critics said he ruled Indonesia with a strong hand. No opposition is allowed. Disagreement usually ended up in violent crackdowns that have occurred in East Timor, Irian Jaya, Aceh, and other disputed areas.

The Christian-nationalist PDI is the smallest but the most outspoken of the three existing political parties in Indonesia, itself a vast, dynamic and complicated country. Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world and the largest Moslem population in the world. Most of PDI supporters are located in the central and eastern part of Java and the scenic island of Bali as well as on the eastern part of Indonesia where most of the Christians live.

The military-backed government has in the past closed down dozens of newspapers. It closed down three news weeklies in June 1994 and later jailed four journalists working for underground media who protested the closure.

In a response to allegations of biased reporting, Megawati’s supporters burned a number of newspapers and staged a protest in front of the RCTI, the largest private station in Indonesia. It is owned by the son of President Suharto. Protesters pointed out that the station had not reported a single image of their rallies while boosting the military-sponsored congress.

The military has also banned local stations from helping foreign news agencies — such as Reuters, Associated Press Television, Worldwide Television News (WTN), Cable News Network, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Channel 9 of Australia — feed their pictures abroad. An official of the state-owned TVRI said any pictures of the street demonstration were not to be up-linked with its equipment. The military also banned all electronic media in Indonesia from broadcasting the rallies.

Peter Gontha, the head of RCTI, defended himself and said that his most important calculation is business. He remarked that “Rather than making the government to close down the station, it is much better for me to toe the line.” When asked about the RCTI’s biased coverage on the PDI issue, Gontha said, “It’s better for me not to talk about the PDI.”

Nevertheless censorship, intimidation, harassment, and media closure are not new in Indonesia. These measures date back to at least 1745 when the Dutch colonial ruler closed down the >Bataviasche Nouvelles tabloid. Hundreds, if not thousands, newspapers have been closed down by the Dutch and the Japanese colonial rulers as well as the administrations of President Sukarno (1945–1965) and President Suharto.

According to Goenawan Mohamad, the former editor-in-chief of the banned Tempo, “self-censorship has became a ritual” in Indonesia where reporters, before typing a single word, have to question themselves whether their reports could pass their editorial self-censorship and be printed.

Journalists have realized that their first duty is to respect the truth, to defend the principles of freedom in honest collection and publication of news, and to honor the right of fair comment and criticism. Many journalists, and perhaps their editors as well, know that they lied when reporting the PDI issue.

Go Internet

The “Indonesia-L” mailing list, which is popularly known here as “apakabar” after its mailing address, is moderated by American John MacDougall. It serves its subscribers with daily news reports from both Indonesian and foreign newspapers, underground news agencies as well as individuals willing to provide commentary.

The arrival of the superhighway communication has opened a new field for Indonesian journalists advocating free speech. Many believed, including the internationally-recognized Goenawan, also an Internet user, that the new media would help penetrated information blockade imposed by the military government.

“They could ask Internet providers to censor Web sites but not e-mails,” Goenawan said, adding that the military will apparently choose to counter critical information with overflowing supplies of pro-government information.The list include reports of dailies Kompas, Republika, Media Indonesia, and Suara Pembaruan as well as the Sydney Morning Herald, New York Times, Asiaweek, and others.

Underground reports were mostly written in Bahasa Indonesia. One is a news agency called “PIPA” — which literally means “pipe.” It was established by professional journalists who cannot print their reports in the mainstream media. Their reports are professionally written, balanced, quoting both the activists and the army officers. They are based on facts, hard news-oriented with datelines, and frequently used by Jakarta-based foreign journalists to write additional reports. These reports are always anonymous and the moderator, of course, does not provide identities.

It was perhaps a coincidence. But the list and its unlicensed news agencies became extremely popular since the government closed down news weeklies Tempo, Detik, and Editor in June 1994. Media observers believed that the closure reflected the growing uneasiness among officials on free speech and prompted press freedom fighters to exploit the Internet.

Thousands then staged street protests, including younger journalists, demanding the government to revoke the controversial decisions. The military-led regime gave no response but clashed the protesters with rattans and troops.

Worse than that, the protesting journalists who later set up an independent union, were sacked from their respective offices. The government-controlled Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) put pressures on editors to dismiss journalists, arguing that Indonesian law only recognizes one, single and compulsory journalist organization. “Those who are out of the organization are not allowed to work as journalists,” said PWI Secretary General Parni Hadi, who is also the chief editor of Republika.

The government closed down the three weeklies following their coverage over disagreements among government officials on the procurement of an ex-East Germany warship at the cost of $US1.1 billion. President Suharto alleged that the media had pit officials against each other.

Unemployed journalists in response set up underground newspapers and went to the Internet. One of the most influential was an unlicensed magazine called the Suara Independen which also appeared on the “Indonesia-L” mailing list.

This magazine reported that Information Minister Harmoko had accumulated shares in more than 30 news organizations in Indonesia allegedly by blackmailing publishers. It also covered the deteriorating health of the 75-year-old President Suharto, creating widespread speculation among the ruling elite in Jakarta about his successor.

Under Indonesian law, a publisher must apply for a publishing license from the Information Ministry and receive a dozen other recommendations from various agencies before publishing a newspaper. Many believed that the regulation is designed to circumscribe freedom of expression in the country where the Ministry could revoke the licenses on editorial grounds.

Earlier in 1994, Indonesia’s first Internet commercial provider, Indonet, began operation. A number of others soon followed and Indonesia now has more than 20 independent service providers. No official statement has been released on the number of Internet subscribers. But Internet operators in Jakarta estimate that Indonesia now has around 30,000 e-mail users, a relatively low number compared to its population of 195 million.

Human Rights Watch said in May 1996 that the Internet is more free than any other mass medium in Indonesia thanks to an absence of laws, regulations, or ministerial decrees concerning its use.

Even surprisingly, the banned Tempo magazine reappeared on the Internet on 6 March 1996 and established a Web site called “Tempo Interaktif” without immediate government objection. Information Minister Harmoko, who closed down the weekly, said he did not see anything wrong with its home page. He said, “Anybody can go on the Internet. There are no regulations against it.”

The inaugural edition of the magazine picked up the most controversial issue of the week: the government’s decision to give special privileges to a car-making company run by Hutomo Mandala Putra, President Suharto’s youngest son.

Four months later, it has more than 5,000 registered subscribers and the server is hit by around 10,000 net surfers each day. “Perhaps, this home page is the most hit Web site on Indonesia established in Indonesia,” said one of its editors.

Communism on the Net

The Indonesian military probably does not like the idea of a mailing list like “Indonesia-L” available on the Internet. In a move to renew its anti-communist crusade, a senior general said a number of prominent figures, including an Indonesian scholar living in exile in Australia, use a “communist method” to propagate leftist views through the Internet.

President Suharto himself warned in October 1995 that certain “formless organizations” had been propagating communist teachings in the guise of concern for human rights and democracy, preying on young people to topple the government, split the Armed Forces and set the Armed Forces against the people, and destroy the nation.

“Many people do not believe the communist resurrection. OK! But in 1926, it was the communists who started the first rebellion. Then in 1948, who else? The Indonesian Communist Party were crushed down. But in 1965 they revived again and conducted a rebellion,” said Lt. Gen. Soeyono, the chief of staff on general affairs of the Armed Forces.

He also said that the allegedly communist scholars used the Internet to propagate their teachings, adding that he read papers written by Dr. George Junus Aditjondro on the internationally-disputed East Timor which is claimed by Indonesia despite resistance in the area since 1975. It is a taboo in Indonesia to question the legitimacy of East Timor as a province to Indonesia.

Soeyono said the Indonesian communists usually spend a one-generation period to revive their organizations. Despite the collapse of several communist countries, many former communist cadres worldwide are now supposedly forming so-called international non-governmental organizations dedicated to human rights, labor issues, and democratization.

Lt. Gen. Soeyono named some, including Dr. Aditjondro, award-winning novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer and unionist Muchtar Pakpahan, but he was criticized for reviving a groundless crusade against communists, in the manner of the late U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, as justification to suppress dissent.

Under Indonesian law, a former communist and his or her relatives are not allowed to work in the fields of education, military, bureaucracy, and other disciplines. It has been estimated that around half a million communists were killed in the aftermath of the 1965 failed coup attempt.

When visiting an office of a magazine, military spokesman Syarifudin himself threatened to take action against journalists if his words on the Megawati issue were to appear on the Internet. “It’s time to draw a line between friends and enemies,” he said.

Internet providers also have difficulties because of the frequent visits by military officers, searching for the names of certain users. According to Feraldi W. Loeis of the Internet provider Radnet which counts more than 3,000 users, they have so far rejected these requests on the privacy grounds. “We’ve haven't been asked to censor anyone.” Radnet has been asked to curb the distribution of what has been called vulgar pornographic material but has not been asked to censor politics.

Asked what he will do if the military threatened to close down his business, Loeis simply said he would prefer to quit and do other kinds of business as long as his reputation was safe. “My name is more important than bowing to pressures like that."

The military has suggested to the Information Ministry the need for some sort of “gate” to “blackout” news that could damage Indonesian culture or affect security. It has also suggested registering uses and users. An inter-departmental team has been set up to study the Internet.

Gen. Syarifudin himself is now busy trying to locate journalists who continue to write uncensored news reports. The army has reportedly assigned some of its intelligence force to search office by office, editor by editor, to find Internet-based journalists who reported to the outside world that the ruling military officers in Indonesia have not been entirely open and candid in their dealings. 

Andreas Harsono is a freelance journalist based in Jakarta. He works for the Bangkok-based Nation newspaper and he is also on the board of the Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information. Harsono is a founding member of the Alliance of Independent Journalists in Jakarta.

Appendix: Human Rights Watch: Indonesia
from Human Rights Watch
New York, N.Y.

(Editor’s Note: Human Rights Watch sent the following letter, protesting the arrest of a university lecturer for communicating on the Internet, to the Indonesian government today.)

August 14, 1996

His Excellency M. Arifin Siregar
Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Indonesia
2020 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Your Excellency:

I am writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch/Asia to protest the arrest of Dr. Prihadi Beny Waluyo, a lecturer at Duta Wacana Christian University. Dr. Waluyo was arrested at his home by soldiers of the district military command. He was reportedly accused of distributing e-mail messages and also of sending messages relating to the July 27 riots to a destination in Holland. His arrest came after an unidentified person gave an officer photocopies of e-mail messages that were traced to Dr. Waluyo. The person claimed the printouts came from a store in Kebumen, a district of Yogyakarta.

Following his arrest, Drs. Waluyo was interrogated by the military about his connections with the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD), which the government has accused of masterminding the riots, but he denied any involvement with the PRD. He acknowledged that he had sent messages over the Internet. Following his questioning, he was reportedly ordered to go to his home and was told to report to the district military command on a regular basis. He is said to be under strict surveillance.

Human Rights Watch opposes actions by the Indonesian government to restrict electronic communication. As stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression: this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

We believe that such forums provide a truly unique opportunity for people from around the globe to share their views with an international audience. By allowing unrestricted communication, important issues can receive the benefit of serious discussion by the broadest cross-section of society. If the Internet is to achieve its potential to become a global information infrastructure, it is important, at the present moment, to agree to allow its unrestricted development.

We urge that Dr. Waluyo and every other citizen be allowed to receive and transmit electronic mail without fear of harassment, intimidation, or arrest.


Sidney Jones
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch/Asia

cc: His Excellency Nugroho Wisnumurti, Ambassador to the United Nations

Thursday, August 15, 1996

Government Repression: Cracks in the Wall

Journalists In Peril


by Vikram A. Parekh

Can a nation that has tasted freedom of the press be forced back into censorship and the imprisonment of independent journalists? Indonesia may well offer an answer.

Since winning independence from the Dutch in 1949, the vast and populous southeast Asian nation has been dominated by two successive rulers: Sukarno, a charismatic, if at times autocratic, nationalist of leftist leanings who led the independence struggle, and Suharto, a dictatorial general. Suharto took power in 1967 after the suppression of a 1965 coup attempt that triggered the brutal persecution--which took hundreds of thousands of lives--of the legally constituted Indonesian Communist Party. President Suharto's regime has been characterized by authoritarian rule, an adherence to free-market economics that has fostered a substantial middle class and a brief interlude of relative press freedom.

Six years ago, Suharto announced a new policy of keterbukaan, or openness, in response to mounting pressure from local nongovernmental organizations, international human rights groups and foreign governments. It also served to defuse a growing rift between Suharto and Indonesia's powerful army, which had expressed dissatisfaction with his authoritarianism.

Local journalists seized the opportunity and injected critical and investigative voices into the country's previously staid media. New publications appeared, including the weekly tabloids Editor and DeTik, which pushed the margins of independent journalism.

DeTik offered perhaps the most dramatic testimony to the political sophistication of Indonesian readers. Introduced in February 1993, its courageous style of reportingpreviously encountered only in underground journalsboosted circulation in the space of a year from 7,000 to more than 450,000 copies. DeTik was brave, intelligent and profitable.

The weeklies printed dissenting commentary, covered political scandalsincluding a controversial warship purchaseand reported on labor and ethnic unrest. They depicted a country racked by cronyism, corruption and civil disturbancethe very traits likely to scare away investors in the country's fast-growing economy. By reporting on separatist movements in Aceh and East Timor, they belied the regime's pretense of control over the archipelago's far-flung islands.

Appearing when many were beginning to question the country's prospects after the demise of the 75-year-old Suharto, DeTik and its contemporaries rattled the government. In June 1994, DeTik, along with Editor and Tempo-- the country's largest-circulation glossy newsmagazine and the pioneer of independent journalism in the mainstream press -- was banned by the Information Ministry.

Indonesian newsstands now feature two publications intended by the Suharto regime to serve as replacements: Gatra, a glossy pro-government newsmagazine owned by Suharto crony Muhammad "Bob" Hassan, and the similarly acquiescent tabloid Tiras, owned by Minister of Manpower Abdul Latief. Other publications that once tested the limits of keterbukaan have dramatically curtailed the extent of their investigative reporting.

The reaction to the press bans revealed that keterbukaan had changed Indonesians' expectations of the media. In the weeks that followed the banning, cities throughout Indonesia witnessed demonstrations by journalists, activists and most importantly, ordinary readers. The demonstrations reflected in part the emergence of a new generation of reporters and editorsjournalists accustomed to reporting with restraints that were more akin to leashes than straitjackets.

The depth of popular support for the weeklies caught many journalists by surprise. In an essay about the banning, Indonesian free-lancer and activist Rachland Nashidik pointed to a broader discontent that underlay the demonstrations:

We will not certainly forget the time Tempo revealed the mass killing in Jakarta's Tanjung Priok, the mysterious murder of [labor activist] Marsinah, the arrest and imprisonment of Nuku Soleiman and the 21 students who dared to criticise the president. . . . people are angry, they do not want to live under the dominance of a regime which does everything without any shame to keep its hold on its own tyrannical power.

The public protests subsided after brutal assaults by Indonesian police and military forces, but Indonesian journalists' efforts to defend their rights continued. Many who had worked for the banned publications, or who had taken part in the demonstrations against their closure, were incensed by the reaction of the state-sponsored Indonesian Journalists' Association (PWI), which issued a statement saying it "understood" the reasons for the bans.

After meeting in the West Java town of Sirnagalih in August 1994, over 50 journalists announced the formation of the country's only independent press union: the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).

Since its inception, AJI has dramatically challenged the regime's press curbs. Among AJI's first actions was to publish a book of essays by prominent Indonesian journalists on the impact of the June 1994 press bans. To reach both international and Indonesian audiences, the book was published in English and Bahasa Indonesia, the country's national language. Next, AJI began an even more daring venture: the publication of a newsmagazine that would fill the void in investigative reporting left by Tempo, DeTik, and Editor.

Entitled Independen, the monthly magazine debuted in the fall of 1994 and quickly drew an audience well beyond its circulation of about 10,000 copies. Its articles covered topics such as the personal wealth of government ministers, the successor to Suharto and nepotism in Suharto's inner circle.

But Independen did not have a publishing license and stood no chance of getting one. Under Indonesian law only press corporations may publish, and those corporations must secure publishing licenses from the Information Ministry.

Under the licensing process, the Information Ministry has the authority to approve the mandate and editorship of each publication. These provisions give the Ministry wide latitude to deny and revoke licenses. Of the three banned weeklies, for example, two officially lost their licenses for technical infractions: DeTik for deviating from its stated mission of publishing crime reports and Editor for failing to inform the Ministry of personnel changes in its editorial board.

There was a more insidious consequence of the licensing regime, according to an article in Independen: by abusing his authority to grant permits, Information Minister Harmoko had amassed substantial shares in the country's largest press corporations. AJI members believe that it was this report, more than any other, that prompted authorities to increase pressure on Independen.

In March 1995, police raided an AJI function and arrested its president, Ahmad Taufik, as well as several other union members. They also detained Danang Kukuh Wardoyo, AJI's 19-year-old office assistant. Later that evening, about 20 police officers raided AJI's office, arrested AJI member Eko Maryadi and seized the group's computers, fax machine and files.

A three-month trial began in June 1995. Taufik and Maryadi were charged with violating Article 19 of the press law, which prohibits the publication of an unlicensed newspaper or magazine, and Article 154 of the criminal code, which bars the expression of "feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt toward the government."

The case attracted massive attention in Indonesia, neighboring countries such as Australia and the international human rights community. The British freedom of expression group Article 19 sent an observer to the trial, while the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) conferred one of its prestigious annual press freedom awards on Taufik. The most remarkable demonstration of support came from Indonesians themselves, who packed the courtroom for each session and openly denounced the verdict: 32 months in prison each. Wardoyo received a jail term of 18 months for his role in distributing Independen.

International opprobrium and domestic outrage followed, but the Suharto regime proved impervious to bothan indication that it was determined to maintain control over the media at all costs. The 32-month prison terms handed down to Taufik and Maryadi were actually extended on appeal to three years in prison each. And last March, the Indonesian Supreme Court upheld that decision, limiting the two journalists' options within the judicial system to a review by the same court.

Taufik and Maryadi still continued to write, sending letters to three publications about conditions in Cipinang prison and interviewing a fellow prisoner, East Timorese leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, for Independen.

On Aug. 16, authorities responded by transferring them to a remote facility in Cirebon, 200 kilometers east of Jakarta.

But Taufik and Maryadi have not been the only members of AJI to bear the fallout of the government's crackdown on the union. By law, all working journalists in Indonesia must be members of the state-sponsored PWI. Although the requirement was often disregarded in the past, in the wake of AJI's formation authorities announced that it would henceforth be strictly enforced. In effect, journalists involved with AJI were blacklisted.

When DeTik's publishers tried to revive the tabloid under the name Simponi, in October 1994, they were forced to close after one issue because their staff included non-PWI members. Simultaneous membership in the two press unions became impossible after March 1995, when PWI expelled 13 of its members for having signed the Sirnagalih Declaration establishing AJI. Among them were Goenawan Mohamad, the internationally respected editor and publisher of Tempo, and Eros Djarot, the editor who had spearheaded DeTik's move into investigative journalism.

Through direct pressure on editors and publishers, over 80 AJI members have been forced out of their jobs, while others have been demoted or shunted to dead-end assignments. AJI spokesperson Andreas Harsono, for example, was fired from his job at the Jakarta Post in October 1994 because he was deemed "unsuitable."

Harsono's dismissal came just two weeks after a PWI-sponsored meeting at which Jakarta Post editor Santoso Pudjomartono reportedly pledged to take firm measures against AJI members on his staff.

Despite the repression, AJI members and many other Indonesian journalists continue to circumvent official media constraints. Tempo magazine, which last May lost a court battle to have its publishing license restored, is available in an Internet edition. However, its reach is limited to Indonesia's intelligentsia and falls far short of the print edition's circulation of 190,000.

Several former Tempo journalists have established a firm that produces the Sunday edition of the newspaper Media Indonesia on contract. In the year since its debut, the Sunday paper has earned a reputation among Indonesian readers as one of the most editorially independent publications among the licensed media.

Media Indonesia, however, has had its own brushes with the authorities. Last September, its directors suspended publication of the Sunday edition for four weeks. The announcement came shortly after the Sunday paper ran an interview with Islamic scholar Nurcholish Madjid, in which he criticized the country's political system and called for the creation of new opposition parties. Although the Information Ministry denied involvement in the decision to suspend the publication, few in the Indonesian press community saw it as anything other than a reaction to official pressure.

The same month saw other Indonesian media sustain casualties for airing the views of well-known political dissidents. A popular weekly television show, "Perspektif," was canceled five days after it broadcast a segment that featured the veteran independent journalist Mochtar Lubis as a guest. And the Sumatra-based newspaper Lampung Post suspended four of its reporters after receiving an official complaint about an interview with Indonesia's most celebrated novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who lives under house arrest.

The depth of discontent with the present order in Indonesia was revealed very recently. In July 1996, Jakarta was engulfed by riots set off by the army's seizure of Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters from loyalists of the party's ousted leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno's daughter, who had advocated a freer political system for Indonesia.

Outraged citizens took to the streets. Demonstrations, which drew upwards of 50,000 protestors, spun wildly out of control. Office buildings and small businesses alike were set ablaze. The riots were quelled as the army deployed tanks and troops throughout Jakarta, a move that presaged the sweeping arrests of students, labor activists and opposition figures. However misplaced the rioters' targets may at times have been, their rage indicated both the depth of discontent with the prevailing autocracy and the deafening lack of outlets for freedom of expression.

The prospects for press freedom in Indonesia are still uncertain. But Indonesian journalists who attempt to navigate these tortuous straits are armed with a legacy of independent journalism and a readership that is prepared to demand it. However limited the floodgate that Suharto opened six years ago, the fact remains that Indonesia's media and the reading public were transformed. Now the movement is theirs, and the setbacks that Suharto imposes can in the end be only temporary.

Vikram A. Parekh is the program coordinator for Asia for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Friday, August 02, 1996

PDI Supporters Jeer As Court Postpones Megawati Lawsuit

The Nation

JAKARTA, 2 August 1996 - In a desperate bid to reduce tensions in the city, the Central Jakarta district court yesterday refused to rule on whether to allow pro-democracy opposition members to return to their party headquarters which was sealed off by police on Saturday.

The court case was keeping Jakarta fearful of fresh disturbances after riots rocked the city last weekend, brought on by the police storming of the Indonesia Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters.

A judge told the packed courtroom that the case had been postponed to Aug 22 because Chief Judge I Gde Ketut Suarta had a toothache. He was to have headed the three-judge panel hearing the case.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno, is seeking to overturn her ouster by Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Suryadi as leader of the PDI at a rebel party congress organised by the military in June.

President Suharto, who overthrew Megawati's father in 1966, apparently is afraid of her growing popularity among Indonesians unhappy with his regime.

If she cannot win reinstatement, she will be ineligible to run for re-election to parliament next year or challenge Suharto in the 1998 presidential election.

''This is an urgent matter. As you know, our headquarters was attacked. We demand that it be returned,'' said her lawyer, Rio Tambunan. ''Megawati is still the chairwoman of the PDI.''

But Judge Zulkifli Lubis, one of the two judges present, said that without their missing colleague, they could not grant the request.

About 300 PDI supporters who were in the courthouse jeered Lubis' announcement that Suarta's dentist had given him a sick note to take three days off from his duties.

More than 1,000 Megawati supporters and bystanders who waited under a blazing tropical sun outside the courthouse applauded when her team of lawyers arrived. They were shouting: Long live Mega, long live Mega.''

Outside the courthouse, lawyer Tambunan delivered a 30-minute speech urging the angry crowd to go home. ''We know that we are going to win, we know that the truth is with us,'' he said.

Megawati did not attend the opening hearing but a number of her lieutenants, such as Alex Litaay, Kwik Kian Gie, Haryanto Taslam and Roy Bebeyanis, were there.

Security was heavy. The government said 1,000 police and soldiers were posted in the neighbourhood. Police with sticks held back spectators while soldiers with M-16 rifles guarded shops.

Army snipers were posted on rooftops and pedestrian overpasses. Earlier the army said that it would open fire if there were fresh disturbances.

In addition to her rival, Suryadi, defendants in Megawati's 51- trillion-rupiah (Bt563.5 billion) lawsuit include Interior Minister Yogie Memet, armed forces commander Gen Feisal Tanjung and national police Chief Lt Gen Dibyo Widodo.

Megawati said she chose the damage figure to commemorate the 51st anniversary of independence from the Netherlands this year.

Meanwhile, early yesterday hundreds of workers were evacuated from a skyscraper office complex in Jakarta's central business district after a bomb threat was received. The twin-tower building is owned by a publicly listed company, PT Mulialand.

There have been more than eight bomb threats here since Monday, following the weekend violence.

Most of the bomb threats turned out to be false alarms sparked by fear following the riots last weekend that left three dead, according to official figures. The PDI, however, said over 100 people have been killed and 153 of their activists are missing.

In a related development, the government said that it remained confident the weekend riots would not hurt Indonesia's investment climate.

Businessmen, however, remain jittery about the situation. ''We hope the impact will be rather negligible because things like this occur everywhere in the United States, Japan, South Korea,'' Minister of Investment Sanyoto Sastrowardoyo said.

The stock market strengthened yesterday, but brokers attributed the rise to bargain-hunting after falls earlier in the week. They said that the court case postponement had little impact.

By mid-session, the Jakarta composite stock index had gained 1.16 percent to 542.25 points. Brokers had said on Wednesday that they feared the gathering of Megawati supporters outside the courthouse could lead to fresh disturbances.

Businessman Soedarpo Sastrosatomo, the president of the Samudera Indonesia business group, however, expressed his concern over the impact of the riots on the economy.

''We've already lost a lot due to the riots. I hope it will not happen again as it will hurt our economy. We will be left far behind by our neighbouring countries if the riots continue,'' he said.

Referring to the experience of The Philippines after the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos, Sastrosatomo said that the business community would be nervous.

The Jakarta Post, the leading English-language newspaper, quoted a real estate magnate as saying that the riots could prompt serious capital flight, especially from ethnic Chinese businessmen who could be easily frightened into leaving the country.

In Bangkok, a group of students bearing placards smeared with red paint to symbolise blood demonstrated in front of the Indonesian Embassy yesterday to protest Jakarta's stance toward its political opposition.

Tuesday, May 28, 1996

For Indonesia's Oei Tjoe Tat, Memoir Is His Epitaph

Andreas Harsono 
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information 

JAKARTA -- When the couple celebrated their wedding golden anniversary in April last year, the wheelchair-bound husband launched his memoirs, which revealed one of the bloodiest power transitions ever in Southeast Asia; saying in his short speech on that occasion that watching his memoir being printed was his final wish. 

"I'm old now and will die some day. But people encouraged me to write my personal experience," said Oei Tjoe Tat, a former minister to the late Indonesian President Sukarno.

Oei added that Catholic priest Y.B. Mangunwijaya and Moslem leader Abdurrahman Wahid, two of the most influential religious leaders in Indonesia, also asked him to write the extraordinary story of his role in Indonesian history. 

"They argued that it is not my own personal story. It belongs to the nation-state of Indonesia," said the sad-eyed Oei, looking on life a little more brightly as he sat surrounded by his wife, his children, his grandchildren and more than 1,500 guests, comprised mostly of opposition political figures, human rights workers and scholars. 

His final wish was fulfilled on that day. His biography, entitled Memoir of Oei Tjoe Tat: An Assistant to President Sukarno, had 20,000 copies in print. The 400-page biography was jointly edited by Indonesian novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and young journalist Stanley Prasetyo Adi. 

Reviewers praised the memoir, saying that it is a well written biography -- a rare commodity in Indonesia. 

After delivering his speech, Oei wept as he handed a copy of his memoir to Megawati Sukarnoputri, the chairperson of an opposition party who is also the daughter of his former boss: President Sukarno. 

And last Friday, as if hearing his own last words, Oei died of cancer at age 74 at the St. Carolus Hospital in Central Jakarta. 

His body was cremated on Monday as hundreds of people, including dozens of aging politicians of the Sukarno era, paid their last respects. 

Oei was a state minister from 1963 until March 1966, when then- Major General Suharto took over power from Sukarno following a failed coup d'etat six months earlier largely blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party. 

In the coup, about half a million alleged communists were killed, and hundreds of thousands were arrested in one of the bloodiest power struggles ever to occur in the region. Sukarno was sent to the sidelines, and Suharto, backed by the army, rose to power. Soon, the army arrested all Sukarno-related politicians, including Oei Tjoe Tat, whose detention lasted longer than even he expected. 

Without a trial, he was jailed 11 years in two different prisons in Jakarta for his alleged links to the coup attempt, before an impromptu military-controlled court in 1976 officially imprisoned him for 13 years. 

Oei denied his involvement in the coup. In his memoir, he charged that the main culprits of the attempted coup attempt were the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, along with elements in the Indonesian army and some communist leaders. 

Based on his role as an official assigned by Sukarno to investigate the mass killings during the period described in the hit Academy Award-winning film, The Year Of Living Dangerously, Oei revealed in his memoir that thousands of innocent people were killed throughout the country just to make way for military rule. 

"Nobody knows the exact details of the attempted coup. So many people were involved then complete chaos followed right after," Oei said in his memoir. 

He also said that Gen. Suharto is a "cruel" person whose instinct is "to crush his opponents without mercy," and added that his memoir could help trace back a dark chapter of Indonesia history which has never been independently investigated. 

Many believe here that Oei was an idealistic person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some who were his opponents in the 1960's even became his friends after the release. 

"I just laughed, but the real idealists are those who keep on opposing the [dictators], whether he is Sukarno or Suharto," Oei once said. 

Born into an elite Chinese family in Solo, Central Java, the young Oei completed his law studies in Jakarta. He opened his own law firm in 1948, became a successful lawyer and gradually became involved in the ethnic Chinese political movement, Baperki, to advocate for their rights as Indonesian citizens. 

He later joined the Partindo, a political party born of a coalition of leftists and nationalists in which Baperki was an element. 

Army officers alleged that Oei also played a role as the treasurer of the communists, an allegation Oei repeatedly denied and denounced for the final time in his memoir. 

Then Vice President Adam Malik persuaded President Suharto to release Oei to return to his wife and their children, who had grown up without the presence of their father. 

A lawyer by training, he reopened his law firm but closed it again, later explaining he was "an out-of-date" lawyer because he could not (and would not) compete with other, younger lawyers who aggressively bribe law enforcement officials to win their cases. 

"During the Dutch [colonial] period, we didn't recognize such a practice," he said. He then used his time to concentrate on writing his memoir, which was banned in September 1995 based on a judgment that it was "poisonous" to Indonesia's youth. 

A government official said the younger generation does not know the facts of the coup d'etat, in which six Army generals were murdered by the communists "since the content of the memoir is contradictory." 

Daughter Oei Lan Siem, who is currently a Vice President of Citibank in Jakarta said, "The memoir helped us, his children, to recognize our father completely. I was still a high school student when he was arrested. We partially knew him before the publication of the memoir. We're really proud of him. Talking about the memoir and the 1960's made him alive." 

Oei is survived by his wife, and by four children, two of whom are living in Germany and France, respectively. 

Journalist Prasetyo Adi said on Monday that wife Kwee Loan Nio, the woman behind Oei and who raised their children singlehandedly, once whispered, "The memoir is actually his gravestone."

Friday, May 03, 1996

Indonesian Armed Forces Plans to Topple Party Chairperson

by Andreas Harsono
American Reporter Correspondent

JAKARTA -- The Indonesian Armed Forces has launched a secret operation to unseat Megawati Sukarnoputri from her position as the chairwoman of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party, believing that she is planning to challenge the incumbent President Suharto in the 1998 presidential election.

A source closed to both the military and the party has told the American Reporter that the campaign was discussed and arranged by top- ranking officers of the Armed Forces, popularly known here as ABRI, during one of their regular meetings on March 24-28 at ABRI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta, Indonesia. The nation is the fourth most populous on Earth, and has its largest Islamic population.

"They want to topple Megawati because she is likely to run for president in the next election. The move will obviously humiliate President Suharto," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous in the exclusive interview.

Mr. Suharto rose to power in 1965 following an abortive coup d'etat blamed on the communists. He has since then been elected president on six successive occasions, each for five years, but no one has ever challenged his nomination and re-election.

Supporters of the Indonesian Democratic Party, locally known as PDI, however, launched a campaign earlier this year to nominate Ms. Sukarnoputri, the daughter of the late President Sukarno, the charismatic and revolutionary predecessor of Mr. Suharto.

The source also said that Fatimah Achmad, a leading party figure who is more favorably disposed toward the ABRI, was selected by the plotters to replace Megawati. "She also attended a session in those meetings and okayed the proposal," the source said.

No such plot has been reported in the Indonesian media. Local newspapers, however, reported in March that the meeting was scheduled to discuss "some security issues," and particularly "how to secure the next general election."

The meeting was reportedly led by ABRI Commander Gen. Feisal Tanjung and attended by other leading generals, including Army Chief Gen. R. Hartono, ABRI Chief of General Affairs Lt. Gen. Soeyono, ABRI Chief of Socio-Political Affairs Lt. Gen. Syarwan Hamid, and other colleagues from the navy, the air force and the police.

Both Gen. Tanjung and Ms. Achmad were unavailable for comment. But head of the PDI research and development department Kwik Kian Gie charged openly that there has been a campaign to topple Megawati launched by some military district chiefs and officials.

Kwik said the officials had been pressuring leaders of the PDI chapters and branches to push for an extraordinary congress, charging that ABRI wants to see Megawati resign but in "a legal manner," which is why they urged the branches and chapters to convene.

"The approaches they use vary but their goal is the same: to topple Megawati," Kwik was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying. "There is hard evidence of this campaign."

Some party executives, including Sabam Sirait and Sukowalujo Mintorahardjo, also said that they are receiving pressures to drop their suggestion to nominate Megawati as the next presidential candidate.

The source also said that ABRI is using supporters of the PDI rival board as well as its self-appointed "PDI chief" Jusuf Merukh to help the secret operation.

Mr. Merukh, a senior party member dismissed a few years ago, still has his influence within the PDI. He will likely ask his assistant Gerry Mbatemboy, who has a seat on the board of the party, to help launch a special meeting of the party congress.

In a related development, a meeting of some 190 supporters of the PDI rival board was dismissed on Monday after hundreds of Megawati's supporters invaded the meeting place. The planning meeting was supposed to be a prelude to an extraordinary party congress during which the rival board planned to establish its complete lineup intended to replace the board of Megawati. Fights broke out as the Megawati supporters poured into the meeting.

Following the brawl, some of the supporters of Megawati interrogated the planned meeting's participants and found 19 of them in the possession of the membership cards of the ruling party Golkar, which supports President Suharto. They have already reported the findings to the police, who are likely to reveal the existence of the secret operation in the near future, sources said.

The PDI has 27 chapters and 305 smaller branches across the country.

Andreas Harsono covers Indonesia for the American Reporter