Oct 18, 2021 Last Updated 1:13 AM, Oct 14, 2021

Scenes from an occupation

Review: A lone Australian filmmaker records East Timor's history-making year of 1999

Carmela Baranowska

In September 1999 I was among the last group of journalists to be evacuated from the UN compound in Dili. In the middle of East Timor's crisis we never knew what would happen next. As the Hercules aircraft took off from Dili airport we expected the worst - further genocide and international indifference. We were wrong - but East Timor's history in the last 24 years would hardly have led us to believe otherwise.

By this stage I had spent four months in East Timor, filming day to day for my 67-minute documentary Scenes from an occupation, which was broadcast as two parts on SBS TV 'Dateline' in 1999. There were 600 journalists in East Timor during the referendum, but I was the only filmmaker to document the last six months of Indonesia's occupation.

From the beginning in March 1999 I was adamant that interviewing Timorese 'after the fact' would be of little use. I planned to be in East Timor over a long period. I believed I could document reality 'as it happened'. I wanted to see and hear the Timorese speaking to one another, without the mediating influence of a Western expert whom the audience could recognise. If I missed an event there would be no re-enactment.

After the massacre at Liquica in April 1999 my filming concentrated on reactions at the headquarters of the Council for National Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in Dili, specifically from the survivors who went there to give their eyewitness accounts of what took place. At that time there was no UN presence, nor any international observers in East Timor. Amazingly, the Australian government was still arguing publicly that the militias were not supported by the Indonesian military. Kosovo dominated world headlines. East Timor was largely forgotten.

The massacres at Liquica and Dili in April 1999 have been overshadowed by what is usually referred to as 'the post-ballot violence'. As a filmmaker who documented both periods I would argue that the killings in April were a well-orchestrated dress rehearsal by the Indonesian military and their latest offspring - the militias.

By late August there had been a predictable transformation in Dili's militia. They now wore personalised 'Aitarak' sweatshirts, provided by the TNI. They had also been joined by Kopassus soldiers - locals and journalists who knew them sighted them repeatedly in Dili's suburb of Becora, also wearing the 'Aitarak' logo.

For the East Timorese the role of the Kopassus special forces in destabilising East Timor was hardly a new phenomenon. In taped addresses, sent out from house arrest in Jakarta and circulated throughout East Timor before the ballot, Xanana Gusmao reiterated their prominent historical role in orchestrating violence for their own advancement.

Initially Australians showed only muted indifference to such allegations. However as 1999 progressed this gradually turned into a ready acceptance by the mainstream media and eventually even by the government. By the end of the year Australia's commercial Channel 9 network was referring to Indonesia's 'brutal occupation' of East Timor. Back in January, the ABC had still been politely referring to the territory's 'integration' into Indonesia.

Any account of 1999 - whether documentary or written - can only ever be partial. But the mere presence of a video camera in 1999 helped render individuals and organisations as documented history, whereas the massacres at Mt Matebian in the late 1970s and Kraras in 1983 live on only as memory, song and oral history.

As East Timor moves towards independence the Timorese have already begun to document their own histories for their own purposes. During this period of accounting it will be the East Timorese person who will sit opposite the Indonesian military general and ask 'Why?'

Carmela Baranowska is a documentary filmmaker. 'Scenes from an occupation' is available for sale to individuals, schools, universities and community groups. Email for Australia/NZ admin@roninfilms.com.au, elsewhere viagemfilms@hotmail.com, web site www.roninfilms.com.au.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

In this issue

Democracy - How's it going?

Gerry van Klinken

In May it was two years since pro-democracy protesters brought to an end 32 years of Suharto's military-dominated rule. Since then, the country's first democratic elections in 44 years placed two leaders of the democracy movement in the presidential and vice-presidential offices. The military face constant humiliation over past abuses. So how far has Indonesia come on the road to democracy?

No one in this edition would dare say that what the protesters fought for has been achieved. With no Suharto on whom to focus dissent, the many dimensions of Indonesia's problems appear if anything more daunting. So much remains unchanged. The military who backed the anti-communist purges after 1 October 1965 have not yet confronted those evils. The economic elites who repressed labour and raped the environment are still piling up debt.

Many problems are deep-seated. The government of this vast country has been trying to decentralise for nearly a century, and the military have for decades been earning more outside their official budget than inside it. Elites in Medan (and in North Maluku where they started a war) have worked hand-in-glove with mafias for just as long.

And yet our authors would probably agree that change has been faster these last two years than in the previous thirty. Muchtar Pakpahan, Bu Sulami and Budiman Sujatmiko (who appear in this edition) were all Suharto's political prisoners. They now get a hearing even in the mainstream press. Indonesia has a Muslim president who apologised to the victims of the anti-communist purges of '65. But it just isn't enough yet.

Inside Indonesia is a small magazine produced on a shoestring. All our authors know this, and yet they continue to write because Indonesia moves them. Next time we hope to do something on the arts. With the help of the Australia Indonesia Institute, we also hope to bring you an extra four pages! Especially to help students, we want to include an educational supplement with background on a different topic in each of the coming year's editions.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

Indonesia is definitely OK

Independent comic artists explore newfound freedoms

Laine Berman

One of the first things I noticed in the bookshops after Suharto's resignation was the amazing proliferation of books on sex. Then came humour books on every subject you can think of including politics. Finally and predictably, formal political commentaries flooded the shelves. For these few months, the Japanese comics that have been the best sellers in all Indonesian bookshops were pushed aside. Celebrating the freedom of the moment, Indonesians chose sex, humour, and politics over imported comics. Now, some two years later, enter bookshops and the window displays and shelves are again filled with comics. Sex manuals seem to have been shoved aside by religious books. Sadly, as I reported here in 1998, all of these comics are licensed, translated imports, with not a local comic in sight. The only local comic book found in some shops is Komik politik, which in its two volumes resembles New Order style hero-worshipping.

National Comic Week has since 1996 presented a yearly celebration of formally published Indonesian-made comics. Being restricted to those with 'permission' and slick presentations, it glorifies bad marketing, lack of distribution, translations, western copies, censorship, and ideological repetition. It also glorifies the 'Golden Age' - legend and silat (martial arts) comics from the 60s and 70s.

For the first time in 1999, local independent or underground comics were permitted to appear. Independents are those comics created by admirers of the art or those who simply choose to express themselves through the medium. These mini comics are 'self-published', meaning they are photocopied, distributed amongst friends, and occasionally sold in local shops. Illegal prior to May 1998, by the 1999 Comic Week fifteen 'studios' or groups from Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar were actively making and self-publishing comics.

For the indie comic artists, it was a moment of idealism, mixed with the thrill of legitimacy and finally seeing their work in the same exhibition space as the great Indonesian 'komikus' Jan Mintaraga, RA Kosasih and others. Wahyoe Soegijanto, head of the Indonesian Comic Community (MKI), claimed great things for indie comics, even while maintaining New Order discourse: 'We're moving ahead step by step to advance Indonesian comics as our contribution to the development of Indonesia'. By the 2000 exhibition, however, these independents were already reduced in number and confined to one corner of the hall.


What is so important about comics? For one, Indonesians love them and have a long, fond history of growing up with them. But if comics mirror the environment in which they appear, the 'Golden Age' was a time of heroes and legends, whereas now Indonesia is an occupied nation. Very few komikus have found their own voice under reformasi. The vast majority of comics on display at the 2000 Expo this past February were copies of western comics in terms of art, story, design, location, characterisation, and even language.

The poet Rendra once described freedom of expression as a reflection of the artist's degree of contact with the people, with life and nature. It was an ability to express the truth, or soul of society. So why are most Indonesian comics utterly removed from any direct contact with the everyday world? With reformasi, comics have the potential to reflect social and political life way beyond other types of communication. Where are these models of contemporary culture we would expect to see in such a genre?

Now let's go back to that little indie corner of the exhibition and see what comics look like when freed from the stranglehold of slick presentation or censorship.

First, there were the classics. Self-published comics had been a trend on campuses since 1994. By 1996 groups of Yogyakarta-based art students compiled their efforts into Core comic, Komik selingkuh, Kiri komik, Petak umpet komik, and Komik haram. They worked out of love for the medium, out of the need for self-expression, and in a vain attempt to revive a much missed local tradition. For the most part, and precisely like indies anywhere else in the world, they remain economically utterly unsuccessful. Like indie artists elsewhere too, many are self-conscious about presenting their work in public, evidenced by opening statements that justify their efforts as socially useful. 'Jakarta the hot and filthy can be transformed into a comic!!', said Rudi H in Komec perjoeangan, (1999). Rampok (1999, by Emte) avoided criticism by referring to the comic as garbage and without meaning.

The indie theme in the pre-reformasi era was predominantly despair. One of the earliest in the group comic output was Komik selingkuh (Deception, 1996). This comic-cum-manual is entirely devoted to deception with the ultimate goal of luring someone into sexual engagement. Success or failure both lead to the same ending: a fight with the wife, financial debt, unwanted children, divorce, misery, suicide, and the comfort and joy of imagining and/ or doing the whole sex scene again. Regardless of the consequences, sex as the reward for a good deception heavily outweighs the negatives, at least in terms of its presentational build-up within the comic.

Core Comics (1996) self-published a series called Berteman dengan anjing (Befriending dogs). Each volume contains compilations that conform to various dog themes, nearly all violent: dogs as mad scientists, dog heaven where dogs curse at and abuse people, space dogs fall in love with earth women, and others too weird to identify. Tanggaku kirik (My neighbour is a puppy) compiles stories based in dog worlds, where humans are the beasts, and dog dreams, aspirations for love, to become human, or to just survive. As a whole, nearly every story has a sad ending where man beats dog or dog aspires to greatness and fails.


Most of the New Order era indies share this pessimism. At the same time, and totally unlike indie comics in Australia or the States, they avoid any sense of a self within the social environment. By 1999, however, indies are beginning to show more autobiographical work, based on 'the material at hand' turned into a story or just a simple expos? of life. Not all of it is depressing or pornographic either, as seen in the Komec perjoeangan by Rudi H. His inscription reads 'Indonesia pancen oke lho' (Indonesia is definitely OK, you know). The comic reveals tidbits of the young man's life and experiences that are thoroughly normal and 'definitely OK'.

Nowhere to be seen at the 2000 Comic Expo was the work of the Yogya-based comic and organisational wizard, Bambang Toko. Bambang was the organiser for Core Comic and later moved to the far more interesting Apotik Komik. While extremely active makers of comics as autobiography, full of word plays and local trends, Apotik Komik also has taken comics to the streets through their humorous posters and by decorating walls and billboards. Their collective works have developed a good balance between telling a familiar story and using humour as a way to promote thought and different perspectives. Yet they and all the other Yogya komikus chose to boycott the 2000 Comic Expo. Hopefully, by the 2001 Expo, komikus, publishers, and the Indonesian public will make more effort to look forward instead of back and support a more lively, relevant local comic industry.

Laine Berman (laine@indo.net.id) lives and works in Yogyakarta.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

Leave Indonesia's fisheries to Indonesians!

Corrupt foreign fishing fleets are depriving locals of food

Mark V Erdmann

For decades now, Indonesia's rich marine natural resources have been plundered at will by foreign fishing vessels. Some operate under 'official' licences purchased from Indonesian middlemen and even fly the Indonesian flag Others simply poach in the vast archipelagic seas, bolstered by the slim chance of encountering Indonesian navy vessels and the knowledge that they can usually pay their way out of any 'inconvenient' situations that might arise if they do. Many are said to work with the various enforcement agencies that should be preventing their activities.

Fortunately, Indonesia seems poised on the brink of changing this costly and unsustainable situation. In one of his first official addresses as president, Gus Dur highlighted the illegal foreign fishing problem as one of his priorities. Shortly thereafter he made good on his word by creating the new Ministry for Marine Exploration and Fisheries, and installing one of Indonesia's best known marine environmentalists, Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, as the new minister. This change is long overdue. As 'fish wars' erupt between nations all over the world, Indonesia must realise and protect what is potentially its most sustainable and valuable natural resource, its fisheries. Minister Sarwono recently suggested that the loss in revenue to the Indonesian economy as a result of foreign 'fish stealing' may top US$4 billion!

The following opinion is based not on official statistics or the views of a fisheries scientist, but rather on my experience as a coral reef ecologist living in and travelling through small fishing villages throughout eastern Indonesia for the past nine years. During this time I have had the opportunity to discuss the foreign fleet issue with native fishermen from all over Sulawesi and Maluku, as well as to witness firsthand the status of eastern Indonesia's pelagic and reef fisheries.

The issue of foreign fleets either operating under licence or poaching in Indonesian waters has been acknowledged as a 'problem' for years. But until recently neither officials nor academics took it seriously. This lack of concern stemmed from a common misconception that Indonesian fishermen are too poor and ignorant, their fishing gear not advanced enough to effectively harvest fish stocks, and that they are ineffectual seamen who don't have what it takes to stay at sea and really fish. Combined with the totally ludicrous idea that Indonesia's fisheries resources are underexploited, many fisheries officers and government officials seemed to feel that Indonesia might as well have foreign vessels 'help' with fishing lest all those extra fish go to waste! These misconceptions were reinforced by consecutive Suharto-era five year plans (Repelita) that inevitably called for a more intensive fisheries effort, and by 'official' fisheries statistics that predictably showed a perfect increase in catches in line with the demands of the Repelita.

In my opinion, none of this could be further from the truth. Indonesia's fishermen are extremely competent seamen who do quite a good job of catching any and all commercially important fish species. Moreover Indonesia's fish stocks are mostly overexploited. In a country where fish is considered almost as indispensable as rice in a common meal, at least in eastern Indonesia, villagers are increasingly forced to eat juvenile and 'trash' fishes. There is no excuse for this. A country with a fisheries potential as vast as Indonesia's should be able to feed its own people sustainably. Indonesia's fisheries are the property of the Indonesian people, and should be utilised first and foremost to nourish these people. Only if there is excess should fisheries products be exported.

Unfortunately, there is no excess. While it is not true that Indonesia's fishermen are unable to effectively harvest Indonesia's fisheries, it is true that they are generally at a great competitive disadvantage compared to foreign fleets who use high-technology, unsustainable (and often illegal) fishing gears such as trawl nets, drift nets and massive long lines to decimate pelagic and demersal fisheries throughout the archipelago. Corruption, greed and government short-sightedness have meant that foreign fleets are generally given the green light to plunder Indonesia's most valuable stocks, while sharing a miniscule portion of their profits with a few corrupt government officials. Indonesia's increasingly marginalised traditional fishermen, meanwhile, are left to fight for the scraps. This in turn has led to increased environmental degradation and a decreasing quality of life in many coastal villages as fishermen turn to destructive techniques to make a living and put some fish on their collective plates. I offer two examples from Sulawesi as an illustration.

Blast fishing

When diving on a coastal village's reefs during a recent expedition to Pare Pare in South Sulawesi, two observations struck me most. First, a significant number of larger boats were sitting on the beach in various stages of decay. Second, the reefs had been extremely badly damaged by blast fishing. As I talked with some older fishers, a soon-familiar scenario emerged. The villagers traditionally fished for 'small pelagics' - skipjack tuna, small mackerel and scad. For generations they had harvested the bountiful pelagic schools that often came quite close to the reef. By the mid-1980's, many had built larger long-pole and purse seine boats and were making quite a good living from this fishery.

However, their luck changed in the late 80's when large Taiwanese boats started working the area. The fishery collapsed within a few years. Left with no alternative, the fishermen stored their tuna boats on the beach and turned to blast fishing on their own reefs to supply their fish needs. By the late 90's, their reefs were no longer productive and they are now forced to eat small 'trash' fishes and the remaining baitfish that they can still catch from Pare Pare's harbour with night lift-nets.

A similar, potentially tragic situation is now evolving in North Sulawesi within the Bunaken National Marine Park. This is one of Indonesia's best known marine tourism destinations. On Bunaken island the majority of fishermen are also small pelagics fishers, which augurs well for conservation efforts within the park. Since these fishermen are not targeting reef fisheries, there is great potential for coexistence of fishing and marine ecotourism.

Foreign fishing operations are threatening to damage both of these important sectors of the North Sulawesi economy. In 1997 and 1998, the now infamous 'Curtain of Death' Taiwanese trap net that stretched across the Lembeh Strait decimated migratory pelagic fish and marine mammal stocks in North Sulawesi (see box below). Not only did Bunaken fishermen see the effect in their daily catches, tourism also suffered. The number of sightings of dolphins, manta rays and other diver favourites plummeted.

Minister Sarwono, then Minister of Environment, eventually ordered the Taiwanese trap net taken down. But foreign fleets continue to threaten Bunaken National Park, albeit in a less direct manner. The Bunaken fishermen increasingly report conflicts with foreign tuna fishermen. They are now actively vandalising foreign fishing gears, such as long line radio buoys and fish aggregating devices when they encounter them. The fishermen face a 'double whammy' - Filipino boats poach the waters just northwest of the park, while Taiwanese, Korean and Hong Kong boats (with 'official' licences) work the seas to the north and east of the park. The latter have greatly increased in number since the spread of violence in Ambon, when a number of foreign fleets relocated from Maluku to Bitung as their 'home' port.

Close the seas

As these bigger and more technologically advanced foreign fleets decimate North Sulawesi's stocks, the Bunaken fishermen must travel further and further to catch fish - often 3-5 hours by wooden speedboat from the island. They now increasingly resort to spearfishing and gillnetting on Bunaken's heavily touristed reefs in order to feed their families. Tourism and fishing, once compatible, are now increasingly enemies. In large part this is due to the activities of foreign fishing fleets.

My suggestion for Minister Sarwono and the Indonesian government? Close Indonesia's seas completely to foreign fleets. Period. Allow Indonesian fishermen only to catch Indonesian fish. After five years, the situation can certainly be reassessed. If there is strong scientific evidence for surplus fish production (ie., underexploited stocks), then the issue of exports can be re-examined. But only in a sustainable manner in which Indonesian fishermen catch the fish that are exported. There is simply no justification for foreign fleets to operate in Indonesian waters. Bigger, more technologically-advanced fishing fleets are not better only more efficient at speeding the collapse of a fishery. Indonesia's traditional fishermen don't need any 'help' from foreign fleets. They should be supported and encouraged by their government to harvest what rightfully belongs to them.

Mark V Erdmann (flotsam@manado.wasantara.net.id) is a reef ecologist with the Natural Resources Management/ EPIQ Program in North Sulawesi.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

The kampung bookshelf

An innovative idea to stimulate reading in the urban village

Bambang Rustanto and Lea Jellinek

A mobile library stands alone, forlorn beside kampungs without any people coming to it. The librarian leans against the door, tired waiting for people to come. The dust collects on the books. It is not that people do not know the library is full of books. It is because they do not want to read.

Children grow up with stories based on the history of the place where they live, their ancestors, their religion and funny and dangerous characters. The stories their grandparents and parents tell describe an exciting journey through life - the ups and downs, the difficulties, the traumas they will have to face, and how to behave in polite society. It is a rural tradition based on most Indonesians' recent peasant origins. The wayang is part of this tradition. This should be the basis on which a reading culture is built.

Indonesian children learn reading in a back-to-front way. First they are taught to read and only later to listen, see and experience. They do not get beyond phase one because the reading does not ring true. At school, creativity is not allowed. Children must follow the teacher. Answers are brief and by the book. Composition is not part of any Indonesian child's curriculum.

The problem starts at home. With TV and radio, parents are losing their oral tradition. Those quiet moments in the morning and evenings or during the mid-afternoon siesta when people laze about and talk have been lost. Children are being told fewer stories.

Schooling exhausts them. They grow up disliking learning. If the books a ten-year old carries are piled on top of each other, they are taller than the child. Yet hardly anything in those books remains in the child's mind because they are so full of shallow pieces of information. Even teachers find it hard to remember what is in them.

Warung baca

Our non-government organisation Kesuma has a kampung bookshelf system (Warung Baca) in Jakarta. Each community of 150 people (RT - rukun tetangga) will borrow about sixty books per month. One person can read three to five books or magazines a month. The sixty books/ magazines consist of approximately twenty children's books and stories, ten educational books, ten magazines, newspapers and children's magazines, and twenty books for teenagers and adults. A simple list records the name of each borrower, the date of borrowing and the return date when the book is due.

Children and adults serve themselves from the community bookshelf without being surrounded by too many rules. They take the books home and read in their own time, their own way and the more relaxed environment of home.

Bookshelf minders are all women. The community decides how these organiser(s) should be reimbursed and where the money will come from. Other payments may be used to buy new books, repair the bookshelf, help pay for the collection and distribution of books, or repair damaged books. Based on the Kesuma experience in Kemanggisan, Jakarta, the community is able to raise just Rp 3000 - 5000 per month. A contribution from the community creates responsibility and a sense of ownership. Since starting the program in October 1999, not one book has been damaged or lost in the seven bookshelves.

Food and drink sales have expanded around the Kesuma kampung bookshelves as people drink and eat while they read. Children talk with one another about their learning difficulties.

Once a month, the bookshelf organiser places all the books and magazines in a cardboard box and carts them to a neighbouring bookshelf, so the books are rotated between the seven bookshelves. A mobile library in a truck is unnecessary! The bookshelves are within five minutes walking distance of people's homes.

The kampung bookshelf is for everybody - the young, the old, the middle-aged and teenagers. It satisfies people's varied needs. As the old and the young read together they encourage each other. The influence runs both ways.

Lea Jellinek (leajell@ozemail.com.au) and Bambang Rustanto are freelance development consultants in Jakarta. Kesuma needs money to buy books and magazines. Anybody interested in supporting its work should contact Lea.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

Fireside chat about AIDS

How do you reach illiterate young people at risk from HIV/AIDS? These volunteers take them camping.

Ingrid Hering

Vickram Amiri knows the ways of the streets. At 19, this Manadonese youth is the youngest outreach worker in an HIV/AIDS prevention project for marginalised youth run by a local non-government organisation.

His earlier years mirrored the lifestyle of the project's target group in the North Sulawesi capital - drinking, drug use, numerous partners who were also sex workers, hanging around with friends, and sleeping on the streets. He first came into contact with the non-government organisation Yayasan Mitra Masyarakat (YMM) two years ago when he participated in one of the monthly three-day camping sessions aimed at distributing information about sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and HIV/AIDS. The sessions convey the message through role plays, small group discussions, case studies, information sessions, and question and answer time with a HIV/AIDS specialist. Camping as a tool to reach marginalised youth is unique in Indonesia. Before camping, Vickram had never heard about HIV/AIDS.

He was subsequently trained as a peer educator. Although not instantly, his lifestyle slowly changed and he believed many of his friends were at high risk of infection by STDs, which is one of the channels of HIV /AIDS infection. The girls often had four to five partners in one night, encouraged by their boyfriends who acted as pimps and who were themselves often drunk or used drugs.

Early last year Vickram became an outreach worker. Despite finding it initially daunting he has come to view his youth as an advantage. 'They (the target group) receive me as a friend, which makes it easier to give them information and for them to receive it,' he explained.

Some of his friends are reducing their intake or using drugs in a safer manner. Others who are sexually active but have never used condoms have become aware of the dangers. 'Camping is very effective to give information because it appeals to youth,' Vickram said.

His work is sometimes made difficult by his age, or because discussing sex is still taboo. He has to overcome myths such as that lemon juice on the genitals will kill infection, that only foreigners get HIV/AIDS, or that only transvestites (bancis) use condoms. The project has led to behaviour change, but this can be difficult to sustain if the youth have no regular activities. 'Their environment does not support them to change. It can influence them to return to their former behaviours,' Vickram said.

Indonesia's official figure of 1080 HIV/AIDS cases is greatly underestimated, mainly due to a poor surveillance system. According to Dr James Sinaya, one of about 20 HIV/AIDS specialists in the country, HIV/AIDS here is a time bomb in the face of globalisation and a growing illicit drug trade.

Manado in particular is at high risk. Youth unemployment is high, a large maritime and unskilled labour force work overseas, and the town shares a reputation with West Java for its beautiful women.

The government supports the distribution of information, but Dr Sinaya wants to see more funds for testing kits, which had been dropped as a policy priority, and more recreational activities for young people.

Much of the question and answer sessions are spent dispelling popular myths such as the use of beads, needles and horsehair around or in the penis to increase sexual pleasure. Dr Sinaya believes the greatest obstacles for disseminating information are the diversity of ethnic languages, illiteracy and religious objections to discussing of sex.

YMM's prevention project is funded by USAID and has been running since 1997. It has reached more than 3600 youths to date. According to project manager Umar Mato, written material is not enough to be effective for this target group, due to their limited attention span, minimal education and transient lifestyle. The use of peer educators to reach them, outreach workers to give follow-up information, and activities such as World AIDS Day expos and small group discussions help reinforce information given during camping.

Pak Umar believes the biggest hurdles to be overcome are the resistance to condom use and the increasing prevalence of injecting drug use, particularly heroin. 'The Department of Religion here is not brave enough yet to talk about condom use or promote it,' he said. 'They still hope HIV/AIDS is not a big problem because in North Sulawesi there are only three (official) cases.'

Government prevention strategies are in place, as they were in Thailand 10 years ago, but Pak Umar believes it has not translated into action, partly because 100% condom use is not being pushed. Attention also needs to be focused on injecting drug use. 'Otherwise we will be late, like Thailand and Malaysia,' he added.

Ingrid Hering (ingrid_1010@hotmail.com) is an Australian Volunteers International volunteer, working with Yayasan Mitra Masyarakat in Manado, North Sulawesi.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

Muchtar Pakpahan interview

Terry Symonds interviews Muchtar Pakpahan

How important are international links to you?

Solidarity among the union movement is very important, whatever their own ideology. There are also a few Australian businesses in Indonesia, particularly in mining, so it is important that our unions fight together for solidarity.

What was SBSI's stand on East Timor?

My union and I myself were the first to fight for a referendum for East Timor - it was one reason Suharto put me in jail, as a 'subversive'. Before, I wanted East Timor to become one nation with us, but the people of East Timor decided to be free, and I honour their decision. For the future, I suppose the trade union role in Indonesia and Australia is to support our friends in East Timorese trade unions to build democracy, rule of law, justice and human rights in East Timor.

What role did the SBSI play in Indonesia's democratisation?

The SBSI was involved in bringing reformasi to Indonesia, and in electing the current president, Gus Dur. The role of the SBSI for the future is to support the government, as long as it still supports reformasi.

How much change has there been for workers?

It's not easy yet for us to organise. In Riau, two leaders of my union were sent to jail after striking to demand a wage increase. The police and FSPSI, the former government union, joined with the military to intimidate my members and send them to jail. Such cases are going on in a number of provinces.

What do you think of the current Minister of Manpower?

Bomer Pasaribu was involved in labour rights violations, particularly since 1985 when he became secretary-general of the FSPSI. Then as president of that union he twice was involved organising demonstrations to insist that the government punish me. When he became commissioner of Jamsostek, the company which administers social insurance for workers, the company was full of scandals. He 'marked up' the budget. He was corrupt, and the new attorney general is still investigating him. We would like international unions to insist that President Gus Dur replace Bomer Pasaribu, for the international good appearance of Indonesian workers. His is still the 'New Order' appearance.

What is the future for the SBSI?

First, we want to reform the labour laws produced by 32 years of New Order government. Now, there are no laws to protect workers - all the laws protect companies and the military. Second, we want many officials replaced, particularly in the military, police and the Department of Manpower. Third, we want to strengthen my union through education and training. By the end of 2001, we aim to have at least a million due-paying members. Finally, discrimination about race (Chinese and non-Chinese) and religion (Muslim and non-Muslim) is rising here. I believe that only the trade union movement can build real democracy, rule of law, human rights and anti discrimination.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul-Sep 2000

'Only the clothes have changed'

Reformasi has not made life much easier for trade unionists

Terry Symonds

A strong labour movement is a powerful force for change. Suharto knew this better than most, having come to power on the slaughter of thousands of union activists and communists. Today, under a new and more liberal government, imprisoned labour activists are mostly free and independent unions are on the rise. But they continue to face repression at the factory level and their battle for union rights is by no means won.

The economic and political crisis of the last two years has had a dramatic and contradictory effect upon workers' organisations in Indonesia. Students led the 1998 wave of protest, but it quickly extended to the urban poor. Workers felt encouraged to join the democracy protests and raised demands of their own. Sensing the potential strength of a worker-based opposition, the dying Suharto regime cracked down hard in response.

Immediately before Suharto's re-election in March 1998, some 30 police officers visited the office of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) and forced its closure until after the election. In the week before the election, several lower SBSI officials were arrested for crimes ranging from distributing leaflets to organising plant level unions. Its leader Muchtar Pakpahan was already in jail.

Only two months later Suharto resigned, and Muchtar Pakpahan was released. But other labour leaders remained in prison, including Dita Sari, who was not released until July 1999.

During the turmoil of the Habibie administration, labour organisations continued to play a small but vocal role in the fight for democracy. Just weeks before Wahid was elected president in October 1999, several key unions joined street protests against the proposed new state security laws. Among them were the SBSI and the radical National Front for Indonesian Workers Struggle (FNPBI).

Since then, the workers' struggle has provided conflicting signals. Union activists I spoke with earlier this year believed most workers shared some level of optimism about the reformed political process and might be willing to give the government and economy a kind of 'honeymoon'. On the other hand, more recent reports show industrial disputes flaring again, some spilling into the streets.

One thing is certain: trade union activity will grow from a low base. Up to half the workers in footwear and non-garment textile industries were retrenched, while an estimated three quarters of construction workers lost their jobs. Most unemployed workers did not return to their villages but remained in the cities, seeking casual labouring work or driving transports. Recent research indicates that these workers were unable to return to agriculture because they have lost the skills and contacts they need to find work in the village. Many do not want to return anyway. Instead, they remain in large new communities of workers, such as those scattered on the outskirts of Greater Jakarta, sharing the work and earnings of their neighbours.

This huge reserve army of unemployed exerts significant pressure upon workers' confidence to take industrial action, and helps explain the drop in strike rates the last two years. It also confirms that the transformation of Indonesia's workers into a permanent urban class over the last twenty years has not been reversed by the economic crisis.

Vedi Hadiz says in an important 1995 study of the Indonesian working class that urbanisation has closed off any avenue of 'retreat' to the village. Workers will now 'stay and fight it out in the cities'. Urbanisation allows traditions of union organisation to grow and be passed on from one generation to the next.


'Workers are becoming more bold because of reformasi,' said one company director in June last year. There are growing signs that he may be right. Labour activists insist that the new freedoms haven't made things any easier at the factory level, where they face constant intimidation and harassment, but they aren't wasting the opportunity to build.

The Suharto regime effectively smashed Dita Sari's Centre for Indonesian Workers Struggle (PPBI) after she was thrown in jail. But her comrades resurfaced with a new labour organisation, the National Front for Indonesian Workers Struggle (FNPBI). Even before she was released, they elected Dita to head it up.

The FNPBI, barely a year old, held a national council meeting in West Java in February of this year. It brought together delegates from 11 affiliated labour organisations, four more than last year. The FNPBI remains small, but some of its sections are sizeable organisations with an impressive record of organisation. It is distinguished by a socialist outlook and a commitment to political protest not shared by other independent unions.

The commitment of these new labour organisations is matched by growing bitterness among workers. In February 2000, sacked shoe factory workers from Reebok producer PT Kong Tai Indonesia blocked the toll road outside the Manpower Ministry office for several hours with an angry protest over severance pay. When this didn't work, over a thousand workers staged an occupation of parliament which lasted more than a week. These workers seem to have had little prior history of independent unionism. Their spontaneity is a reminder that workers' frustrations do not always express themselves through established organisations.

Demonstrations have been taking place outside parliament almost every week this year. In April, 5000 teachers, whose profession has no reputation for militancy, swamped parliament house during a strike for a 300% wage rise. They had rejected the government's offer of 100%.

Shoe factory workers at PT Isanti in Semarang won 23 of their 25 demands, including a holiday on May 1 to join the international commemoration of workers struggles. Their union believes this will help to revive a May Day tradition that was forced underground for its association with communism.


The relationship between labour and the new government is shaky and not likely to improve. When I asked one group of striking workers what they thought of the election results, they told me that 'only the clothes have changed'.

Muchtar Pakpahan's SBSI is Indonesia's largest and most well established independent union. It is generally close to Wahid, but even that relationship is showing signs of strain. In a test case for the new government, the SBSI is fighting for the release of two members convicted under subversion laws for leading a strike last year at a tyre factory in Tangerang. Muchtar also criticised the recent small rise in the regional minimum wage, saying it was 'just enough to eat and smoke a little, and breathe the air.'

Almost all independent unions, including the SBSI and FNPBI, declared their opposition to the appointment of Bomer Pasaribu, a New Order figure, as Labour Minister. Muchtar Pakpahan calls on international unions to apply pressure for his removal (see box).

Wahid did delay the recent IMF-inspired fuel price rise, but 2,000 protesters gathered at parliament to remind him of what lies ahead. When the price rises inevitably come, bigger protests are expected.

Indonesia's new labour movement is small but growing and the mood of workers is hardening. Trade unions are unlikely to occupy centre stage in the political process unless the economy turns around and the bargaining position of their members improves, but they will be an increasingly important player in the looming confrontations over economic reform. Wahid will ignore them at his peril.

Terry Symonds (tsymonds@powerup.com.au) is the convenor of Australia-Indonesia Union Support. He lives in Brisbane, Australia. The group has wide union links and brought Muchtar Pakpahan to Australia for a visit.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

Inside Jepara

Tensions between state, society and business

Jim Schiller

Jepara is a small town of about 100,000 and a district of slightly under a million on the north coast of Java, two hours by car from the provincial capital Semarang. Unlike Medan it has only recently become urban and is not an ethnic or religious mixing pot. Nearly 98% of Jeparans are from one ethnic group, the Javanese, and more than 95% are Muslim.

Jepara was an important port kingdom in the mid-sixteenth century, once ruled by Queen Kalinyamat. The colonial Dutch burned it to the ground twice in one year for breaking their trade monopoly. It was also the home of Kartini the Javanese aristocrat whose life and letters advanced educational opportunities for Indonesian women in the early twentieth century.

Jepara exports more than 500 million Australian dollars of its famous handcrafted furniture each year. It makes antique reproduction, garden and other furniture in any design the customer wants. There is also a substantial domestic furniture industry. Together they employ more than 80,000 Jeparans. Many more are employed in allied industries. Most work in more than 2000 overwhelmingly Javanese-owned small and medium enterprises in Jepara's villages. Even most of the largest firms are indigenous or European. Elsewhere in Indonesia, Chinese Indonesian firms dominate manufacturing.

Jepara's economy has boomed. For several kilometres the road into town is full of furniture factories, showrooms and warehouses. There has been a related growth in public transport, in packing and shipping services, in upholstering, banks, and public buildings. Internet and telephone kiosks, good hotels and 'modern' restaurants cater mainly to foreigners and the new commercial elite.

In 1971 Jepara was one of the poorest districts in Central Java. Now it is near the top in regional per capita income. It has more registered motor vehicles than any other locality in Central Java except the provincial capital. Another sign of local prosperity is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which costs more than AU$5000. This year nearly 2500 Jeparans went, up from about 900 the year before. In both years Jepara sent more pilgrims than any other locality in Indonesia. Local government revenue is so strong that in the midst of Indonesia's 1998 economic crisis Jepara's local government could build a large two-storey office building without borrowing.

Jepara's recent wealth is also visible in new retail shops, department stores, motor vehicle dealers and even a super-market. While inequality seems to have grown, there is anecdotal evidence that the growth in employment in the furniture industry has helped to push up other rural wages.


For decades local politics has been competitive and local society has been able to challenge the local state to be more effective and responsive. My argument about how Jepara got by New Order standards a relatively demanding society and a responsive developmental state can be found in my book Developing Jepara (1996).

Jepara has long had a strong Islamic institution, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), with deep roots and high status in Jepara's villages, small business community and Islamic schools. NU won nearly 60% of the vote in the democratic elections of 1955, and it expected to dominate local government after the destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party in 1965. It soon became clear that less-overtly Islamic bureaucrats from southern Central Java would fill local government positions. However, these 'outsider' bureaucrats soon found that they needed the support of local NU leaders to succeed with their development programs. Even in the 'controlled' New Order elections, Jepara's Muslim community resisted efforts to deliver the government party Golkar victories. They regularly elected PPP candidates to 40% of the elected seats, narrowly won one election, and found ways to make the assembly question government practices.

Encouraged by delegations to the assembly criticising poor government services, the Jepara assembly actively investigated corruption. They used the NU informal network to reveal the secrets of bureaucrats who showed signs of conspicuous consumption. On more than one occasion an assembly representative asked the district head (bupati) how it was that an official built a new house or deposited ten million rupiah into his bank account. The questions were well informed and embarrassing.

Jepara began to get a reputation as a difficult place for state officials to govern, because the people dared to complain loudly unless government was attentive and careful. As the furniture industry grew, entrepreneurs acquired cars, televisions, and stereos that gave them a new prestige in the materialist New Order.

Entrepreneurs gained further status when, after the oil boom, the state admitted it needed the private sector to play a leading role in making development succeed. In the 1980s and 1990s there was also a marked cultural turn to Islam in Indonesia. Jepara's officials began to see Jepara's Islamic and business communities as deserving their respect. Jepara's business leaders came to expect public services. Jepara's local government financed trade promotions, fought for better roads, for the right to use container trucks, for improved telecommunications.

All this does not mean that there was no conflict between state and society. It did mean that the risks of corruptors or tyrants being found out and humiliated were greater. The arrogance of power was constrained, not eliminated. That arrogance was most obvious when national or provincial interests wanted local land. Examples include the now-abandoned nuclear reactors, the huge, still-unfinished, Suharto family-owned Tanjung Jati power plant in Bangsri, and tourist development in the Karimunjawa islands. In these national projects the local state and local society had little voice.

One ongoing tension between state and society and between large furniture enterprises and small ones is over the role of (overwhelmingly European) foreigners. There have been pro- and anti-foreigner demonstrations, occasional mysterious fires in furniture factories, media attacks on the local state for condoning the presence of 'illegal' foreigners, and public threats to the safety of foreigners. Many indigenous firm-owners think that foreigners are trying to make a quick profit or establish a monopoly. However, many small business owners support the foreigners because they provide an alternative market which drives up prices.

Reform era

Jepara went through the New Order relatively well, with a strengthened economy and a society able to place limits on the state and a local state made more responsive. So how is Jepara managing in the Reform Era?

The local economy has remained strong with the rupiah value of furniture exports soaring. Many Jeparans now believe that they can do well at business even in adverse conditions. The worrying cloud on the horizon is the question of sustainability. Can the forests of Indonesia (and now Brazil) provide quality timber in ever increasing amounts?

Politics has been more problematic. The problem is not state-society relations but clashes within society. NU had established its own party, PKB, and thus came into competition with the other Islamic-based party, PPP, to which most Jeparan NU members had hitherto given their loyalty. One of the most widely reported clashes of the 1999 election campaign was in Dongos, near Jepara, in which four PKB supporters were killed when they tried to establish a local branch in a PPP-dominated village. Tensions remained high during the election.

PPP captured more than 40% of the votes, more than double the second party. Some election monitors saw PPP's victory as a sign that intimidation continued to play a big role. PPP, they said, did what Golkar had always done. Another view might be that voters remained loyal to the party that had battled the New Order in difficult times.

On the other hand, the PKB and NU leadership has been gracious in defeat. They did not challenge for the chair of the local assembly even though an everybody-but-PPP coalition might have succeeded. The PKB candidate withdrew and announced that it was better that the party with the most seats won the chairmanship. Such flexibility, inclusiveness and tolerance among the NU and PKB leadership provides the greatest hope that Jepara will do well in the reform era. Through the authoritarian years of the New Order it sustained resistance, but gave ground when it needed to. Eventually, it tamed the local state.

NU headquarters is now a place where Muslim and even non-Muslim activists feel they can meet and talk. The difficult task ahead for NU will be to accommodate and somehow soften their proud, exclusivist, PPP wing. Jepara has a flourishing civil society and a responsive local state. The question is how that society can learn to govern itself and constrain society-based power-holders.

Jim Schiller (asjs@sigma.sss.flinders.edu.au) teaches at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. He is the author of 'Developing Jepara: State and society in New Order Indonesia' (Monash Asia Institute, 1996).

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000

A tale of two cities

Post-Suharto, central power is weak and 'the local' becomes more important. A look at two very different cities.

Loren Ryter

Medan gets a new mayor

'The Minister of Interior Affairs shouldn't force the people of Medan to play hardball?. If they wanna make this country into [a nation of] cowboys, we're ready.' Medan assembly member Martius Latuperisa issued this threat late in March in the midst of a heated controversy over the planned swearing-in of Medan's new mayor, Abdillah Ak, MBA. Abdillah is a local businessman who on March 20 had been elected by a vote of 35-10 in the local assembly. If necessary, Martius warned, the assembly would inaugurate Mr Abdillah themselves, without Interior Affairs Ministry authorisation. 'We know best who's most fit to be the mayor of Medan. Moreover, the people of Medan are not subordinates of the central government,' asserted Martius, who is the Medan chief of the Armed Forces Sons' and Daughters' Communication Forum (FKPPI). Martius once represented Golkar in the assembly. He is now the faction head of the Golkar splinter party Justice and Unity Party (PKP).

After decades of regional subordination to Jakarta, it is tempting to laud the rise of the local. But this still looks like a New Order kind of conflict. The inter-bureaucratic, inter-personal, and inter-organisational competition for influence reaches from the local to the national. It is not strictly a matter of local autonomy.Yes, the advent of new political parties has heightened competition. A freer media and rising stakes make conflict more visible. But local power continues to be contested much as it has been ever since independence: through mass mobilisation, bribery, and 'lobbying Jakarta.'

Medan was once the colonial seat of the Deli plantation region in Sumatra. Today it is Indonesia's third largest city with a population of over two million. Medan's ethnically diverse composition reflects the legacy of a colonial economy which relied on Chinese, South Asian, and later Javanese contract coolies to work the tobacco and rubber estates, as well as on ethnic Chinese traders to provide basic commercial services. By 1981, ethnic Javanese comprised 29% of the population, and ethnic Chinese made up 13%, four times more than in Indonesia overall.

Military mobilisation during the 1945-49 revolution and during the late 1950s PRRI rebellion against Jakarta brought many Bataks and Mandailing to Medan, where they had previously been a minority. Once demobilised, these youths maintained contacts with military commanders even as they assumed territorial control in the informal economy. By the 1960s, these 'preman' (free men) as they were known, made a living as middle-men in markets, ticket scalpers at the movie theatres, and in private security in ethnic Chinese residential districts.

In response to leftist labour radicalism in plantations and industry, military authorities encouraged the formation of anti-communist labour unions such as Soksi and youth groups such as Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth, PP). By the time of the October 1965 'coup', these groups were well placed to lead the purges against suspected members of the PKI, and were indeed positively encouraged to do so. Chief among the victims were predominantly ethnic Javanese railway and plantation workers, and urban ethnic Chinese accused of involvement with Communist China.

The leaders of the groups which carried out these purges, as well as civilian and military officials who had violently demonstrated their anti-communist vigour, increasingly gained control of the early New Order economy and polity. Medan had long promised quick fortunes. During the colonial era it was the export hub for 'the land of the dollar' in its hinterland. Plentitudes of disposable cash made Medan particularly suited for gambling and prostitution. Tjong A Fie, the Dutch-appointed Captain-Chinese and the leading non-European power broker in late colonial society, operated government-licensed gambling, opium leases, and nearly thirty brothels. But with their political influence completely smashed by the late 1960s, ethnic Chinese fell to the mercy of power-holders for the continued operation of these ventures as well as legal commerce. The premanwere more than willing to provide the 'protection' they required, under threat of closure, seizure, or worse.

Bad boy democracy

Under these conditions, a kind of bad boy democracy flourished in Medan. Jakarta was never able to perfectly structure Medan's polity from the top down. Central and local authorities were forced to negotiate with the quasi-mafia forces at the grassroots whose growth they themselves had fostered. In fact, this year's controversy over the new mayor echoed a similar contest at the dawn of the New Order. Then, Pemuda Pancasila had openly and successfully championed Sjoerkani for mayor against a candidate backed by the regional military command. Installed in 1966, Sjoerkani served until 1974.

During Sjoerkani's tenure, Pemuda Pancasila's influence grew further. Its members squeezed legal and illegal commerce in the town so tightly that the ethnic Chinese community still calls them 'five claws' (go-jiao) rather than 'five principles' (Pancasila). Not merely a gang of thugs, Pemuda Pancasila also became a springboard into the bureaucracy and even the military. Pemuda Pancasila leaders still boast that even former Abri chief Feisal Tanjung was once a member and a market preman.

However, Pemuda Pancasila's chokehold became irksome to business owners and to military officers who themselves wanted a cut of the action. In the early 1980s a splinter group of PP began to fight for control of territory, and especially for gambling revenues. Ikatan Pemuda Karya (Work Service Youth Association, IPK) was funded in part by Chinese entrepreneurs, and was backed by some military officers including, so it is rumoured, then-Abri commander Benny Murdani. The idea was to create a balance of power.

IPK's leader was a shrewd Christian Toba Batak fluent in Hokkien named Olo Panggabean. Unlike PP, IPK began to directly manage gambling operations rather than merely squeeze them for protection money. Olo got his start while still a PP member at the 1973 Medan Fair, where he was in charge of security. Shortly thereafter he opened kim, a variety of bingo played for cash prizes, which he still runs openly at the Medan Fair ground.

Though they mortally fought each other on the streets, IPK strove to support Golkar even more fervently than did PP. Golkar election campaigns provided the ideal venue to stage a show of force. Each group mobilised thousands of its members clad in their respectively coloured camouflage uniforms. By the late 1980s and into the 1990s, other national Golkar-supporting youth groups became minor players in Medan's territorial scene, notably FKPPI, the army brats' youth group, which for most of its late New Order existence was led nationally by Suharto scion Bambang Trihatmojo.

Clashes between the groups' rank and file were often actually lucrative for their municipal leaders, who themselves sat comfortably in their assembly seats. (Each group had at least one representative in the local assembly, always with Golkar.) For several years during the early 1990s, a protracted three-way battle known as the 'the poison arrow affair' ensued between PP, IPK, and FKPPI in the Polonia district of Medan, an area adjacent to the airport slated for luxury housing development. Developers colluded with the youth group chiefs to provoke a protracted conflict which would scare off residents and drive down land prices.

For the Medan bosses, reformasi ushered in new opportunities as well as some new obstacles. They did not see multi-party elections as a formidable threat. IPK continued to support Golkar. FKPPI split between Golkar and its splinter party PKP. Senior leaders of PP hedged their bets, fanning out into Golkar, PKP, PAN, and also PDI-P. One local PP boss running on a Golkar ticket lost the election in his district of Padang Bulan but still gained a seat after negotiation within Golkar. Most bosses who held seats retained them, though sometimes under new party banners.

But what did the rise of the new parties imply for territorial control? To IPK in particular, members of the security wing of Megawati's PDI-P were dangerous pretenders, all the more so since many rank and file PP members had joined their forces. Golkar assembly member and Medan IPK chief Moses Tambunan told an IPK rally shortly after the elections to prepare for a fight: 'Clearly PDI-P is out to undermine us. They gotta eat too. If they beg for rice, give them some. But if they want the rice bowl, forget about it!'

Other institutional changes brought about by reformasi were more important. The separation of the police from the rest of the armed forces gave PP new leverage against IPK. PP began to demand that the police crack down on illegal gambling. As if obediently, in December the police mobile brigade avenged IPK's stabbing of one of its members by shooting up Olo's headquarters, known locally as 'the White House.' IPK in turn relied on the regional military command, whose logistics operations it has openly helped finance, to admonish the police.


Medan's established forces found a common candidate for mayor in Abdillah Ak. As a local entrepreneur he could be expected to generate numerous projects to be contracted out. During the mass mobilisations surrounding the mayoral candidacy, both FKPPI and the Youth Front of the political party PAN were among Abdillah's militant supporters. One of PP's senior leaders sits on the North Sumatran board of PAN.

Abdillah was fully willing to cooperate with all groups holding effective power in Medan. PDI-P's original candidate, Professor Firman Tambun, took a less pragmatic stance and suffered for it. After clashes between PP and IPK in November and December 1999, Tambun stated that the police must enforce the law and arrest criminals, not just summon the youth group leaders for reconciliation. He was subsequently shut out of the candidate list entirely.

PDI-P held more seats in the local assembly than any other party - 16 out of 45 - yet they failed to secure their mayoral candidate. The circumstances that led to this failure were only brought to light through non-procedural means. After the assembly voted to elect Abdillah mayor, a group of PDI-P cadres calling itself the Struggle Bull Youth Movement abducted 12 of the PDI-P's 16 assembly members and took them to the party's provincial headquarters. There they were pelted and threatened with knives. Four of them then signed a prepared confession that each of them had accepted 25 million rupiah from Abdillah's 'Success Team' in exchange for their votes.

On April 18, the governor of North Sumatra finally swore in the new mayor in a local assembly building guarded by army troops, members of the security wing of the PDI-P siding with their party's assembly members, and members of FKPPI. The inauguration caught Medan by surprise. It came the day after the Attorney General's Medan office indicted Mr Abdillah on charges of corruption and vote buying. Nevertheless, the inauguration was technically legal. The Minister of Interior Affairs authorised it in a decree issued mere hours after the Attorney General's office announced the indictment.

Loren Ryter (loren@u.washington.edu) is completing a doctoral dissertation on youth and preman in Jakarta and Medan at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
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