Clash between Political Committee of the Poor and Islamic thugs narrowly averted

Antara News – December 10, 2007
Protest commemorating International Human Rights Day (Arah Juang)
Protest commemorating International Human Rights Day (Arah Juang)

Surabaya – Hundreds of protesters from the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) and the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) almost clashed with members of the Union for Dealing with the New Style Communists (SP-KGB) during an action on JL. Governor Suryo in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya on Monday.

The two groups, both of whom were commemorating International Human Rights Day, faced each other off at a distance of some 20 meters. Fully armed police however intercepted the two groups and the PRD-Papernas protesters halted in front of the Simpang Hotel while the SP-KGB members stopped in front of the State Grahadi Building.

The protesters from the PRD, Papernas, the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) and the Independent Workers Union (SPM), which have joined together in the Political Committee of the Poor (KPRM), appeared to outnumber the SP-KGB members by more than 200 people. This was because protesters from the East Java Workers Challenge Alliance (ABMJT), who had initially been demonstrating at the Surabaya Municipal District Police station and the East Java Governor’s office on Jl. Pahlawan, also joined the demonstration.

Members of the SP-KGB meanwhile, which is made up of the Surabaya Anti-Communist Front (FAK), the Lamongan  Islamic Community Forum (FUI), the Surabaya Center for Indonesian Community Studies, the Tauhid Anti-Communist Movement (GERTAK) and the Greater Sidoarjo Muhammadiyah Youth Association (IRM), numbered only around 30 as several SP-KGB members had already gone home.

The SP-KGB members it seems, who had been holding an action since 9am local time at the Governor Suryo Statue, “missed their targets” when they pelted a group of demonstrators with rocks who they assumed to be the PRD because they were wearing red clothing. It turned out however that they were activists from the group People Living with HIV/AIDS (ODHA).

The PRD-Papernas demonstrators began the action by gathering at Jl. Kombes M. Duriyat at around 10am. They then held a long-march to the State Grahadi Building some two kilometers away.

The protesters however were intercepted by the unit head of the South Surabaya municipal police Iptu M. Rasyad on Jl. Basuki Rahmat (in front of the Tegalsari sectoral police offices), who asked them not to hold an action in front of the Grahadi building because the situation was “unfavorable”.

The East Java PRD-Papernas protesters who came from Surabaya, Gresik, Mojokerto, Ngawi and Sidoarjo, were finally “detained” for more than an hour in front of a fast-food restaurant on Jl. Basuki Rahmat, but then moved off again stopping at the intersection between Jl. Basuki Rahmat and Jl. Governor Suryo to wait for the ABMJT.

It was while the PRD-Papernas demonstrators were “resting” that police held negotiations with the SP-KGB leaders. The negotiations however apparently failed resulting in PRD-Papernas and SP-KGB almost running into each other.

Six or seven SP-KGB members were even able to slip past the police barricade and tried to “approach” the PRD-Papernas protesters. A number of police intelligence officers however stepped in and prevented them from advancing any further.

“The government has banned the PRD, so how come the police don’t have the guts to disband [the rally]. It is because of this that we will disperse them ourselves, because wiping out communism is a religious command”, said SP-KGB activist Imanan.

According to Imanan, Papernas represents a “personification” of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), because Papernas’s symbol, terminology, jargon and even its statutes and rules of association are a “photocopy” of the PKI, which has already been banned by the government. Because of this therefore, they say that Papernas is a new style communist organisation.

Speaking separately, KPRM public relations officer Yusuf DH said FAK has indeed sought to sabotage Papernas’s activities on a number of occasions such as during its launch in Jakarta, at the Papernas Congress in Yogyakarta and the East Java regional conference in Batu.

“Papernas is actually already registered [officially with the government], but up until now there has yet to be any firm position taken by the government [against this harassment]. Because of this, we believe that the government has violated [our] human rights, because they have never respond to Papernas’s complaints”, he asserted.

Although the two actions took place opposite each other, in the end they did not meet because both were forced to disband by the police as they had exeeded the mutually agreed to time limit for the actions.

[Translated by James Balowski.]