Making workers hate Ahok

Source – May 8, 2017
 Abolish Outsourcing and Low Wages - Jakarta May 22, 2017 (Awank Prasetyo)
Abolish Outsourcing and Low Wages - Jakarta May 22, 2017 (Awank Prasetyo)

Arbi Sumandoyo – “Jakarta is filthy. We have to be macho. Jakarta is filthy. It must be cleaned up... must be cleaned up”, shouted a speaker through a loudspeaker from a command vehicle on May Day in front of the Jakarta City Hall.

“So make a pile. All in one place. We’ll clean the City Hall of these unclear messages...”

On Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan, as recorded on video, labour demonstrators wearing uniform black T-shirts with long red sleeves collected and dragged away floral tributes and displays sent to Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama which had apparently been sent by his supporters after the incumbent Jakarta governor lost in a venomous gubernatorial election.

Plumbs of smoke quickly blanketed the road. The speaker continued to provoke the demonstrators while other people in the vicinity, including the police, looked on as the floral tributes were burnt.

“We want to create a new history, we want to show Ahok that we the LEM SPSI is cleaning up Jakarta. Agreed? Agreed?”

That afternoon, in the midst of rallies commemorating May Day 2017, workers from the Jakarta branch of the All Indonesia Workers Union-Electronic and Machinery Trade Union (FSP LEM-SPSI) were instead busy setting fire to the floral tributes for Ahok and scuffling with police who tried to extinguish the fires.

The action became the focus of public attention after videos by people watching the incident spread on social media. Because of the incident, May Day 2017 was tarnished giving the impression of something wild even though it did not in any way represent all elements of the working class that had gathered in Jakarta on the national holiday.

There is no doubt that the actions by the FSP LEM-SPSI indicated their political support for the opposing gubernatorial election ticket of Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno. This however was denied by North Jakarta FSP LEM-SPSI member Dadan Muldan. He explained that the incident had absolutely no relationship with the SPSI’s sectoral union’s support for candidates in the recent elections and referred to it as a “spontaneous act”.

“It was spontaneous, we were conveying a message to the Jakarta provincial government so what’s the problem? The City Hall should be cleared of all these kinds of things right”, said Dadan. Their justification for burning the floral tributes was because they “disturbed public order”.

Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) president Said Iqbal said that he knew nothing about the action by LEM SPSI workers. At the time of incident he explained that he was feeling ill and resting in a car near the Antara state news agency offices around 500 metres from where the incident took place. Iqbal then went to the MNC Media offices, around two minutes away by car to take part in a discussion. He said that the flower burning did not involve the KSPI.

“Following the action at 5pm, I was informed by journalist friends about the burning of the flowers. So I checked with my subordinates, there were no FSPMI [Indonesian Metal Trade Union Federation] or KSPI members involved”, said Iqbal via an SMS message yesterday, May 7. He insists that the FSP LEM-SPSI’s political support for the Anies-Sandiaga ticket in the Jakarta Labour Coalition had no relationship with the burning of the floral tributes to Ahok. “There was no relationship, Brother”, said Iqbal.

Supporting Anies-Sandiaga

As part of the Jakarta Labour Coalition, along with 12 other trade unions the FSP LEM-SPSI backed the Anies-Sandiaga ticket to win the Jakarta gubernatorial election. On April 1, two weeks before the vote, they declared their support at the central leadership board of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), led by former General Prabowo Subianto.

The Jakarta Labour Coalitions is made up of the Jakarta FSPMI, the Jakarta FSP LEM-SPSI, the Jakarta Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (ASPEK), the Jakarta National Trade Union (SPN), KSPI’s Chemical, Energy and Mining Labour Solidarity Forum (FSP KEP-KSPI), the Private and Honorary Teachers Forum, the Jakarta Health and Pharmaceuticals Trade Union Federation (FSP FARKES) of Reform, KSPI’s Fraternity of Indonesian Muslim Workers (SP PPMI KSPI), the Federated Tourism Trade Union of Reform (FSP Pariwisata Reformasi), the Indonesian Multi-Sector Trade Union Federation (FSPASI), the Indonesian Unionists Solidarity Forum (FSUI) and the Indonesian Automotive Trade Union (SPOI).

Prior to declaring their support for the Anies-Sandiaga ticket at the Gerindra offices, on March 30 this coalition of trade unions affiliated with the KSPI went to the Islamic based Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) regional leadership board offices in the Cempaka Putih area of Central Jakarta.

Those present included, among others, Tubagus Arif (Jakarta Regional House of Representatives member from the PKS), Arief Wicaksono (chairperson of the Fisherpeople and Agricultural Workers Division (BPPN) of the PKS Jakarta regional leadership board), Adang Sudrajat (House of Representatives (DPR) Labour Commission member and chairperson of the PKS central leadership board BPPN) and Muhammad Rusdi (KSPI vice-president). Winarso meanwhile represented the Workers’ Coalition. Sandiaga Uno was also present. Two days later the Workers’ Coalition’s support was declared by Iqbal at the Gerindra central leadership board office.

The Coalition’s stated reason for supporting the Anies-Sandiaga ticket was because during the time that Ahok was governor of Jakarta he had never fought for decent wages.

KSPI media and communication department head Kahar S. Cahyono said that this support was not the position of the organisation. Those parties supporting the Anies-Sandiaga ticket did so because they “were going to sign a political contract” with workers. One of the points in the political contract, which was referred to by the acronym Sepultura meaning “The 10 Demands of the People” was addressing the issue of low wages.

“In Jakarta there was the Sepultura political contract with Anies-Sandiaga, meanwhile it was extremely difficult for the other side  (Ahok-Djarot) to get a political contract”, said Cahyono by phone. Cahyono claimed that before signing the political contract the KSPI leadership had communicated with the Ahok-Djarot ticket.

Cahyono also responded to the question of why KSPI workers tended to be more critical of Ahok and Widodo. “Because in truth Jokowi [Indonesian President Joko Widodo] and Ahok are representatives of the powers that be. Jokowi is the president and Ahok the governor. So in terms of demands and protests, we directed them at Pak Jokowi and Ahok as the one’s currently in power”.

PKS candidates in KSPI and Prabowo supporters

Behind the mobilisation of KSPI affiliated trade unions in support of the Anies-Sandiaga ticket, in late 2015 trade unions led by Iqbal took part in mobilising protesters to go to Jakarta to demonstrate against Ahok demanding that he be jailed for alleged blasphemy.

The KSPI leadership setup a coalition of workers in the form of the Indonesian Labour Movement (GPI) and the Indonesian Muslim Workers’ Movement (GMPI) in order to take part in playing up religious sentiment. They played a role in mobilising workers to take to the streets of Jakarta during the anti-Ahok demonstrations known as the Defend Islam Actions.

GPMI flags were flown during the Defend Islam Action III; better known as the “212 Action”. In addition to GPMI flags, flags of the FSPMI were also flown among the protesters demanding Ahok be immediately jailed for blasphemy.

It was these KSPI leaders that led the trade unions that joined the Jakarta Labour Coalition and made up the GPI presidium that took part in the Defend Islam Actions.

They were Ahmad Jazuli, Ashary, Didi Suprijadi, Herry Hermawan, Iswan Abdullah, Muhamad Rusdi, Mirah Sumirat, Riden Hatam Azis, Roro Dwi Handyani, Sabda Pranawa Djati, Winarso and Yulianto.

Muhamad Rusdi is registered as the vice president of the KSPI. He was also present during a “goodwill meeting” of the Jakarta Labour Coalition. He also attended a “good-will meeting” between the Jakarta Labour Coalition and the PKS’s Jakarta regional leadership Fisherpeople and Agricultural Workers Division. When allegations of treason (maker) became public late last year, Rusdi was questioned as a witness in the treason case against Ratna Sarumpaet.

Mirah Sumirat meanwhile is the president of the Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (ASPEK), one of KSPI’s sectoral labour unions. On several occasions Sumirat has publically raised the issue of an “invasion of foreign workers” entering Indonesia.

Riden Hatam Azis is the secretary general of the FSPMI and is close to Said Iqbal. When he was the chairperson of the FSPMI Banten regional leadership board, Azis nominated himself as a candidate for the Tangerang Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) with the backing of the PKS.

Other names include Yulianto, chairperson of the FSP LEM-SPSI Jakarta regional leadership board and Sabda Pranawa Djati, secretary general of the ASPEK, who once declared his support for the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa ticket in the 2014 presidential election.

Meanwhile Iswan Abdulah is the chairperson of the KSPI’s Department of Wages and Social Security for the period 2012-2017. Abdulah once tried his hand as a legislative candidate for the West Java electoral district VII from the PKS.

Didi Suprijadi meanwhile, who is the chairperson of the KSPI’s national assembly for the period 2017-2022 and chairperson of the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI) executive board, once held the position of KSPI deputy chairperson and had expressed criticism of Anies Baswedan when he held the post of education minister.

Kahar S. Cahyono, who took part in the labour contingent of the Defend Islam Actions, said that these various spectrums of political support have no relationship with the labour confederation led by Said Iqbal. He explained that that although the labour leaders affiliated with the KSPI supported the anti-Ahok rallies in Jakarta and signed the “political contract” with the Anies-Sandiaga ticket, this was “not an organisational position”.

“In organisational terms, the KSPI is not part of this”, said Cahyono, adding that their political support was as individuals although they are leaders of KSPI affiliated groups.

Cahyono explained that the linking of the burning of the floral tributes to Ahok with the KSPI and the PKS has absolutely no basis. Many KSPI members are from different political parties, said Cahyono. Even during the 2014 legislative elections many KSPI members stepped forward as candidates for different parties including the Joko Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the PKS and even the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura).

“It wasn’t just the PKS. What happened in Bekasi was that we were able to ensure the victory of two people, two people from the PDI-P (Nyumarno) and Nurdin (Muhidin) from PAN. So it’s not true that in hierarchical terms we have become underbouw [affiliated] of the PKS”, he said.

“The KSPI has absolutely no relationship with [any political] parties”, insists Cahyono. ( – arb/fhr)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was “Menggiring Buruh untuk Membenci Ahok”.]