Kartika Virgianti, Jakarta – One hundred and thirty-two civil society and non-government organisations (NGOs) have expressed their concern over Indonesian democracy which will soon return to the era of the New Order dictatorship.
The groups conveyed their good wishes to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Prabowo Subianto’s Red and White Coalition (KMP) for successfully taking democracy away from the people.
The remarks were made at a free speech platform organised by the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) under the theme “Democratic Emergency: Don’t Let Democracy Die Peacefully, There is Only One Word... Resist!”, which was held on the grounds of the YLBHI office in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday October 8.
The groups said that the regime of former President B.J. Habibie left Indonesia with more peaceful elections, former President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid left Indonesia with a culture of pluralism that can be felt to this day, and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri left Indonesia with more democratic space.
But SBY left Indonesia with the law on regional elections (UU Pilkada), the Legislative Institutions Law (UU MD3) and a number of other policies that clearly usurped democracy from the people.
According to the groups, the New Order regime of former President Suharto was a regime where power was held by a small group of people, a leadership of the oligarchy, where the people had no democratic space whatsoever to speak out.
The New Order was a time when activist from social organisations who struggled for democracy were tortured, abducted and injured. It was a time of low wages for workers when prices continued to rise and workers had no democratic space to speak out. It was a time when farmers were strangled by the high price of seed but had no opportunity to speak out against the government. It was a time of great bitterness and suffering for uncounted numbers of ordinary people.
Without intending to side with either camp, neither the KMP or president elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and vice president elect Jusuf Kalla, the 132 organisation stated that one of the achievements of democracy has been direct elections, where the ordinary people can participate directly, albeit limed to the polling booth.
But this democracy is far better than one which is owned by a handful of elite. It is most unfortunate that this is the outcome of 15 years of democracy that Indonesia struggled for.
“Congratulations to SBY who will organise the Bali Democracy Forum, congratulations to the Red and White Coalition which ensured the victory of the UU MD3 and UU Pilkada in the DPR [House of Representatives] and won the leadership of the DPR and the MPR [People’s Consultative Assembly, upper-house]”, said Surya Anta from the People’s Liberation Party (PPR).
“Thirteen of our comrades fought for democracy against New Order, today who knows where their graves are, and are now being pissed on by forces that declare themselves for democracy. The KMP declares itself to be democratic, is it democratic when you destroy the achievements that that we won with blood, sweat and tears?”, asked Anta.
The graves of the 13 comrades refers to 13 of the 23 activists abducted by the army’s Special Forces 1997-1998 under the command of then General Prabowo Subianto who remain missing presumed dead.
[Translated by James Balowski.]