Achmad Ali – A thanksgiving celebrating the 23rd anniversary (HUT) of the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) at the secretariat offices in the Bratang Gede area of the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya was closed down by Islamic and nationalist ormas (social or mass organisations) who oppose any and all activities by the PRD.
Earlier, the PRD Surabaya branch had scheduled a discussion at the Sari Nusantara Restaurant on Jl Jalan Gubernur Suryo which was to be held Monday evening, July 22.
The discussion, titled This is Our Road to the Future: Build National Unity, Create Social Prosperity, was to present three keynote speakers: 1998 activist and advocate M. Sholeh, Surabaya Deputy Mayor Wisnu Sakti Buana and academic Dr. Angga MBA.
The event however had to be cancelled at the last minute because the restaurant owners said they did not want their venue to be used for a discussion. Following the cancelation, the event was moved to the PRD Surabaya branch secretariat and replaced by a thanksgiving meeting (syukuran).
The groups opposing the PRD event included the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Islamic Defenders Militia (LPI), the Association of Sons and Daughters of Army Families (Hipakad) and the Community Forum for Sons and Daughters of the Armed Forces (FKPPI).
PRD East Java regional director Hermawan explained that they agreed to cancel the event because they did not want there to be an uproar which would disturb local people.
“We complied with their wishes. We didn’t resist because we didn’t want to create a commotion”, explained Hermawan on Monday evening.
Hermawan related how they had given a notification of the discussion to police on Saturday July 21 but it was rejected on the grounds that a number of ormas had threatened to forcibly close down the discussion if it went ahead. So the event was replaced by a thanksgiving at the PRD secretariat.
“We at the secretariat had brought tumpengan [a ceremonial dish of yellow rice served in cone shape] for the syukuran HUT PRD. During the greetings and opening a police officer arrived and said that the event should be sped up”, he said.
They then removed all of the paraphernalia such as banners and PRD flags and were then evacuated by police and left the location.
Hermawan himself claims he is confused by the forced closure of the event because the PRD is a party which is acknowledged by the state. “In the 1999 pemilu [elections] our party was allocated the number 16 and was never closed down or banned by the state”, he explained.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “FPI Bubarkan Syukuran HUT Ke-23 PRD di Surabaya”.]