Beginning last Monday, the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) held two-day demonstrations in Jakarta to rally the campaign for the nationalisation of oil, gas, and mining industries.
On the first day, about 150 students representing several campuses in Java and Sumatra protested against ExxonMobil in front of the commercial building that houses its headquarters.
The richest energy company was targeted because it recently attacked Chavez’s anti-imperialist government by taking legal action to freeze the assets of the Venezuelan state’s oil company, PDVSA.
“Therefore, LMND made a good decision in protesting in front of Exxon’s headquarters, as the company rightly symbolizes foreign corporation in the extractive sector,” said Rudi Hartono, an LMND leader.
ExxonMobil is just one of the dozens of foreign companies that exploit 92% of Indonesia’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth.
Central Java LMND’s Chairperson, Maman, said that “It is so unjust that ExxonMobil gained USD $40.6 Billion yearly profit while almost 3 billion people in the world live in poverty and at least 25,600 children die each day from malnutrition.”
Some protesters carried placards with pictures of Fidel, Chavez, and Morales, along with Indonesia’s former left nationalist President, Sukarno, with the slogan “Nationalise oil, gas, and mining industries for free and quality education!”
LMND’s General Chairperson, Lalu Hilman Afriandi, mentioned in his speech that “millions of Indonesian school-age children have dropped out due to lack of funds; the Indonesian poor are more and more denied access to affordable education.”
The protest was ended by reading the “proclamation of national liberation”, an assertion to multinationals to respect and acknowledge national sovereignty as well as a declaration of genuine political-economic independence modeled on the country’s anti-colonial ‘proclamation of independence’ of 1945.
The next day, 130 LMND activists marched to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) to protest the government’s continuing submission to the interests of multinationals.
Furthermore, a range of legislation has opened the door for more plundering of the country’s wealth by foreign interests.
The Hydrocarbon Law (2001), for instance, stripped bare the state’s sovereignty on the management of hydrocarbon compared to the earlier legislation of the 60s, therefore contradicting Article 33 of the Constitution that states that natural resources “shall be controlled by the state and shall be used for the greatest welfare of the people.”
Some representatives of LMND’s National Executive entered the Ministry’s office to deliver an open letter demanding the revocation of such legislation; and the restructuring of all oil, gas, and mining deals with foreign companies on the basis of:
- The fulfillment of domestic energy needs;
- Increase of state ownership (divest shares belonging to foreign companies);
- Increase of state revenue by raising the state’s royalties and cutting cost recovery value.
The purpose of these demands is to educate that Indonesia must immediately “change its course” to reject neo-colonialism and imperialism. “This is just a prelude of the people’s movement to nationalise the extractive industries,” said the Action Coordinator. “LMND will continue to protest foreign companies’ offices in every region”.
Nationalisation is one of the three main programs of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas), the political party that LMND built with other organisations to contest in the 2009 election; cancellation of foreign debt and national industrialisation constitute the second and third programs.
According to Papernas’ monthly publication, Berdikari – a popular acronym meaning self-sufficiency, coined by Sukarno – the campaign for the three main programs (nicknamed the Three Banners (Tripanji) is politically aimed at polarising the political currents leading to the election – showing them to be pro or anti foreign oppression.
“The Parliament has just introduced one of the toughest electoral verification systems in the world to strengthen the position of the big ruling parties and to establish two-party democracy by excluding the left,” explained Katarina, Papernas’ International Officer.
“Despite these immense obstacles and several attacks from militarily organised ‘anti-communist’ right wing groups and thugs,” she continued “Papernas is committed to intervening in the election to offer alternatives to the people and to rally against the neo-colonialism and imperialism that have caused profound crises in people’s livelihood.”