After 16 years, Marsinah’s killers remain free

Perempuan Mahardhika – May 8, 2010
Poster reads 'Marsinah Indonesian Worker's Hero' (lenteradiatasbukit)
Poster reads 'Marsinah Indonesian Worker's Hero' (lenteradiatasbukit)
  • Disband the TNI’s territorial command
  • Liberate Indonesia from capitalism
  • Arrest and try Marsinah’s killers

Marsinah was a woman worker who was militant and courageous. The worker employed at the PT Catur Putra Surya (CPS) watch factory in Sidoarjo, East Java, was found dead in the Wilangan forest, Nganjuk, on May 8, 1993. Marsinah had not died without reason. The medical examination found that she had died as a result of injuries inflicted during torture. Wounds on her neck and wrists indicated that she had been severely beaten, had suffered internal hemorrhaging and been raped with a blunt instrument before being killed.

Marsinah had been involved in a action together with her co-workers at the factory demanding an increase in the basic wage from 1,700 rupiah to 2,250 rupiah per day and that the government-sponsored yellow trade union the All Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI) be dissolved for failing to side with the working class.

The struggle by PT CPS workers not only attracted opposition from the company but also from the Indonesian military (TNI), in this case the sub-district military command (Koramil), which was mobilised to confront Marsinah and her comrades. Thirteen workers who held the action were arbitrarily arrested by the military. Negotiation between the workers, company management and the Department of Labour were held at the Sidoarjo District Military Command Headquarters (Makodim).

What happened to Marsinah and workers at the PT CPS factory is just one example of the many cases where the military – through its territorial command structure – becomes involved in stifling democracy in Indonesia. The TNI’s territorial command structure is a repressive tool established by the authoritarian New Order regime of late President Suharto to suppress the people’s resistance, to monitor the people’s activities and to silence the people’s voices. The territorial command structure mandates the deployment of military command posts and detachments at all levels of the civil administration – provincial, district, sub-district and village, and is comparable to the administrative structure of government.

Today marks exactly 16 years since Marsinah’s murder. After 11 years of reformasi or political reform, there has yet to be a legal resolution to her murder. Governments (from administration of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri to the current administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono), the political parties in the parliament (the Golkar Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the Justice and Prosperity Party, the Democrat Party, the National Awakening Party, the National Mandate Party, the People’s Conscience Party and the Greater Indonesia Movement Party) and the political elite during the era of reformasi have failed to legally pursue Marsinah’s murder or any of the cases of human rights violations that occurred either during the New Order era or during the period of reformasi. Not one case of gross human rights violations has been resolved, while the generals that committed the violations, such as former armed forces chief Wiranto, former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy Muchdi Purwoprandjono and former army special forces (Kopassus) chief Prabowo Subianto are free to become engaged in politics and face the people as if there are clean, while in reality they hands are smeared with the blood of the people, people like Marsinah.

The dissolution of the TNI’s territorial demand was one of the key demands of reformasi, which to this day, has not yet been realised by reformasi era governments. There is already ample evidence of the barbarism of the military’s repression of the people. Millions of people have died under the muzzle of the gun, not counting the many women raped during the military operations in Aceh, and the activists murdered, abducted and arrested. Children suffer because of the loss of mothers and fathers who have fought back. Mothers wail because their children who choose to struggle do not return home, no knowing how they died, not knowing where they were taken. The ideology of popular struggle was destroyed and the people’s organisations shut down.

And even to this day the TNI’s territorial command is still used to oppress the people. Not only does it still live amongst the people, but there are even plans to augment and expand the 22 territorial command headquarters. The people’s protest actions in the era of reformasi still confront the military, police and reactionary civil militia. There are many such examples. From the fatal shooting of farmers in Alas Telogo village by marines in 2007, a strike by state-owned oil company PT Pertamina workers in Balongan that was intimidated by the TNI and police, North Sumatra pro-democracy movement that was repressed and its activists arrested by police, the struggle of the Papuan people that is invariably confronted by the military, to the breaking up of the 4th regional Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) congress in Surabaya in March.

In addition to this, the territorial command also functions to safeguard capitalist owned companies. We have seen how at companies such as PT Freeport, PT Newmont, PT Aneka Tambang and other foreign owned companies are guarded by military units.

Marsinah and her comrades provided all of us with a valuable lesion, that in order to fight against injustice it requires courage. It was this courage that made PT CPS workers willing to fight. It was this courage also made millions of people willing to take to the streets and overthrow the authoritarian Suharto regime.

The government of President Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono and previous administrations, the political parties and the political elite do not have such courage and they have and are unwilling to try the human rights criminals or get abolish capitalism.

In commemorating Marsinah’s death, the Perempuan Mahardhika (Free Women) National Network makes the following demands:

1. Disband the TNI’s territorial command structure.
2. Arrest and try the military perpetrators of human rights violations against women and the people.
3. Reopen and fully investigate the Marsinah murder case.
4. Give the people the freedom assembly and association.

We also call on all elements of the democratic movement to continue building and broadening independent unity for the sake of struggling for genuine democracy and the people’s welfare.

  • Women leave the home
  • Fight capitalism, fight for prosperity and equality
  • Replace the SBY-Boediono capitalist administration
  • Abandon the rotten political elite
  • Unite to form a united government of the poor

Jakarta, May 8, 2010

Sharina, Chairperson
Dian Novita, Secretary

[Translated by James Balowski.]