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Blog home | August 2006 »

July 2006

[from Green Left Weekly newspaper]

Photos of PAPERNAS launch

On July 23, 1500 people attended a rally at the National Library of Indonesia to publicly launch a new political party — the Preparatory Committee of the National Liberation Party of Unity (KP-Papernas) — for the 2009 Indonesian elections. Most of those attending were from poor districts in and around Jakarta. The majority were women.
The KP-Papernas had already held a conference, elected the preparatory committee, set out some basic policies, and elected as its chairperson Domingus Kiuk, the chairperson of the Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle (FNPBI), the country’s radical left-wing trade union organisation. It was announced at the rally that Papernas would hold a founding congress in November.
The main initiator of the new party project is the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), a radical left activist party whose current chairperson is well-known labour rights activist Dita Sari.


Back in February, 2001, I wrote the article below, at the bottom of this post. The event that provided the basis for the article was the February 7, 2001 mass mobilization in Surabaya organized by the Front Reformasi Total (FRT) and the East Javanese branch of Nahdatul Ulama (NU). The article was written based on Indonesian newspaper reports and statements issued by some of the players, relying most on those which I thought were the more reliable. Last week in Jakarta, for the first time, I was able to speak to one of the key participants in the demonstration.

A few things have become clearer.

The demonstration did not “as a pro-Wahid rally” and then “evolved into an anti-Golkar rally”. The demonstration was a result of an agreement with the Front Reformasi Total (FRT), involving a number of groups, but the leadership were members from Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). From the start, there was a consensus that the demonstration would support the demands “for the disbanding of Golkar, the party of former dictator Suharto and the political symbol of his “New Order” regime.”


Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s and up until now, the form of literarture that has been at the forefront of art’s role in political and social renewal has been drama. The playwright Rendra has played the most important role acting as the vanguard of socially and politically committed art in the 1970s at a time when it had been suppressed and was almost non-existent. The price he paid for reviving committed poetry and theatre in defiance of state policy suppressing that kind of arts was almost one year in gaol without trial in 1978. His pioneering work of that period included Mastadon dan Burung Kondor, Kisah Perjuangan Suku Naga and Sekda. (His Indonesian adaptation of Lysistrata was also a masterpiece of comic satire.) His poems Pamflet Penyair (A Poet’s Pamphlets), also published as Portret Pembangunan dalam Puisi (A Portrait of Development in Poetry) was the poetic supplement to these works. These works, combined with Rendra’s politico-literary praxis, acted together as not just the vanguard of socio-politically committed art, but as the vanguard of public opposition to the New Order dictatorship itself after the suppression of the student movement in 1974. Rendra has remained a prolific writer of drama, and especially poetry. He retains a large constituency of supporters and fans. See Rendra website

Other prominent theatre artist who ran afoul of the New Order dictatorship, was Nano Riantarno who produced a number of political plays, most well known being Suksesi (Succession) and Opera Kecoa (Cockroach Opera).

But there have been many others, including those who have introduced satire into traditional theatre or traditional comic performance.

Jamilia dan Sang Presiden (Jamilia and the President)


I have been in Jakarta just over two weeks now, busy with university-related work. I have been able to talk to a range of contacts for exchanges of ideas. This has of been great help in thinking through issues relating to the book I am writing and other projects. (More on this in the next blog.)

Among those I have spoken too are contacts in the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). (see Winning Democracy in Indonesia for historical background article on the PRD. For more background see ASAP resources on PRD and also PRD official websiste)

The PRD is very busy at the moment preparing to make the public announcement of a new electoral initiative it is launching together with some allies. This will be the formation of the Preparatory Committee for the National Liberation Unity Party (PAPPERNAS). See New left party formed


Below is a link to an article written by Avelino Coelho da Silva, Secretary-General of the Socialist Party of Timor (PST). The article has been translated from the Indonesian by Max Lane. The link is EAST TIMOR: The people will pay the price

I have recently been able to review a fairly detailed chronology of events covering the last few months in Dili. The chronology, written in Indonesian, was prepared by a mixture of NGO and other activists in Dili.

The detail in this chronology highlights the role of marginal political elements in the process leading to the recent political crisis. In particular, it becomes clear that on several occasions demonstrations by “petitioner” soldiers continued after the soldiers left with other political elements keeping a certain portion of the demonstrations going. The chronology refers to one party – about which I have found little information – called the PDRT.

There is also the still unexplained report of Jose Ramos Horta, now as PM seeking to work with FRETILIN, issued a statement condemning the leader of the Democratic Party (P:D) and his wife of stirring things up.


Preamble: These comments are using “information” published in the media and “information” being circulated on various email lists by supporters of either Fretilin or PD. I have received a little information also from Avelino da Silva (PST) and from the Indonesian dissident academic, Hilmar Farid who has been in Dili for the last two weeks. The absence of any in-depth written analysis from the PST is a major limitation in making any assessment at the moment.


(1) Tim Anderson’s recent article “East Timor after Alkatiri: nation or protectorate?” starts with a quote from a recent FRETILIN statement:
"We did not expect that the elected leader of a party with an overwhelming mandate could be forced to stand down in this way in a democracy".

My surprise is that the government as a whole did not resign much earlier. In bourgeois politics, which is what exists in East Timor, any government under which the army breaks up, the police disintegrates, civil disturbances break out which the government can’t handle so has to call in 4 foreign powers would almost inevitably have to resign. Resignation of elected governments in the face of massive policy failure is normal in bourgeois politics, usually followed by new elections.


A failed transition in Dili
Aboeprijadi Santoso, Dili, Timor Leste

His Palacio da Cinzas (Palace of Ashes) is a reminder of Indonesia's latest legacy and his protection by foreign armies a sign of today's crisis. Nothing, however, reflects President Xanana Gusmao's and, to a great extent, his country's problem better than the myth, symbolism and real predicament of Fretilin. Once East Timor's icon, Fretilin is now hurt by the crisis -- so too is the country.

Nuno Guterres, 25, whose father was tortured to death by the Indonesian Army, inevitably recalled his childhood as he joined rallies against Fretilin leader and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. "I used to cry whenever I heard about Fretilin. Now I'm angry," he said. Still, for Nuno and many like him, it's difficult to be angry with Fretilin, the historic symbol of Timor's struggle for freedom.


EAST TIMOR: More electoral gains for socialists
Max Lane
East Timor’s local elections are now in their eighth month. In Aileu, close to Dili, the Socialist Party of Timor (PST) achieved second place after Fretilin, pushing the Democrat Party into third place. Overall, in the districts contested so far, the PST has been averaging third position, up from the sixth place it achieved in the 2001 elections.
The PST has won a total of 27 positions, including three suco (village) chiefs and 10 aldeia (sub-village) chiefs. The other positions were on village councils.


Recovering class consciousness after total defeat: Memory, street protest, and Soekarnoism in contemporary Indonesia.”

This is a first draft only - for use only at the 2nd Workshop of the Hegemony Research Group Class: History, Formations and Conceptualisations Dates: 3-4 March 2006 Venue: University of Wollongong. Additional references and quotations will be provided later.

Go to:

Indonesia's greatest novelist and revolutionary intellectual died in Jakarta on April 30, 2006. Below are three articles by Max Lane, published in the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD< GREEN LEFT WEEKLY and JAKARTA POST respectively.

(For more materials on Pramoedya see and as well as )

Sydney Morning Herald, May 16, 2006

Man of letters and revolution
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Novelist, 1925-2006

IN THE days before Indonesia's greatest novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, died, text messages and emails had warned that he was seriously ill. Many readers gathered at his hospital bed and later his home where they sang songs of struggle or prayed.
I met Pramoedya in 1980 after reading his wonderful novel, This Earth of Mankind, which I was to later translate. It was the first of many meetings with an earthy, stubborn man who deeply loved Indonesia and the revolution that created it, its history, and its people.
He wrote more than 40 works, including novels, short stories, plays, history, literary criticism and more than 400 newspaper essays. He translated Gorky, Tolstoy and Steinbeck, among others. All this work was motivated by a love for humanity. He never tired of quoting from the great Dutch novelist, Multatuli: "It is the duty of human beings to become human."


For an early background article on the Socilalist Party of Timor (PST) by Max Lane go to

EAST TIMOR: A UN failure
A major theme of the ceremony that took place in Dili on May 20 to proclaim the independence of East Timor was that the three-year period of United Nations transitional administration was a great success. However, East Timor has been one of the great failures of the UN.
Military forces under the political direction of General Suharto's New Order regime entered East Timor in December 1975. In the weeks and months immediately after that invasion, the UN Security Council and later the General Assembly called for the withdrawal of Indonesian military forces. When the Indonesian military finally withdrew 24 years later, much of East Timor had been destroyed, 200,000 East Timorese had been killed and more than 100,000 had been displaced.


Solidarity with the Timorese people
Max Lane
On May 24, East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the speaker of East Timor’s parliament Lu’olo sent a letter to the governments of Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and New Zealand as well as to the United Nations asking for assistance in the form of a military presence in order to respond to civil disorder in the East Timor capital Dili, and surrounding areas. The disorder had developed out of a dispute within the East Timorese armed forces


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