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INDONESIA - by Max Lane

No surprises in Indonesian presidential election

The first major political incident after the July 8 Indonesian presidential election were two co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks on Jakarta’s Marriot and Ritz Carlton luxury hotels on July 17, which killed seven people, including six foreigners. These were the first suicide bomb attacks in almost five years. On July 29, responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the “Al-Qaeda Organisation Indonesia”, believed to be headed by Malaysian Islamist Noordin Mohammed Top.


Rallies and other public shows of support have remained weak for the three candidates and their running mates in the weeks leading up to the July 8 Indonesian presidential election. Two of the rival candidates head the current government — incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his vice-president, Jusuf Kalla. They share responsibility for continuing the neoliberal “free market” economic policies of the previous government of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is the third presidential candidate.


The official election campaigning period for the Indonesian national, provincial and district legislatures started on March 1 and will last until April 5. There is supposed to be a three-day period of non-campaigning immediately before the April 9 elections. Some 100,000 candidates from 44 parties are standing for seats in national, provincial and district legislatures.

Parties, or coalitions of parties, that win at least 112 seats in the 560-member national parliament or 25% of the popular vote may nominate candidates for the powerful presidency, to be elected in July. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote then, there will be a run-off in September.


4 april.jpg

4 april 2.jpg

Around 300 plus workers from the Jabotabek Workers Struggle Federation (FPBJ) and the Congress of Indonesian Trade Union Alliances (KASBI) demonstrated against the 2009 Elections. They shouted "The 2009 elections are not a peoples' elections"; "Overthrowe the elite; the people will rule." There were also deklegates from the Indonesian Transport Workers Struggle Union (SBTP) and the and the Workers Struggle Solidarity Unity (GSPB). Similar actions have taken place on other cities in Java and in Kalimantan and Sulawesi. More are scheduled between now and the April 9 elections. Other groups also issued statements of supprt and are expected to be involved in future actions. They include: Indonesian Students Union/Serikat Mahasiswa Indonesia (SMI), Indonesian Buskers Union/Serikat Pengamen Indonesia (SPI), Committee for the Preparation of a Youth Organisation/Komite Persiapan Organisasi Pemuda (KPOP), Freedom Women's National NetworkJaringan Nasional Perempuan Mahardhika (JNPM), Working Peoples Association/Perhimpunan Rakyat Pekerja (PRP), Kerawang Peasants Union/Serikat Petani Karawang (SEPETAK) , PAWANG dan The National Students League for Democracy-Politics of the Poor/Liga Mahasiswa Nasional Untuk Demokrasi-Politik Rakyat Miskin (LMND-PRM)

For a longer report in Indonesian, see below.


Elections for the two houses of Indonesia’s national parliament and the provincial parliaments will take place on April 9, at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the parliamentary parties. These elections will be followed in July by what will likely be the first of two rounds to elect a president and vice-president.

Presidential candidates must be nominated by a party or parties with a combined minimum of 20% of the seats in the 550-member House of Representatives (DPR), making the DPR elections part of the process of electing the president. The DPR is the main legislative body, while the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) is a weaker body supposedly representing regional interests. Candidates for the DPR must stand as representatives of parties. Candidates for the DPD cannot be party representatives. The provincial parliaments are all party-based. Under a more decentralised budget system, these parliaments now have increased influence over local government finances.


It's a cult of personality among candidates who have no personality

Tempo Magazine - February 17-23, 2009

Election fever mounts as candidates discuss strategic alliances and running mates, but academic and Indonesia expert Max Lane says this may be an election characterized by disappointment – for candidates and constituents alike.

Back-packing through Indonesia as a university student in the late 1960s, Lane was intrigued by a country with a rich political history, though he says you may not see much of that richness today.

A Visiting Fellow with the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore, Lane sat down with Tempo, amidst his own research and interviews, to share his thoughts on the state of Indonesian politics today. Excerpts of the interview:


The Indonesians newspapers and media are quite naturally increasingly focusing on reporting and analyzing the various aspects of the campaigning for the 2009 parliamentary and presidential elections. To date the overwhelming weight of reports, reflecting the nature of the political activity that is most public, is focused on the question of who will be the various parties presidential candidate, and, no less important in terms of governmental outcome, who might be the various presidential candidate’s vice-presidential partner.
Just in the last few days, HANURA’s General Wiranto has been nominated formally as his party’s candidate and GOLKAR chairperson Jusf Kalla has made the enigmatic but sufficiently provocative statement that he wants to be a “state leader”. A LP3ES poll has concluded that the combination of PDIP’s Megawati with GOLKAR’s (?) or Partai Republikan(‘s) Sultang Hamnegkubuwono the X1th (Sultan of Jogja) might just beat the current combination of President Yudhoyono (Democrat Party) and Jusuf Kalla. Other poll’s suggest the GERINDRA Party’s TV advertising campaigning is shifting General Prabowo up the polling score in his bed for the Presidential candidate. Rizal Ramli, currently nominated as a presidential candidate by the Employer and Employee Party as well as the Star Reformation Party (PBR) is hinting that his being charged with fomenting rioting back in May, 2008 is meant to destabilize his presidential ambitions.


While the campaign for the 2009 parliamentary and presidential elections have just begun, it is already possible to discern the embryonic development of a national leadership crisis, which will be associated with a major crisis of legitimacy. The cause of this crisis is the increasing gap between the majority of the Indonesian public and what has been increasingly referred to as the “elit politik” – the political elite embodied in the all the political parties standing candidates in the elections, and the various former New Order officials – including ex-generals – maneuvering around the edges of the electoral processes. The gap represents a deepening alienation between rakyat and elit.


[The following are notes intended to be the first in a series of informal commentaries on the 2009 Indonesian election campaign. I will try to write these reasonably regularly – but no guarantees. I hope they are of interest.]

The Indonesian election campaign has started, following the announcement of the 44 political parties that passed the electoral verification process. The most obvious signs have been the waves of TV and newspaper political ads broadcast by the most well-healed parties, particularly the new parties established by ex-general Wiranto (HANURA) and ex-general Prabowo (GERINDRA). In reality, however, electoral politics has been ongoing now for at least two years. This has been the result of the new laws passed a few years ago to allow direct elections for the positions of Governor and Vice-Governor as well as for Bupati and Vice-Bupati. Bupatis are head of Kabupaten, the administrative region below governor. The Kabupaten are important administrative units because following the passing of decentralization laws in 2001-2, the Kabupaten administrations have had significantly enhanced budgetary powers.

Elections for governors and bupatis have been staggered throughout the last two years. This means that it is possible to identify some general trends and features of electoral political activity. Some key points are:

Ideological consensus

It would be tempting to conclude that policy and ideology have played no role in these processes, with no clear pattern to the wide range of combinations and alliances that have taken place. Everybody has been in alliance with everybody at some time or another: fundamentalist with secular; “nationalist” with “religious”; so-called opposition with government parties and so on. However, the more appropriate conclusion is that there is general consensus among all the currently registered parties that the ideological, economic and political perspectives currently reflected in government policies are more-or-less acceptable to all. Differences between parties reflect more the politico-cultural outlooks of segments of the elite whose patron-client praxis is different. These different patron-client praxis in turn can flow from there being different regional bases or different religious bases or different histories of interventions into electoral or other politics.


James balowski's translations of the series of interviews with leaders of Indonesian peoples organisations that were published in the first issue of Jurnal Bersatu has now been updated to include the following interviews:


10 Years after the Fall of Suharto – Views from the People’s Organisations

Journal of Unity - May 2008

[The following is a translation of the first nine out of a series of 12 interviews with leaders of labour, peasant, fisherpeople, urban and rural poor, environmental, student and social-political organisations in Indonesia around the theme “Ten Years after the Fall of Suharto - Views from the People’s Organisations”, which appeared in the first edition of Jurnal Bersatu (Journal of Unity). Additional interviews will be added to this page as they are translated – James Balowski.]

Labour organisations

1. Sastro, Chairperson Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM)
2. Lqbal, President of the Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI)

Peasant Organisations

1. Donny, National Peasants Union (STN)
2. Iwan, Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA)
3. Rully, Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI)

Fisherpeople’s organisations

Arbani Nikahi, Chairperson Saijaan Fishers Union (INSAN)

Urban and rural poor organisations

Marlo, General Chairperson Indonesian Poor People’s Union (SRMI)

Student organisations

Ken, Indonesian Student Union (SMI)

Environmental organisations

Andreat, General Secretary Green Indonesia Union (SHI)

See 10 Years after the Fall of Suharto – Views from the People’s Organisations for full interviews.

The two articles below were published in the new monthly newspaper, DIRECT ACTION, in the June and July issues.

They are entitled:

Left collaboration growing in Indonesia


New Indonesian alliance fights fuel price rises

The second article is based upon interviews with Indonesian trade union leaders.


JI with my partner, Faiza.JPG

Joesoef autographing his book. There was a LONG queue!


On Sunday July 13 more than 300 people gathered to honour Joesoef Isak on the occcasion of his 80th year. At a three hour event in the Theatre Kecil at the Jakarta Arts Centre that featured speeches by a range of activists and intellectuals, a 35 minute documentary, music, cutting of a traditional rice cake, the editors of the book, Bonnie Triyana and Max Lane presented it to Joesoef Isak.

Joesoef Isak has been a journalist, publisher and editor since the 1950s.

Bonnie Triyana is a historian and journalist. He has become a prolific writer on the history of the peoples movement and the Left, until recently editing the history pages in the daily Jurnas. He is part of the leadership of Masyarakat Indonesia Sadar Sejarah. In 2003 he co-edited, revolusi Belum Selesai: Kumpulan Pidato Soekarno 30 September 1965 - Pelengkap Nawaksara. he is almost finsihed a new book, Republik Bandit. He was the primary editor of the new book.

JI present book to contributors.JPG

Joesoef presenting copies of the book to some of the contributors

The several excellent short speeches were from mainly young people, but including the most respected figure from the Indonesian Netherlands exile community.

The film was a very effective 35 min documentary with a great spirit done on a shoestring budget by Daniel Indrakusuma. The film ws produced by Wilson bin Nurtias, who - along with Irina Dyarsih and many others - also played a key role in organising the Sunday event.

There was a wonderful singing group of 60 year old tapol women or from tapol families, who had everybody on their feet singing the Internationale as well as other songs; and funny and moving comments from Joesoef and a good atmosphere when we presented the book to him.

Max and Boni Triyana presenting book.JPG

Bonnie Triyana and Max Lane presenting the new book to Joesoef.

Zely Ariane - national spokesperson KPRM.JPG

More autograph signing



Recently the first issue of a new progressive jounral, Journal Bersatu (Unity Journal - JB), was published. The JB was obe product of an on-off process of collaboration discussions between a range isrocessof groups which began in 2007. The up and down nature of the process relects the newness of the collaboration process itself as well as the newness of some of the groups. Apart fromn gropups, the process also involved activists and others becoming involved in their individual capacity.

While not reflecting the full spectrum of peopkle involved at one time or another in the past, the JB collaboration continues. While formally separate from the National Liberation Front (FPN), many of the groups keeping the project going are now playing active roles in the FPN.

One of the interesting sections of the first issue is a series of 13 interviews with different progressive organisations. I think most of these were carried out in later 2007 or early 2008. They include organisations that have gone on to be active in FPN, as well as a few outside the FPN today.

English language translations of these interviews are progressively being put up on the Asia Pacific Solidarity Network website. Thgey can be found under the heading 10 Years after the Fall of Suharto – Views from the People’s Organisations . At the moment seven translations are on the website.ore will be posted as ASPN Website Editor and translator, James Balowski, completes them.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer's polemical work protesting discrimination against the Chinese in Indonesia is now available in English. An excerpt from an introductory essay in the book by Max Lane is below.


EXCERPT from "Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Racialism and Socialism".

In the 1960s, Indonesian politics was characterised by a deep and fundamental battle around the question: what kind of country should independent Indonesia become? Political integration of the Chinese Indonesians was viewed by Toer, and by a large number of Chinese Indonesian leaders, as something that would be achieved by Chinese Indonesians, like all Indonesians, joining the struggle to finishing the Indonesian national revolution and consolidating Indonesian socialism. The largest active Chinese Indonesian organisation during the sixties was BAPERKI (Badan Permusyawaratan Kewarganegaraan
Indonesia – Consultative Body of Indonesian Citizens) which adopted this perspective. It was banned and its leaders also arrested in 1965, at the same time as Toer and hundreds of thousands of others.


This afternoon the union covering all employees in the national state owned electricity company joined FPN and declared they would join the May 21 actions. The union covering workers in the companies operating all the Java and Bali based electric power stations also joined. The unions covering the main airports also joined.

All these unions have been campaigning against privatisation of their sectors in one form or another. Recently, I spoke on a platform with the secretary-general of the electricty company union, where he also explained their support for broader policies of nationalisation and opposition to the elite parties.


Meanwhile Megawati has stated she also opposes the fuel price rises, despite PDIP havingsupported the measure in parliament. Now also Amien Rais is urging the people to demonstrate: "selamat demo, semoga berhasil", "have a good demo, we hope you succeed.":

Even GOLKAR officials have reprimanded the stae intelligence services for making accusations that the demos are being manipulated by mysterious "third parties".

While there are more and more signs of a snowball effect, these round of mobilisations should still be seen as (a) a dress rehearsal for June 1 - closer to the actual date of deciding on the oil price rises and (b) a first stage of a longer process of general unification and rebuilding stage of the aksi movement.



May Day in Central Jakarta (see more photos below)

Street protests - AKSI as they are called in Indonesia - have increased in frequency and militancy over the last week and so, propelled by the success of May Day around the country mobilisations two weeks ago, and provoked by the government decision to increase fuel prices again, threatening a flow through in price increases for the basic commodities consumed by millions of ordinary people. Already there have been statements from government figures, including the security apparatus, repeating the Suharto era refrain that the demonstrations were being manipulated by "third parties" which "you all know", but who remianed unnamed.

(For the history of AKSI in Indonesia see Unfinished Nation: Indonesia before and after Suharto


Protest actions are multiplying in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of the fall of Suharto and increases in the rice of fuel prices scheduled to occur soon.


This action occured in North Maluku comprising the Urban Poor peoples Union - Poor Peoples Politics (SRMK-PRM), the National Students League for Democracy, LMND-PRM, as well as the Indonesian Islamic Students Association (PMII) and the Peoples Youth Front (the latter is a union of Ternate indigenous people)

Over the last few days good news has come in on the formation of a new Left united front formation, called the National Liberation Front (FPN). The FPN will be organizing its first street action on the 10th Anniversary of the downfall of Suharto, May 21 around the issue of the current government’s increases to fuel prices. This will be followed by another action on June 1. Small actions and leafleting have already begun.

The formation of the FPN flowed from an initiative of the Aliansi Buruh Mengugat (Workers Demands Alliance - ABM) an alliance of left and progressive trade unions that have come together over the last 5 or so years. Some of the unions were formed by left activist groups, but most have sprung up from the workplace and/or broken away from old structures that had been controlled by the state before the fall of the dictator Suharto. It is therefore a rather diverse mixture of initially enterprise based unions, which have then formed various more-or-less ad hoc federations which have then stabilized. They include manufacturing and service sector workers, in both state and privately owned firms.


FPN press conference.
From left to right: Tony Trianto, Secretary-General, Indonesian Students Serikat (SMI); Vivi Widyawati, Coordinator Freedom Woemn National Network (JNPM) (also a leader of PPRM); Nining Elitos, Chairperson, Indonesian Trade Union Alliance Congress(KASBI); Anwar Satro Ma'ruf, Coordinator, Workers' Demands Alliance (ABM);
5. Resta Hutabarat (Jakarta Legal Aid Institute)

Banner reads:
May 21 and June 1 2008: the People Unite! Surround and Occupy the Palace!
Cancel the fuel price rises and lower prices!
Capitalists, political elites, and parties that lie the people: stand aside! Its time for the people to rule!

National Liberation Front.



The Chinese in Indonesia, An English Translation of Hoakiau Di Indonesia (First Published in 1960)
by Pramoedya Ananta Toer; Max Lane (Translator)

About This Book
Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006) was undoubtedly Indonesia's most significant novelist and writer. After the 1960 publication of this book, now translated for the first time, Pramoedya spent some 20 years in prison often in appalling conditions. The book sets out in the form of nine letters much of the author's humanist and deeply anti-racialist philosophy as it discusses the history and needs of Indonesia's large and long-established Chinese population who were facing increasing official discrimination. There also four essays on the author and his works by internationally recognised specialists in Indonesian history and literature.


Price: US$24.86 (S$37.29*)
Region: Indonesia
Format: Paperback, 257 pages
Published: 2008, Singapore, 1st Edition
ISBN: 9789814022361
SB#: 042456


(All analysis here are my personal views and are not the views of any university, institution or organisation with which I am affiliated.)

UPDATE NOTE: For a more recent analysis see the interview with Zely Ariane

In this article, I want to report and analyse on one of the most important developments on the Indonesian Left. These developments began in Indonesia in July 2007, seven months ago now. I apologise to all those readers who have been reading my English language articles as a means of following the Indonesian left. I have been unfortunately constrained over the last seven months, and even now

In July, 2007 a majority of the current leadership of the PRD voted on a leadership body that a small number of leaders, who disagreed with current political perspectives should exercise their “democratic rights” to “go their own way” to test out their own line. The general membership of the PRD were to be informed of this decision and all those who did not support the perspective of the current majority would be invited to join those “going their own way”. In other words, all those with differences were being de facto expelled. Formal expulsions of Jakarta based members and the freezing of branches whose membership’s rejected the current leadership’s perspectives took place later in the year.


The release date by VERSO books for UNFINISHED NATION: Indonesia before and after Suharto is May 5, 2008. It can be ordered via and perhaps other website mail order sites.


To go straight to UNIFINISHED NATION on click here.

On 26 August, I spoke on a panel at the 5th Congress of the Buddhist Students Association. Some of its leaders are members of PAPERNAS.

About 400-450 people were at the session, mostly very young.

Below is a translation of newspaper report on the Congress in KOMPAS newspaper, the major dialy newsopaper in Jakarta. The report was on page 2. It is a very short version of the 4 20 minute speaches and 1 hr of discussion
Struggling for Rights in a Self-Reliant Way
The poor must rise up.

jakarta, Kompas - The poor in this country must be able to rise up themselves, self-reliantly and demand their rights thatthe state guarantee their prosperity. This must be done as the government is no longer able to lead Indoensia to rise up.
This was the view presented by the Indonesianist from the University of Sydney, Australia, Max Lane in a discussion with the theme, "Self-reliant my nation - sovereign my country" organised as part of the 5th Congress of the Indoensian Buddhist Students Association. Other speakers were Franz Magnis-Suseno from the Driyarkara Higher Institute of Philosophy Jakarta, the economist Sri-Edi Swasono, and the labour activist Dita Indah Sari.


( A version of this article was published in the Jakarta Post, June 29.)

On June 19 I spoke an a panel at a public forum in Jakarta with the theme “Is it time for the young leaders to come to power?” About 300 people attended the forum, cramming in to a rather smallish room in the Sahid Jaya Hotel. The forum was organized by the activists-talking mailing list and the Peoples Democratic Extended Family, an association of former members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). The PRD led many protest actions against he Suharto government in the 1990s and is still active today. Former members of the PRD are to be found in almost every other party, inlcuding Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP). Many are also to be found in the academic world, in the press and in NGOs.


From L to R: Max Lane, Andi Arief, Boediono from PBR, Budiman Sujatmiko, Agus Jabo, Sylvester from Pelopor


Indonesia's Democratic Movement Under Attack
— Max Lane

ON MARCH 28 and 29, a series of rightist mobilizations took place in
Jakarta, Indonesia. The largest of these was a 500-strong mobilization
aimed at disrupting a march and rally being organized by the United
Party for National Liberation (Papernas) protesting foreign domination
of the Indonesian minerals sector and demanding nationalization of
companies in the sector. These groups were armed with scythes, knives
and canes. This was the fourth time in the last six months that
Papernas had been targeted for violent disruption.

Kompas daily newspaper listed the following groups as being involved
in the attacks: Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR), Front Pembela Islam (FPI),
Pelajar Islam Indonesia, Indonesian National Patriotic Movement and
the Front in Defence of the Red and White Flag. Other smaller
mobilizations, but involving people from the same network of groups,
were also mobilized against other targets on the 28th as well as the
29th. These also included the Anti-Communist Movement (GERAK).


The Indonesian language edition of - UNFINISHED NATION: Indonesia before and after Suharto - will be launched in jakarta on May, 22 at a function organised by the Reform Institute. The Institute will also launch their new journal REFORM REVIEW.


On March 28 and 29 a series of rightist mobilisations took place in Jakarta. The largest of these was a 500 strong mobilisation aimed at disrupting a march and rally being organised by the United Party for National Liberation (Papernas) protesting foreign domination of the Indonesian minerals sector and demanding nationalisation of companies in the sector. These groups were armed with scythes, knives and canes. This was the fourth time in the last six months that Papernas had been targeted for violent disruption.

Kompas daily newspaper listed the following groups as being involved in the attacks: Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR), Front Pembela Islam (FPI), Pelajar Islam Indonesia, Indonesian National Patriotic Movement and the Front in Defence of the Red and White Flag. Other smaller mobilisations, but mobilising people from the same network of groups, were also mobilised against other targets on the 28th as well as the 29th. These also included the Anti-Communist Movement (GERAK).


(For additional news reports to complementthe interview below see: Also see

The left-wing Acehnese Peoples Party (PRA) will be holding its founding congress in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh at the end of February. Sydney University Southeast Asian Studies lecturer Max Lane spoke to Thamrin Ananda, chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the PRA.

There have recently been elections for governor and district heads in Aceh. The governorship and vice-governorship were won by figures from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and from the pro-referendum movement. Has the political struggle that characterised the situation in Aceh in the 1980s and 1990s ended?


In late January this year, Aini Chalid passed away in Manila, the Philippines during a heart operation. Aini was a close friend since 1973.

Aini Chalid was one of three people put on trial by the Suharto regime in 1974-75 following the so-called MALARI incident. Aini was a student at Gajah Mada University in 1973-74, one of its best political science students. He was a key figure inhelping produce the first dissident newspaper under the New Order, called Sendi, and one of the most actice students on the ground during the wave of protests against dependence on foreign aid and against political authoritarianism in this period. HE was captured bythe New Order security apparatus in mid 1974 following Suharto's repression of the student movement in January, 1974.

Aini close up.JPG
Aini Chalid

His trial was notable due to tge fact that he refused to be accompanied by a lawyer, stating that the whole affair was a political and nota legal act. He ended his defence at the end of his trial by withdrawing all statements he had made and declaring thatthe trialwas a political drama masterminded by Suharto's Special Operations man, Ali Murtopo. His final defenc please lasted one minute. He was released after serving 3-4 years in gaol.

Below I print the Indonesian language speech read out on my behalf, by my partner Faiza, at the commemoration event held for him, organisded by Hariman Siregar, in the Jakarta Media Centre on 27 January, 2007


The Papernas Congress is over, a leadership has been elected and has had their first meeting making ready for a year of “all out” political campaigning. Some activists, however, a still paying the cost of fighting off the disruption launched by the group calling itself Front Anti-Kommunis Indonesia (FAKI). One women member, Andi Nurjaya, had to be hospitalized after the stress caused her to miscarriage. In the North Sumatran town of Medan, the local Papernas chairperson is in jail, was detained overnight after protesting the disruption of the Congress. In Malaysia, activists from the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) are still in detention after being taken in at a protest they were holding outside the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.


(NOTE: a version of this article has also appeared in Green Left Weekly).

Around 200 pick-up trucks and cars comprised a long snake of a protest caravan making its way along Jakarta’s main thoroughfare, Jalan Thamrin, after a rally outside the Presidential Palace where various speakers called on the people to “withdraw the mandate” of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The occasion for the protest was the anniversary of the mass protests and riots against the Suharto government that took place on January 15, 1974. The protest was initiated by Hariman Siregar, the central leader of the 1974 protests, chairperson at the time of the University of Indonesia Students Council. Siregar was arrested at the time, put on trial and sentenced to eight years prison. He has remained a figure associated with the student and democratic movements, though sometimes also involved in alliances and maneuvers with figures close to the power centre. He was close to B.J. Habibie during the latter years of Suharto and was advisor briefly to former General Wiranto in the lead-up to the 2004 elections. (For a recent interview with Hariman Siregar click here.

Papernas Press Conference.JPG
Papernas press conference - see below. From Left to RIght: Ulil, PRD member; Lukman Hakim, PRD Central Council member and Secretary General of the KP-Papernas; Domingus Oktavianus, Chairperson of KP-Papernas, Central Council member of PRD and Agus Jabo, elected Chairperson of PAPERNAS at Congress, also Secretary-General of PRD.


Almost nine years since the fall of the dictator Suharto, one word continues to dominate discussions of the widespread social discontent in Indonesia: “fragmentation”.
The mass movement that forced Suharto out of power, spearheaded by elements from the radical wing of the worker and student sectors, re-won mass action and political mobilisation as legitimate political activity after 33 years of enforced passivity under the policy of “floating mass”. As a consequence, since 1998 when Suharto was ousted, social protest in the form of strikes, demonstrations, rallies and public meetings have become a daily phenomenon in Indonesia. However, they remain small and ad hoc, mostly only taking place at the site of grievance, unaffiliated to any political bloc and not part of any national political movement. There are hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of local ad hoc protest groups operating at any one time.


After a week of travelling or so back in Indonesia. I will be spending most of the Australian University summer months and which are free of teaching reading my work based in Indonesia. Hopefully, I can learn more about what is happening with the development process, in the realm of literature and the arts and as regards life in general. In any case I will try to keep the Blog up to date starting from tomorrow. Tonight I will be attending a public forum where there will be a discussion of so social relevance of the character from Pramoedya Ananta Toer's novel, this earth of mankind, Nyai Ontosoroh.

Two days ago I attended an interesting seminar organised by a research group called DEMOS, a group interested in issues of democratisation, which was quite interesting. Their current research focuses upon the trend for many social and community organisations to become involved in electoral politics, or other forms of overt or more direct political activity.

So more on all of this later.

Here is a link to the full text of the above agreement

Read on for some selected quotes


The earlier ruminations on this theme have now appeared as an opinion piece in the Jakarta Post

Fordham University.jpg
Lecturing at a seminar on Pramoedya Ananta Toer at Fordham University, New York, April, 2006

Teaching is a challenging experience. You are challenged to present an analysis of one or other topic and draw students into an engagement with your analysis as well as an engagement with the facts of the issue, which they have to pursue themselves through study beyond what you are able to present in 50 minutes of lecture. This is all the more challenging when the issue you are dealing with is an issue about which there is a strong pre-existing “analysis” circulating in society. This was certainly true vis-à-vis the issue of modernity and Asia, a theme in a semester long course which I have now participated in teaching twice, together with two other lecturers.

One of the first things that I asked myself was why were people interested in this theme: Modernity and Asia. There were such courses in universities around the world, but few on “Modernity and Europe” – although perhaps I did not look in the right places to find them. Even a modest, short reflection on this issue points to the fact that in the general discussions about “modernity and Asia”, modernity is always counter-posed to tradition.


Checking through my archives, I came across these two articles and thought they may be interesting to put on the blog.

I am still reading it at the moment, but Clinton Fernandes, author of Reluctant Saviour has just published a new book, Reluctant Indonesians on West Papua.

Click on "more" below to read the articles.


The 30th September is the anniversary of the attempted mutiny-"coup" organised by Colonel Untung and others. Colonel Untung organised the detention of several senior army officers )generals) in the Indonesian army whom he suspected of plotting against President Sukarno. These moves by Untung failed. As the mutiny against the generals collapsed, the six detained generals were executed. General Suharto, who was not in the list of generals to be detained, organised a counter-move, blamed the whole affair on the Indonesian Communist Party and Sukarno and used his possessiobn of the political initiative to launch one of the most massive violent political purges of the 20th century.

I reprint two earlier articles I wrote and which were published in the Jakarta Post below.


Several prominent Indonesian historians have come under criminal investigation for writing an official history textbook in 2004 in which they no longer insisted that the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) was the mastermind of an attempted left-wing coup in September 1965.

In October 1965, General Mohammad Suharto used chaotic circumstances created by a pro-left colonels’ revolt to lead a right-wing military coup and initiate a wave of terror against the Indonesian left in which at least 1 million people were murdered and all leftist organisations were outlawed. Mass organisations such as trade unions were also banned or ordered to stop their activity.


[see also]

Protest demonstrations continue to sprout every day across Indonesia on almost every kind of issue — socio-economic injustice, political abuse, administrative arbitrariness and ecological damage. Poverty and economic hardship still probably make up the cause driving the majority of these protest actions. [Click below to read rest of article].

Children join demonstration following eviction of squatters and losing chance to continue school. Photo from KOMPAS newspaper collection.


On April 20 2004 in a gala ceremony in New York the American PEN Center honoured Indonesian publisher, Joesoef Isak, with the 2004 Jeri Laber Freedom to Publish Award. The award was given to Joesoef Isak in recognition of his long record of courageous publishing during the years of the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. Joesoef isak is not just a courageous publisher, he is one of Indonesia’s finest intellectuals who has been at the forefront of a cultural guerrilla war to win back for Indonesians their own history, stolen from them during the 332 years of dictatorship.

In April 2005, Joesoef was awared the Australia PEN Kenealy Award.

Joesoef Isak at the PEN Sydney event where he was awarded the Australian Pen Keneally Award, April, 2005. He is with authopr Thomas Keneally and publisher and broadcaster, Brian Johns. Brian Johns waspublisher at Penguin books and was responsible for Penguin decideing to publish This Earth of Mankind in English.

Read the PEN citation here.


Below are the notes used for a seminar paper delivered in, I think 2001, at the International Institute for Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The paper was never prepared for publication. The IISG's website has a lot of interesting material on it regarding labour history and the history of left movements. See



Seminar notes by Max Lane, 2001(?)

Between 1965 and 1989, there was virtually no mass participation in Indonesian politics. Certainly there was no sustained organising and mobilising of exploited or oppressed sections of the population, either to defend their immediate circumstances or to seek any form of change. This began to change starting around 1989, perhaps a bit earlier, when university students began to help peasant farmers organise to defend their interests. The most celebrated case of this in this early period was the Kedung Ombo case. In this case, peasants, supported by students, mobilised in various form s of protest action against inadequate compensation for land being seized as part of an area to be flooded by a major dam.


I have recently completed the manuscript for a book entitled AKSI, the Fall of Suharto and Indonesian History. AKSI is the Indonesian word for "action" as in street protest action or in "aksi massa" - mass action. There is a little commentary on this phenomenon in Indonesia in my working papers “Recovering class consciousness after total defeat: "Memory, street protest, and Soekarnoism in contemporary Indonesia.” and in “Re-organisation’ of Mass Politics and the Weakened National Revolution in the Era of Neo-Liberal Globalisation”

One way to get some impression of the widespread and varied nation of aksi in contemporary Indonesia is by subscribing to Indonesia Round-Up which provides short news items on these aksi. The service takes reports from just a few Indonesian language websites so it is revealing only the tip of the ice-berg. But it is a useful connection with the state of society. I reproduce below a sample of the kinds of reports. You can obtain information on how to subscribe or just read them on the web by clicking here: INDONESIA ROUND-UP and scroll about one third to half-way down the page. tINDONESIA ROUND-UP is in the right hand column.

INDONESIA ROUND-UP AKSI reports - selection


I am still in Jakarta finishing off university work. Unfortunately an old illness, adhesive capulitis (frozen shoulder) has returned to hit me in the right arm. This is preventing me from doing any extended typing, as well as being generally a pain – in all senses. So I have had a bit less time to get out and meet contacts but I did speak at a discussion organized by PRAXIS, another organized by the Workers Accuse Alliance and attended the public launch of a new party PAPPERNAS.

Last week, I was guest speaker at an event organized by a group called PRAXIS, a loose network of several NGOS, mostly smaller ones, and local single issue activist groups. (There are literally thousands of these active day – fragments of active dissent.) PRAXIS seems to act as a kind of resources secretariat for some of these, but it also organizes monthly forums.


[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.”


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


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.

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