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Indonesian police attack anti-capitalist protests

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Issue 1753

Indonesian police attack anti-capitalist protests

INDONESIAN POLICE brutally smashed up a conference on globalisation last week. The conference in Jakarta was aimed at building resistance to neo-liberalism in a country which has been hard hit by the madness of capitalism. Over 80 million people in Indonesia still live on less than $1 a day, three years after the economic collapse and revolt which toppled the dictator Suharto. Police with rifles smashed their way into the conference on Friday and arrested dozens of delegates at gunpoint.

Among those arrested was Paul Kellogg, editor of Socialist Worker‘s Canadian sister paper. He sent a message by e-mail from Jakarta on Sunday:

“IT IS now 48 hours since the police raid on a peaceful anti-globalisation conference. Ninety conference participants, including more than 30 foreign nationals (one of who was a four year old girl), were surrounded for two hours by an unknown number of police.

Forty police were visible in and outside the conference centre, all armed, several with rifles drawn and pointed. Many more were in the surrounding buildings and fields. The Asia-Pacific People’s Solidarity Conference was midway through the second day of its scheduled four days. The foreign nationals, myself included, were ushered at gunpoint into waiting police vehicles. We foreign nationals have many connections, embassies, access to the media, solidarity organisations abroad. Our Indonesian hosts have none of that. They are carrying on the fight against globalisation in extremely difficult circumstances.

Two hours after the 32 foreign nationals had been removed to Jakarta central police station some 50 members of a right wing militia armed with swords and machetes descended on the unarmed Indonesia Centre for Social Reform members in the conference.

The police did not intervene at any point to stop the attack. After I was released from police custody I talked to Dita Sari, a well known trade union militant in Indonesia who was at the conference, about the attack, She told me, “Two hours after you left 30 to 50 men who called themselves the Alliance of the Islamic Youth attacked us. They had knives and swords, and they came into our conference room just like the police had done, but this time they hit us with knives and with sticks. Some people were bleeding and some were hurt. One had an artery in the neck nearly severed. Fundamentally nothing has changed since Suharto went down. The method may be different, but the essence, this violent repression, is still there. Even though it is carried out in a different way the repression against those who are considered a political enemy is continuing. This is part of the political challenge that we face.”

Nowhere is the damage caused by market madness more evident than in the crowded, impoverished streets of Jakarta. The terrible economic crisis that has gripped this country since 1997 is leading to a disintegration of political stability and an extreme polarisation.

If the current rulers and the various right wing militias have their way this country could descend into a hell far worse than we saw in the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. But the courageous activists who are challenging the market, the political repression, the right wing and the police with whom they work hand in glove, opens up another possibility-an Indonesia where solidarity cuts across the current divisions and unites the poor and oppressed against those living off their misery.”

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