Indonesian activist tours
19 February 1997
By Martin Iltis and Russel Pickering
Indonesian solidarity campaigners in Canberra, Wollongong and Sydney heard Robbie Hartono from the Indonesian People's Democratic Party (PRD) speak at public meetings between February 11-15. The meetings were part of a national speaking tour organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET).
At a meeting of 30 people on February 13 in Canberra, Hartono outlined how the Peoples' Democratic Party (PRD), although illegal under Indonesian law, is organising mass opposition to the Suharto regime. He stressed the need for both political and financial support for the pro-democracy movement, particularly to secure the release of leaders of the PRD and affiliated groups presently facing charges of sedition and possibly execution.
The ACT Trades and Labour Council; the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union; the Transport Workers Union; and the National Tertiary Education and Industry Union pledged solidarity with the PRD. The CFMEU and TWU promised financial support and the NTEU offered solidarity to the illegal union, the Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggles (PPBI).
The Student Representative Council (SRC) at the Australian National University recommended that the next student general meeting endorse a motion that offers wide-ranging political support to the campaign to free Indonesian political prisoners. The motion also provides for a financial contribution. The Student Association at the University of Canberra agreed to publish articles in the student paper in support of the campaign and decided to "adopt" Dita Sari, president of the PPBI, who is currently on trial for sedition.
Hartono visited Wollongong on February 11-12. He held interviews with the local media and meetings with the South Coast Labour Council and the University of Wollongong SRC. During a public meeting, Hartono stressed the need for international solidarity. He told Green Left Weekly, "On July 27, 47 people were killed and the Australian government said nothing because of the relationship between the Australian capitalists and the Indonesian capitalists. At the very least, the Australian government should withdraw its recognition of Indonesia's occupation of East Timor and call for the release of political prisoners."
Hartono joined ASIET activist Ed Aspinall who has recently returned from six weeks in Indonesia to address a public meeting attended by around 80 people in Sydney on February 15. The meeting raised more than $600 for ASIET's Free the Indonesian Political Prisoners campaign.