Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27, 1996 – A Turning Point

I never forget the date. Never!

Early in Saturday morning, hundreds if not thousands of thugs, backed by police and military raided a building at Jalan Diponegoro, Jakarta. It was an office of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) that was turned to a center of democratic movements against the New Order dictatorship. There was a big stage used as a forum of democracy, of free speech. In several occasions, thousands of supporters of Megawati and her PDI attended the free speech forum. But everyday, hundreds of people came and visited and gave speeches on the stage. One of those really using the forum for speeches for change and political propaganda against the military dictatorship was the left wing People’s Democratic Party (PRD) and its mass organizations PPBI, SMID, STN, JAKER and SRI.

When the building was being raided, hundreds of Megawati and PDI supporters were there. Many of them were still sleeping. This bloody attacks and raids by thugs backed by the police and military (official investigation by Commission on Human Rights – Komnas HAM and Fact Finding Team found that they were not thugs, but military in plainclothes) resulted in bloodshed. Hundreds of the occupants died and disappeared (Komnas HAM reports) without trace.

Just after the raids, Jakarta was in chaos of riots. The urban poor people of Jakarta, who were the supporters and sympathetic to Megawati and fed up with Suharto New Order Regime expressed their anger and discontent. Military and government building and offices and other symbols establishments were targeted and burnt down… Jakarta was in chaos.

Hours after this, Dictator Suharto mobilized his guard dogs to seek scapegoat. Then the Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs, General Susilo Sudarman, as well as Chief of Social and Political Affairs of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), Let.Gen. Syarwan Hamid appeared on TV and all media with strong statements;

“The PRD is behind the riots in Jakarta. They are the mastermind!”
“The PRD is the revival of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)”
“The PRD is banned from now on!”

The impacts of the black propaganda by the New Order were effective in two terms. On the one hand, it could mobilize sentiment against the PRD, a five-day old political party of young people declared on July 22, 1996. The leaders and members were then hunted down like the way Hitler hunted down the Jewish. After an intensive intelligent operation, a month later, tens of PRD leadership including the Chairperson Budiman Sudjatmiko (now the MP) and Secretary General Petrus Hariyanto were caught, torture and detained. They were all charged with the Anti Subversion Law of Hattzaai Artikelen of the Dutch colonial legacy against the government that could bring them all to death penalty!

On the other hand by the way, the July 27 event and black propaganda have built confidence among the discontent Indonesian population under the rule of New Order. The PRD exemplified the vast population that the fist hand rule of the New Order was not unchallenged. The people just needed a pioneer and leadership. The evidence was that since then, the popular democratic movement against the dictatorship started growing, in all sectors, which lead to the popular student lead movement that toppled Suharto from Presidency in May 1998.

July 27 1996 was a historical turning point, politically and personally.
Politically, I have mentioned above. Instead of diminishing the critical voice of the masses, it triggered popular uprising against the dictatorship. But this give impacts to individual actor of the movements.

Being the member of the student wing of the PRD, the Indonesian Student Solidarity for Democracy (SMID) I was affected by this historical event. We had to work underground, temporarily disconnected with families and best friends. But it was also fun, especially that we still can politically hit and run, and kick and rush (I love English Premier League) against the dictatorship. We can still organize the movements, with students, urban poor, and workers, in many cities. We were even developing, in terms of reaching broader population.

But again, this also lead to my abduction on March 13, 1998 by the most notorious Indonesian Special Force (Kopassus), the torture and detention for 3 months.

Thanks to the popular movements toppling the dictatorship, as well as international solidarity by many of our comrades abroad, so that I was released on bail in June 1998. Otherwise I might should have been experienced imprisonment for several years like many other friends.

The 27 of July 1996 event also impacted to other friends of mine. If I am lucky and accordingly thankful, the same thing did not happen to other great committed friends of ours. They should be imprisoned, tortured, killed and made disappeared for their love to the people and country. So many of us should be separated from the people we love most, our families and friends. To mention some of those made disappeared are Wiji Thukul, Bimo Petrus Anugerah, Herman Hendrawan, Suyat and many more. (We all still have to fight for justice and to locate their whereabouts)

They have been experiencing that because we have been anti militarism, for multiparty system of government, for freedom of expression and association, for the rights to free education and health services, for employment, for feminism, for good and sustained environment, and for peace and equality. For a better Indonesia to live in. For me, for what these friends of mine have done and contributed to the country, they should be considered the martyrs, the heroes and the patriots.

It is July 27, 2011. It was 15 years ago already. But we never forget. We just can’t! What we believe is that to remember you the martyrs is to continue doing, to make come true what you and I dare to dream about the people and the country. We are talking about social justice where we live in prosperity, just and peace.

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