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Rebuttal of the regime's charges against the PRD

Background to the PDI office seizure

On July 27 1996, 800 "youth/civilians" who were supporters of the Suryadi Central Leadership Council (DPP) seized the office of the pro-Megawati DPP-PDI. This seizure is the main topic in all the media, print as well as electronic. Why? Because this case has its own historical roots and has resulted in the biggest mass rioting of the New Order period. One important factor that must be noted is that this case has its roots in the intervention by the government in an internal conflict in the PDI under the leadership of Megawati Sukarnoputri. The form of the intervention was the pressuring of the "Suryadi people" in the DPP-PDI to hold an extraordinary PDI Congress in Medan last June. Even though this congress was unconstitutional under the PDI 1983 Constitution and Rules, the government openly supported the holding of the Extraordinary Congress in Medan.

The reason for the government conducting this intervention was to suffocate the PDI's criticisms [of the government] under Megawati Sukarnoputri. Since Megawati has been president, the PDI parliamentary fraction has become more progressive and more critical of the government. Secondly, the popularity of the PDI as a party of the "little people" has little by little developed. While not fully struggling for the demands of the people, the PDI fraction in the parliament has always tried to accommodate the people's aspirations when people's delegations have brought their complaints to the parliament. So gradually the people's fondness for the PDI under the leadership of Megawati Sukarnoputri has grown and developed.

For the government this development represented a real threat to the 1997 general elections as it meant the possibility of a collapse in the vote for GOLKAR. So the only path open to the government was intervention inside the DPP-PDI itself.

As a result the anger among the mass supporters heightened. The signs of this anger were clearly demonstrated by the demonstration that took place in Jakarta on June 20, 1996, coinciding with the opening of PDI Extraordinary Congress in Medan. It was no longer possible to avoid a clash between the masses and the military apparatus. This action then became known as the Gambir Incident. Even though the direct mental and physical pressure from the government grew ever more severe, this did not weaken the morale of the pro-Megawati masses. Demonstrations took place in many towns throughout Indonesia reflecting the dissatisfaction with the government's intervention in the PDI. While in Jakarta itself, the PDI masses continued to defend the DPP-PDI offices by holding an open forum. This action was fully supported by the DPP-PDI pro Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The open forum continued from day to day. PDI members and other supporters took turns in speaking and expressing their discontent. But the government reacted in a different spirit. General Feisal Tanjung, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, accused the open forum of reflecting efforts at a coup. The reason he gave was that people were hurling insults at the government in the open forum. This is not an adequate basis for an accusation that the open forum was part of an effort at a coup. Especially as such open forums had become a tradition in the people's activities, especially since the end of the 1980s. These statements by the commander in chief signalled the beginning of the government's campaign to seize the DPP-PDI offices. Soon after President Suharto received in audience Suryadi as the president of the DPP-PDI and thus begun the government's planning of the seizure of the DPP-PDI offices.

One significance of the explanation above, is that the case of the seizure of the DPP- PDI offices had its specific roots and was part of a process made of incidents each one connected to the other. So it is not easy at all to accuse the open forum of being an attempt at a coup or an activity that was manipulated by some other force. There was the factor of the people's discontent, and there was the factor of the government's intervention in the PDI's internal conflict. So it can be concluded that in the case of this attack and seizure, the mass rioting that it caused was the culmination of the people's anger, restlessness and dissatisfaction with the social, political, and economic conditions that exist today.

The riots of July 27

As has been reported in the mass media, the attack and seizure of the DPP-PDI offices caused mass rioting. This rioting resulted in the destruction of buildings, vehicles, damage to property, and even the loss of 47 lives. This rioting must be seen as the result of the accumulation of social and political restlessness in society. This restlessness must find ways to express itself. Theoretically there are several ways that can happen. The leap in crime statistics, the leap in the numbers of strikes, and the other protests by the people are all indications of the increasing restlessness of the people during the last 2-3 years. The case of the attack and seizure of the DPP-PDI offices, from the defence of the offices by the Megawati Sukarnoputri side to the attack by the Suryadi side, was the direct cause of the rioting. One can say that this triggered the peoples' anger, after suffering so much political pressure, such as that which had been experienced by the pro-Megawati PDI masses.

Was the PRD behind the riots?

There are widespread reports in the media that the PRD manipulated the PDI actions. There is a long tradition by the New Order regime of making this kind of accusation. The people must remain vigilant against this kind of accusation. The PRD sees this accusation as part of a systematic attempt by the regime to isolate the democratic forces. While now it is the PRD, sooner or later, everyone is bound to experience these attacks. Because of this the PRD calls upon the press to report the PDI case more honestly and objectively.

We also stress that the accusations of "manipulation from behind the scenes" has no basis in fact whatsoever. It is based on nothing more than excessive suspicions by those in power. So in the midst of all this labelling, accusations and attempts at isolating the PRD, the people must remain vigilant. We must begin to think more clearly, not forgetting our commitment to the struggle for democracy and human rights, for an Indonesian nation that is democratic, believes in itself and is full of creativity in facing the challenges of the future.

Jakarta, July 31, 1996.
Peoples Democratic Party.

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