17 May 2008

AKSI - heading towards May 21

Max Lane

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.

(Pictures above)

May Day in central Jakarta . The section with the mostly red flags are mostly Workers' Demands Alliance (ABM) unions, whose leaders took the lead in forming the FPN. The main banner reads: Fight the New Form of Domination/Occupation. Those marching behind the yellow banners are unions and others, including farmers, from the Peoples Struggle Front (FPR). This is another Left stream in the country whose political perspective emphasises the leading role of farmers and the rural poor in winning change. As far as I know, this was their first significant mobilisation in Jakarta. There have been on-again off-again talks between the FPR and FPN about joining together, but as of May 16, they are still workimg separately.

One wave of demonstrations was organised by the Student Executive Bodies (BEMs), student councils operating at the university faculty level. There are claims that more than 130 BEMs from different campuses were involved in that wave of actions. Around May 10-11, there was also an action by a student group that slept out overnight outside the Presidential campus.
The increasingly heated mood is also providing the basis for former head of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and former speaker of the Peoples Consultative Assembly, Amien Rais, to make repeated sharp attacks on President Yudhoyono's government and on what he states is the government's weak attitude towards foreign companies operating in Indonesia. There is an increasing mood of hostility to the foreign economic presence and the rapacious attitude of foreign companies and the deleterious conditions attached to the myriad of foreign loans in which Indonesia is entrapped. It is clear that a political battle is brewing for leadership over this anti-foreign sentiment between sections of the business and political elite (frustrated at their own share of the economic cake and eager at the same time to win some popularity in the lead-up to the next elections), elements of the elite campaigning under the banner of one variant or another of anti-Western Islamic fundamentalism and embryonic progressive or socialist forces now just starting to organise.

National Liberation Front (FPN)

The FPN (see earlier posts for background) has called for protests on May 21. Apart from organising to mobilise some of its own members on May 21, it has put out a general call for street protests on May 21. It has begun small pickets and other actions in the lead-up. The momentum for the formation of the FPN, on the initiative of leaders of the Workers' Demands Alliance (ABM), seems to have emerged out of the successful collaboration between progressive groups on May Day.

Smaller FPN run up actions 200-500 people have already been held outside government buildings, regional parliaments and other locations in Medan, North Sumatra; Tangerang, West Jakarta; Solo, Central Java; Surabaya, East Java;Jogjakarta in central Java and Balikpapan, East Java.


On May 12, another alliance, the People Demand Front (FRM), which includes Volunteers for Democracy (REPDEM), a part of Megawati's PDIP and the PRD/PAPERNAS, also held an action also protesting the fuel price rises. FRM is seen to be too close to the elite poitical parties by the other forces. There links with the elite parties was also reflected in one of their key political demands, namely, for the replacement of President Yudhoyono's team of economic ministers with other candidates. The left coalitions are using the mobilisations to advocate that these old elite party forces, including people like Amien Rais and Megawati, have no solutions and should stand aside.

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