Albion Monitor /News

[Editor's note: Because of recent stock and banking crisis in Asia, the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Vancouver (Nov. 17-25) developed into a global economic summit, with front page headlines in most American and European newspapers.

Much of the spotlight has been on Indonesia, whose financial troubles first made international headlines in early October, when President Suharto sought help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Within weeks, 16 financially-troubled banks were closed as part of reforms needed to receive a $23 billion loan from the IMF. Bailouts were also sought by Thailand and South Korea. (For more background, see "Stock Plunge Just Part of Asian Economic Woes" in the last edition of the Monitor.)

Nor is this the first time that Indonesia has supressed information on the current economic crisis. Two weeks ago, officials prevented private television stations from broadcasting live and unedited coverage of government hearings on the nation's economy. Although broadcasters had obtained permission the night before from Indonesian House Speaker Harmoko, they were later told that live broadcasts would be prohibited. Journalists and workers of the two stations stood idle by their satellite dishes, communication trucks, and cameras during the packed hearing on the $23 billion IMF bailout.]

Indonesia Threatens Demonstrators -- In Canada

by Andreas Harsono

More than 1,000 activists from around the world have gathered to discuss issues ranging from East Timor to Tibet
(AR) VANCOUVER -- A government threat to take action against Indonesians who join in street demonstrations this week to protest the Suharto government during the APEC meeting here has triggered a protest of its own.

"They have no right to do it. This [public warning] clearly shows the arrogance of power," said feminist Taty Krisnawati in an impromptu press conference at the APEC media center, stressing that she is not afraid and will definitely take part in the protest.

In a move that obviously shocked many activists here, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said in Jakarta last Tuesday that his government will take action against any Indonesians seen protesting President Suharto's rule during the APEC Leaders' Summit.

"If they are Indonesian nationals, yes, we will take measures against them," said Alatas.

Canadian media immediately published Alatas' comment, and the Vancouver-based Province newspaper splashed the statement on their regional page with a photo of Suharto. Radio stations also interviewed scores of both Canadian and Indonesian activists here.

Photocopies of the statement were widely distributed to dozens of meeting venues at the People's Summit, a conference paraellel to the APEC summit, where more than 1,000 activists from around the world have gathered to discuss issues ranging from East Timor to Tibet, from workers rights to arms sales.

Thousands of international protesters are likely to target Chinese President Jiang Zemin and President Suharto in the planned street protests
Indonesian dissident George Aditjondro, who accompanied Krisnawati to the spontaneous but packed meeting, also said that the Indonesian government is obviously harassing citizens who want to demonstrate their disagreement with their government at the People's Summit, held here to coincide with the APEC meetings.

"But I have to thank Alatas for making such a good public relations for the Indonesian pro-democracy movement," joked Aditjondro, a leading Indonesian scholar who currently lives in self-exile in Australia.

Indonesian and East Timorese activists clad in black T-shirts accompanied Aditjondro and Krisnawati. The shirts read: "Wanted: Indonesian President Suharto for crimes against humanity."

Aditjondro said he was not surprised to hear Alatas's statement, adding that some Indonesian officials had already taken steps here to photograph Indonesian dissidents as well as East Timorese protesters who earlier held a mock trial of Suharto.

Dozens of Indonesian activists attended the non-government People's Summit, which was organized to provide unofficial and often unheard alternative viewpoints on regional trade and human rights issues.

Taty said the threat is "only a drop of water in the ocean of repression" that Indonesian human rights workers customarily experience.

Organizer Shauna Sylvester said that Canadian unions and non-governmental organizations are to likely to also take steps to ensure that the Indonesians return home without being harassed.

Thousands of international protesters are likely to target Chinese President Jiang Zemin and President Suharto in the planned street protests, which are expected to peak on Nov. 24-25, when students plan to "take over" the campus of the University of British Columbia, where the official summit participants are scheduled to dine.

Ali Alatas said the Canadian government had earlier guaranteed the safety of his delegation.

"We hope the demonstration will not be uncontrollable, like what happened in Dresden, Germany, in which our head of state was directly and physically threatened," said Alatas.

During Suharto's visit to Dresden in April 1995 protesters staged demonstrations and booed him over Jakarta's human rights record, including the killings in the internationally-disputed East Timor.

An East Timorese student even threw a rolled newspaper that struck Suharto and apparently angered him.

Returning home from Dresden, Suharto charged that a group of Indonesians, include legislator Sri Bintang Pamungkas of the Muslim-based United Development Party, instigated the German street demonstrations. Pamungkas is currently imprisoned for "spreading hatred against the government."

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Albion Monitor November 24, 1997 (

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