Philippine protests

Suharto out!

Manila -- ``Free Dita Sari'', ``Suharto, Hitler, dictator, killer -- out'' were painted on banners and caps as around 100 workers from the socialist workers centre the Filipino Workers Solidarity (BMP) picketed the Indonesian embassy here on August 9. T his was the first solidarity action organised in the Philippines in support of the Indonesian pro-democracy movement since the recent political crackdown by the Suharto dictatorship. The action received wide media coverage.

The BMP has committed itself to an action campaign in solidarity with the Indonesian workers movement. A press release issued on August 9 states that ``Indonesian businesses in the Philippines which have connections with the Suharto dictatorship will be targets of the BMP's peaceful protest activities. Companies such as Metro Pacific, the consortium which bought the privatised Fort Bonifacio, is known to have substantial share holdings by members of the Suharto family. The BMP will be investigating Metr o Pacific and other companies which are known or rumored to have links with the Suharto regime targeting them for its protest activities.''

Security guards and Indonesian embassy spies sprinted towards a group of workers who were burning pictures of Suharto against the Indonesian national emblem carved into the embassy walls. But the media, with television cameras swinging followed, and prev ented them from interfering with the protest activities. The place was swarming with Indonesian government spies who were trying to get the names of those present. One of them asked a protest organiser if Dita Sari ( the arrested leader of the Peoples D emocratic Party) ``had leftist connections''. But many of the protestors were seasoned activists who had survived the period of the Marcos dictatorship and were able to pick out the spies with ease.

BMP speakers outlined the current political situation in Indonesia to those present. Leody De Guzman pointed to the similarities between the situation faced by the Philippine workers movement under the Marcos dictatorship and that faced by the Indonesia n movement today. Wilson Fortaleza described the picket as the ``first salvo'' in the BMP's solidarity campaign to ``bring down the Suharto dictatorship''. Sonny Melencio pointed out that Indonesia's high growth rates was based on the ``blood and sweat of the Indonesian workers. We won't let that happen here''. The crowd was then asked ``Suharto will be coming here in November to attend the APEC conference. Will we allow him on Filipino soil?''. ``No'' the workers shouted.

Reihana Mohideen a member of the Democratic Socialist Party (Australia) and Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) also spoke and delivered solidarity greetings from Nico Warouw, the overseas representative of the Peoples Democratic P arty, who is currently touring Australia. She called on the Philippine labor movement to support ASIET's call for an international day of protest on human rights and democracy in Indonesia, which has been set for October 28.

Nico Warouw's message was well received. His statement that ``the Philippines working class, student, peasant, and others are fighting against the regime of Ramos, the regime that has the same character like Suharto's. The PRD appreciates the support fro m the Philippines people ... In the spirit of internationalism, the oppressed people in all countries should fight together and help each other in order to throw away the oppressive and exploitative system. Long live the struggle of the Philippine and In donesian people. Long live internationalism.'' met with big applause.

The BMP is planning an education campaign on the Indonesian situation in its mass base. A leaflet for mass circulation has already been produced. Referring to the Philippines experience the leaflet explains ``Suharto is the Indonesian Marcos. General Pr abowo, the son-in-law of Suharto, is the General Ver of the Philippines. The SPSI (the government sponsored `yellow' union) is the Indonesian TUCP (the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, the main right wing trade union bloc)''. The BMP is also plan ning a workers signature campaign around a petition demanding the release of political prisoners like Muchtar Pakpahan from the Indonesian Democratic Party, Dita Sari a leader of the PRD, for the freedom of assembly and free elections in Indonesia.

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