Past and present Australian government have been no different towards the Indonesian Dictatorship. Australian government have been particulary grateful to Suharto's role in removing Sukarno and destroying the left in Indonesia with massacres in 1965, the occupation of East Timor and jailing pro democracy activist who demanded for genuine multi party democracy. And today Australia also must take responsibility for the worst enviromental disaster in Indonesia's history.
Smoke from forest fires in Sumatera and Kalimantan in Indonesia created a haze which mixed with air pollution has choked millions of residents in Sumatera, the Malay peninsula and Borneo. Many people have died from smoke, thousands have been treated in hospital and millions of others will be badly affected over next few years. Fires have swept through more than 80.000 hectares in Sumatera, Kalimantan, and Irian Jaya with the potential to spread to 300.000 hectares.
The Australia government declared that " No country is more important to Australia than Indonesia ", has kept silent over the last one month untill last week they gave A $ 1 million to help fight the forest fire. But what has been Australia involvment in the forest fires ?
Military support to Indonesia
Certainly, Australia's Defence Co-operation with Indonesia ; training and joint exercises, equipment sales had an indirect impact for the fires. Australia trains hundred of Indonesian officers every year to give expertise and expand their techniques and has regular exercises with Kopassus ( the Indonesian Special Armed Forces ) which are headed by Suharto's son in law Maj-Gen Prabowo. These trained sections have been at the forefront of operations in Kalimantan. The Armed Forces have defended large areas of plantations, timber concessions and mining in Kalimantan--to protect company interests who control these businesses. " The Red Beret's muscles and M-16 guns " have had a tremendous negative impact on the indigenous communities in Kalimantan who are defending their land. Plantations and timber companies controlled by Indonesian tycoons have kicked indegenous people off their land without compensation. When indigenous people resist this land eviction they are faced with a gun. The Indonesian Army played a similar role in capturing, initimidating, interrogating and possibly even murdering human rights, enviromental and workers activists who defense the right of indigenous people and the right of workers in timber and plantations company. Now, suddenly we hear the Armed Forces saying timber and plantations companies can not be blamed for the enviromental smoke disaster . ( Sydney Morning Herald, October 1, 1997).
An Indonesian Ministrial report has laid blame on 176 logging and plantations firms over the huge forest fires, having set these fire as the cheapest and quickest way to clear land for plantation. Some of these 176 companies are owned by Indonesian wealthies figures who have connections which go as high as General Suharto. They are Sudono Salim, Eka Tjipta Wijaya, Bob Hasan and Prajogo Pangestu. Satelite pictures have led us believe the most of companies which started the fires are also palm oil plantations.( FEER, Oct 2 , 1997 )
Role of Australian Businesses
In the spirit of capitalism we know that Australian big businesses and Indonesian big businesses are working together for the rich. What's the real story behind the forest fires ? Some of the companies on the government list are subsidaries Indonesian biggest pulp and oil plantation company , the Sinar Mas Group (SMG) and the Raja Garuda Mas (RGM) which belong to Eka Tjipta Wijaya. This company provided oil for well known Australian margarine products such as Meadow Lea.
Apart from SMG and RGM palm oil export to Australia, PT Indah Kiat who is also on the government list, and PT Tjiwi Kimia, both of them under the Sinar Mas Group, have dominated Australia markets with their pulp paper product, such as line pad paper under the label " Olympic ", A 4 Binder Book, Hardcover Note Book, Victory Notebook, are all a Made In Indonesia by the company who burn the forest.
Meanwhile, Australian giant mining business, BHP and Rio Tinto have contributed to the fires especially through their coal mining in Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. BHP and Rio Tinto through exploitative coal mining in these area have left the land bare, without repairing the damage and replacing the trees. The bare land and coal left behind have helped the fires spread faster and bigger. BHP also has close links with the Salim Group, which has companies on the government list such as PT Ciptanarada Lestari and another company under Salim Indo Plantations. In the same arena, Raja Garuda Mas has become a partner in a Indonesia-Australian-Spanish joint venture in coal mining in South Kalimantan under the name PT Adaro. The other Indonesian partner in this joint venture is the Tirtamas Group, owned by Hasyim Djojohadikusumo and his sister in law, Siti Hediyati Hariyadi or Titiek Prabowo, Suharto's second daughter and the wife of Mayor General Prabowo Subianto, Chief of Kopassus. Titiek Prabowo has also established a joint venture with Australian mining company-New Hope which also has coal mining operations in Kalimantan. Both PT Adaro and New Hope are playing similar role to BHP and Rio Tinto throu gh their mining methods helping fire to spread faster and bigger. These companies also using military to defend their economic interests, as at Rio Tinto's Freeeport copper mine in West Papua.
Now, we can see Australian big businesses hycpocracy towards Indonesia. Indonesia is important only as long as providing money for Australia. The Australian government doesn't care about the fate of thousands of Indonesian people under the disaster also "caused" by Australian. What did they do first ? Evacuated Australian diplomatic and businesses family in Malaysia and then they gave A $ 1 million for fighting the fires, compared to $ 10 million arms exports to Indonesia in 1995-1996 and Australia's total invesment plans of US $ 5,9 billion to Indonesia.
Let us declare mass protest to ask Australian Government to immediately end all military ties including aid, training and equipment to the Indonesian govenment until democracy has been restored in Indonesia.
We appeal to all those forces who are genuinley opposed to repression to hold pickets in front of Indonesian Embassies and companies linked with the Indonesian capitalist class and the Suharto oligarchy
Finally,We call for :
a. Australia and Indonesian companies benefitly from the fires to be taxed at 100 % profit untill the fires are put out and land management plans put into place with all taxes collected being used to rehabilitate the enviromental destruction in Sumatera and Kalimantan,
b. Abolition dual function of the military
c Repeal the 5 Political Laws
d. Self Determination for East Timor, West Papua, Aceh and the indigenous people in Kalimantan
e. Release all political prisoners currently in Indonesia
On Behalf of the
PRD International Office
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