Indonesian Activists at APEC Threatened

Jakarta's threats an insult, activists say Douglas Todd
Vancouver Sun

A warnign from Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas to Indonesians who might demonstrate against President Suharto when he comes to Vancouver is an insult to Canadians and the idea of free speech, say Indonesians at an alternative APEC conference.

Alatas told Jakarta newspapers this week his government will "take measures" against Indonesian nationals who demonstrate against Suharto. "This shows how the Indonedsian regime always tries to bully people. They even try to bully people overseas," said Indonesian professor George Aditjondro, who is particiupating in the People's Summit, a conference set up to criticize the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum. "This is not only an insult to the Indonesian people, this is an insult to the Canadian people and to freedom of expression in this country," said Aditjondro.

Although several dozen Indonesians are participating in the People's Summit, out of fear of reprisals they designated Aditjondro as one of their two representatives to talk to the media.

Attempts Thursday to get confirmation from the Indonesian Consulate General were unsuccessful. A representative said all officials were at APEC. Tati Krisnawaty, a human-rights activist who will return to Indonesia after the People's Summit, joined Aditjondro in saying Indonesian nationals often find they can only speak out abroad. But Krisnawaty said she no longer fears Indonesian authorities. "How they treat us is nothing compared to how they treat workers and indigenous peoples."

Gesturing to media members, Aditjondro thanked Alatas for doing a "good PR job" by making his "silly remarks." Aditjondro, who's taught in Australia since 1995, urged Indonesians "not to yield to fear -- because as soon as we yield to fear the oppressor can defeat us without firing a bullet."

People's Summit official Shauna Sylvester said the organization will try to exert pressure on Suharto, a former general who has ruled Indonesia for three decades and earned a reputation as a corrupt, ruthless leader. He's been most strongly condemened for his military's 1975 invasion of East Timor, northwest of Australia. Amnesty International claims Indonesian occupiers have been responsibel for the deaths of 200,000 people. On Wednesday, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Jose Ramos-Horta, who has been exiled from Indonesia for 22 years, joined B.C. Premier Glen Clark in condemning Indonesia's involvement in East Timor.

From: (David Webster)
Vancouver Sun, November 21/97, p. A1

KdP Net
Sat, 22 Nov 1997

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