Interview between Mirah Mahardika. Coordinator, Central Leadership Committee, Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) and LIBERATION,
June 7, 1997.

The Prospects for the Mass Movement After the Elections.

LIBERATION: The election seemed to have been a success, even though there were some small disturbances, What happened to the Election Boycott?

Mirah Mahardika: I don't agree with those that say that the boycott actions were a total failure. From the beginning, our view was that the measure of success for the boycott campaign would be how it was able to mobilise masses. It is true that on election day and immediately afterwards there were no actions. But the opportunities for mass actions has rather opened up now, after the elections. Actions rejecting the election results and the coming Special Session of the Peoples Consultative Assembly. The opportunities for actions around these issues is growing larger given the disappointment among the PPP and PDI, because the elections were indeed full of fraud.

This is the coming together of three issues: the Mega-Star-People issue which enlarged the opposition party; the KIPP issue which keeps pressure of GOLKAR to limit its unbridled theft of other parties votes; and the Election Boycott as a direct rejection of the elections. Prior to voting day, these three tactics may have seemed contradictory. But now they all come together in the call to reject the election results.

LIBERATION: How will the masses be gathered together now after the elections?

Mirah Mahardika: The opportunities for mass actions are greater now. But we must realise too that the mood of the masses has experienced an anti-climax. This is a product of the "floating mass" system where the people are only mobilised at election time and after that the people are kept away from politics.

In the PRD's view, it is now the task of the pro-democracy movement to raise the mood for the masses again. One way is to initiate actions to reject the election results and demand that the elections be held again nationally. The actions by the Movement in Support of Megawati and the Padjadjaran University students are good examples and should be followed by other groups. This way it can snowball, as actions did when Megawati was under attack from the government.

We need to unite all the pro-democracy groups, especially the PPP and Megawati supporters. We will continue our support for the Mega-Star-People coalition so that it grows. The unity of the pro-democratic forces is the key to more people on the streets.

LIBERATION: What if the PPP Central Committee accepts the election results. Then you would have a situation where the aggrieved party had accepted the results but outsiders continued to whinge?

Mirah Mahardika: That is not a concern! We have to prove to the people which is the correct choice: accept the results, perhaps with some noted qualifications, or reject them. Our task is to explain to the people that the election results should not be accepted, because they have been corrupted. If we accept corrupted elections, it means we support corrupt practices. And such corrupt elections can only hurt the people. And we can be clear as to why the elections can be so easily corrupted: because of the Dual Function of the military.

LIBERATION: When might the galvanising of mass support climax again?

Mirah Mahardika: With the rejection of Suharto's renomination as President [in March 1998] and the demand that he be held accountable for 31 years of oppression of the Indonesian people.

LIBERATION: There are many commentators, such as Daniel Lev, that say that Suharto will now make som concessions to the pro-democracy movement in order to save himself. This hypothesis seems to be strengthened by General Syarwan Hamid's offer of a dialogue with the pro-democracy groups.

Mirah Mahardika: Dialogue or political concessions with changes to the political system, such as the end of the political role of the military or without the repeal of the 5 political laws, would be just deceiving the people. The PRD is not opposed to dialogue, but neither are we into political deal making. Concessions which don't help cure our country's sickness will just deceive the people. It will be just some political figures that will get the concessions, put crudely bribes, but will it mean for the peoples' sovereignty.

The issue is clear. It is the dual role of the Armed Forces [i.e. its role in politics] and the five political laws that is the cause of the rottenness of our political system. There is no way that these two pillars of dictatorship will be overthrown just with dialogue. What strength will the pro-democracy groups have to bring pressure to bear on the regime in this dialogue? None! Our strength comes from the people, and our weapon is mass action. I hope that the pro-democractic groups do not develop any illusions in this dialogue.

LIBERATION: Perhaps such a dialogue could hold back the victims on both sides, for example by preventing more riots?

Mirah Mahardika: Even if there is an Armed Forces - Pro-democracy dialogue, the unrest will continue to erupt while the peoples aspirations are suffocated and they continue to be politically and economically oppressed. Especially if this dialogue is with figures who have no mass base, what will it mean for stopping the unrest erupting?

Even Gus Dur, head of the Nahdatul Ulama, who is very influential among his masses, was unable to prevent the masses from rioting. Over and over again he called on his mass base not to become involved in the rioting. But what happened? Rioting continued in all the mass bases of the NU.

What does all this mean? It means the people are angry and looking for a way to express their anger.

If the existing mass organisations, political parties and pro-democracy figures are unable to respond, then the effect will be anarchism. So don't be surprised if so many secular street heavies end up participating in PPP campaigns or religious unrest. Because these PPP campaigns or religious, or ethnic rioting are only arenas, places where the people express their anger.

The real sources of the problem is what I have mentioned earlier: social inequality and the suffocating of peoples aspirations.

1. Mega-Star-the People: a slogan popualrised during the election campaign calling on the forces of Megawati, the moslem United Development Party and bropader popular forces to unit in a mass movement to replace Suharto.

2. Nahdatul Ulama, a large tradition bound moslem organisation. Its head, Abdurrahman Wahid supported Tutut Suharto during the recent election campaign and also called on megawati supporters not to follow her example and boycott the election.

3. General Syarwan Hamid is Political and Social Affairs spokesperson for Armed Forces headquarters.

4. KIPP - an independent election monitoring committee in which the PRD played a major role until the PRD was forced underground.

Back to the main index