15 Jul 2011

Reform and repression

Reform and repression

Improved living standards and economic reforms led to pressure for greater political reform and openness, and in April 1991 a 45-member Democracy Forum was launched by leading members of the country's religious and cultural intelligentsia. It was seen as an attempt to ventilate ideas about freedom in politics in what remained an authoritarian state. The government imposed strict limitations on the group's operations.International outrage followed the massacre in November 1991 of 50 Timorese demonstrators by the Indonesian army. The new political openness appeared threatened in 1992 after two students were arrested for taking part in a satirical review mocking the forthcoming elections, and in early 1993 several student publications were shut down.

The ruling Golkar Party was returned to power in the 1992 assembly elections, but with a 5% drop in support. President Suharto was re-elected for a sixth consecutive term in 1993. He installed Minister Harmoko as the first civilian leader of Golkar, causing consternation among the military who were eager for Suharto's successor to be drawn from their ranks. The election in 1994 of former president Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, as head of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) aroused further fears among the ruling Golkar elite.
In June 1996, Golkar engineered a split in the PDI, forcing out Megawati (she was later ordered to close her political office in Jakarta). Her ousting as leader led to violent street demonstrations by members and supporters of the PDI. The crackdown on anti-government activists continued in August 1996 when supporters of the PDI and the People's Democratic Party (PRD) were arrested on charges of subversive activities during the July riots in Jakarta.
In October 1996, Carlos Belo, the bishop of Dili, East Timor, and José Ramos-Horta, the exiled spokesperson for Fretilin, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts against Indonesian human-rights abuses in East Timor. November 1996 saw the release of the jailed supporters of Megawati.
Several hundred people were reported killed and more than 1,200 were missing after rioting and violence between indigenous ethnic groups and migrants in the province of West Kalimantan between January and March 1997. In April 1997 the radical opposition party, the PRD, was banned from taking part in the May general election. Its leader, Budiman Sudjatmiko, was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment for ‘subversion’.

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