Wednesday, February 29, 2012

For Indonesia Without the FPI

Last February 11th, thousands of Dayak people converged on the town of Palangkaraya, demonstrating against the Islamic Defender's Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI) which was coming to set up a branch in the Central Kalimantan province. Hundreds then stormed the runway, so that the FPI's leaders who had come from Jakarta for the ceremony could not get off the plane. Inspired by this action, a few days later people gathered for a rally in central Jakarta inviting people to imagine 'Indonesia without the FPI'.

It takes bravery to challenge this powerful and violent organisation that for 13 years has been manipulating religious sentiment into a fearsome street-fighting movement of the extreme right. Few public figures will declare against them, and local and national government almost always seems to capitulate when faced with the threat that the FPI will mobilise against them. Laws and governmental decisions increasingly seem designed to appease the religious right, and their strength grows steadily.

To give some background of where this organisation came from, we have translated a special edition of Catatan Kaki, a newsletter from students at Hasanuddin University in Makassar about the FPI, published in May 2011. It explains FPI's emergence in post-Suharto Indonesia, focussing especially on the role that organisation played in the military's efforts to maintain power. There is also a chronology which is not a complete list of the FPI's violent actions, but gives some indication of the sort of things they get up to. As it was originally written for an Indonesian audience, Catatan Kaki refers to several incidents and groups involved in Indonesia's recent history which might be unfamiliar people reading this in English, but we've tried to make the translation as clear as possible.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hidayat, Locked Inside the Prison 'Red Zone'

This news that follows is just one story of how horrible life in prison is. Even worse than that, of being already locked up inside one prison and then finding another prison inside that one. This is what our comrade Hidayat is suffering right now, isolated under lock and key in a place that is known as the Red Cell, a miniature prison 2m by 1m, darkened and subject to the prison guards' stifling intimidation and terror.

From what we have heard, Hidayat has been confined in this claustrophobic space for five days. Apart from reports that he is frequently intimidated and beaten, Hidayat has never received the whole packages of food and drink that visitors bring him. And what pains us the most, his visitor access has been limited. No-one has been allowed to meet with him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bima Bupati's Office and Election Commission Burned Down, 53 Prisoners Freed.

The people of Bima are still in revolt after the brutal repression of the occupation of Sape port in December 2011 where several people were shot dead by police while taking part in an action against Arc Exploration, an Australian mining company. Although local government had said they would revoke the mining companies permit after the killings, local people continued to struggle for the permit to be cancelled permanently, and for all held in prison from last December to be freed.