Indonesia: Presidential Inauguration Marked by Protests

Source: Green Left Weekly

Thousands of people from various sectors of society protested to mark the inauguration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as president and Boediono as vice-president near the national parliament on October 20. Yudhoyono was elected to his second five-year term.

Spokeperson of the Street Parliament Alliance (APJ) Lalu Hilman Afriandi said: “Protesters demand the president end his neoliberal policies, because neoliberalism has brought suffering to the people of the world, including Indonesia.

“In the last five years, the government has been busy seeking foreign loans. Up to August, our debt reached US$160.64 billion and each year hundreds of trillion rupiah must be found in the state budget to repay the loans.

“This policy is not only a burden to the state budget, but also an opening for foreign interest that seek the implementation of neoliberal policies, such as the selling of state-owned enterprises, trade liberalisation, bank deregulation, the liberalisation of education and so on.”

Afiandi said that the government’s use of debt to repay other debts has created a vicious circle where debt feeds on itself.

Dominggus Oktavianus, the chairperson of the National Front of Indonesian Labour Struggle (FNPBI), said neoliberal policies caused de-industrialisation and bankrupt national industry that was supposed to be able to provide jobs and produce goods for people’s needs.

The informal worker sector has now reached 70% of the total labour force, including workers that have been laid off and young workers not absorbed by local industry.

“It means that beside intensifying lay-offs, neoliberalism from the outset has shrunk work opportunities”, Oktavianus said. “This is exacerbated by the spread of the contract system, outsourcing and low wage policies.”

At the rally, the chairperson of the Indonesian Poor People’s Union (SRMI) Marlo Sitompul called on the president to uphold the rights of the poor. Noting the Bank Century bailout, that caused the loss of US$718.96 million of public money, Sitompul said: “The new government should not be too confident, because this case has clearly hurt their credibility among the people, even among their own voters.”

The protest, filled with posters and banners declaring “Put and end to it” to counter Yudhoyono’s campaign slogan of “Keep it going”, occurred peacefully despite a heavy police presence.

Similar demonstrations occurred in dozens of other areas across Indonesia. In Makassar, in the South Sulawesi province, more than 1000 people gathered to demand an end to the neoliberal regime.

Demonstrations also took place in cities in East Java, Central Java, West Java, Jambi, Riau, North Sumatra, Aceh, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. The nationwide simultaneous action was coordinated by the People’s Democratic Party (PRD).