Asia Solidarity website: a gold mine of information on struggles
By Max Lane
In the Indonesia News Digest 31, August 16-23 there are more than 70 news items covering a wide range of issues relating to struggles for social justice and full democracy in Indonesia. The items are listed under categories such as issues, actions, demos, protests, Aceh, West Papua, human rights & law, freedom of expression & press, politics & political parties, electoral commission & elections, environment & natural disasters, health & education, women & gender, graft & corruption, war on terror, ethnic & religious conflicts, Islam & religion, land disputes & evictions, legislation & parliament, armed forces & defence, judiciary & legal system, police & law enforcement, criminal justice & prison system as well as analysis & opinion.
The news items include reports from a range of English language media as well as some items translated into English especially for the Indonesia News Digest by one of its subsidiary services, Indoleft, which specialises in publishing English translations of documents and news reports that have come out of the Indonesian left.
What is most amazing is that these weekly categorised digests on Indonesian politics have been put together and maintained online now for more than 13 years. They are maintained on the excellent Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN) news and affairs website. The site has been maintained by activist James Balowski since its beginning.
Balowski was active in the group AKSI, which later became Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET). ASIET played a significant role in building solidarity in Australia and internationally with the struggle for East Timorese independence and the leading role in supporting the radical pro-democracy movement that grew in Indonesia in the 1990s until the overthrow of the dictator Suharto. The APSN website has archived documents and publications from ASIET during that period also.
These materials alone would have been enough for the National Library of Australia and the United States Library of Congress to request permission to archive the material to ensure that it is never lost. The National Library of Australia archives are part of the Pandora project, and the APSN material can also be accessed there at <http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/99505>.
However, APSN also holds more than that. There is also an archive of the Indoleft news service for 2003-10 and of the East Timor News Digest for 2002-10. All this material is also listed under categories making information quickly and easily accessible. It is also one of the best sources of English language news on the politics and society of West Papua. There are also news items on almost all the countries of South-East Asia. A new section in 2010 is Drunken Republic, which reproduces political cartoons from the Indonesian media. These are in Indonesian but come with excellent English translations and explanations.
Balowski has created an incredible archive of material extremely useful to anybody conducting research on the 1997-2010 period in Indonesia and East Timor, as well as the region. The APSN site is oriented to today’s activists. It carries a comprehensive Speaking Out section of statements and petitions from groups around the region as well as a What’s On section. The latter is oriented to activities in Australia but also carries announcements of regional and international activities.