Asia Pacific

Gap between elite and people widens as Indonesian elections approach

By Max Lane

Elections for the two houses of Indonesia’s national parliament and the provincial parliaments will take place on April 9, at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the parliamentary parties. These elections will be followed in July by what will likely be the first of two rounds to elect a president and vice-president.

Papernas leaders sow illusions of radical change through the ballot box

By Zely Ariane

[The following article was written in response to an article by Kelik Ismunanto, a leader of Papernas (National Liberation Unity Party) titled “Indonesia: Tracing a path towards parliament” that was published in the December 3 issue of Green Left Weekly. Papernas was formed in July 2006 by the radical left People’s Democratic Party (PRD) to present a radical anti-neoliberal platform in this year’s Indonesian parliamentary elections. Zely Ariane is a former PRD secretary-general and now a leading member of the Political Committee for the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD). This party was formed in November 2007 by members of the PRD-Papernas expelled for disagreeing with a Papernas leadership decision to enter into an electoral coalition with one of the existing parliamentary parties. The article has been translated by James Balowski.]

Malaysian socialists host international conference

By Nick Everett

Over the weekend of November 7-9, 2008, socialists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, Sweden and Taiwan gathered near Kuala Lumpur for Socialism 2008, a conference hosted by the Parti Socialis Malaysia (Malaysian Socialist Party, PSM). This was the second international conference organised by the PSM, the first being held in 2005. Socialism 2006 was held in Bangkok and Socialism 2007 was held in Manila.

Upturn in Indonesian workers' struggle

By Sam King

Thousands of factory workers blockaded the Padalarang highway in West Java causing traffic to back up10 kilometres along the road for four hours on November 24. The workers, from the West Bandung industrial zone, demanded their regional minimum wage be fixed at 1.17 million rupiah (the equivalent to A$142.60), to match West Bandung’s minimum cost of living according to the region’s tripartite Remuneration Council, which has proposed a wage of only Rp1.02 million.

Cambodia and Vietnam: Different endings to US war

By Allen Myers

Thirty years ago, at the end of December 1978, Vietnamese troops and rebel Cambodian forces crossed into Cambodia and in a few weeks overthrew a regime whose savagery rivalled that of Nazi Germany. The military conflict surprised most of the world, because the Vietnamese Communist Party and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge (KR) had, until 1975, appeared to be allies in resisting the US attempt to replace defeated French imperialism as the ruler of Indochina — Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. However, largely unseen by the rest of the world, there had long been crucial political differences between the two parties.

Ship breaking on 'the beach of doom'

By Andrew Martin

In the Indian state of Gujarat, 50 kilometres southeast of the city of Bhavnagar, lie the ship-breaking yards of Alang. What was once a pristine beach is being used as a deadly graveyard for the world’s supertankers, container ships, car ferries and naval vessels. Even aircraft carriers are dismantled at Alang. In a fog of smoke and dust, thousands of workers clamber over the skeletons of ships, stripping them, tearing them apart until nothing remains but scrap steel. It is the largest ship-breaking yard in Asia.

CPI (ML) builds stronger party in India

By John Percy

The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)], held in December 2007 in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, was its biggest yet, registering the party’s growing support among India’s workers and peasants. Attended by 1100 delegates, the congress culminated in a mass rally for “People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence” at Shahid Minar in Kolkata on December 18, on the 10th anniversary of the death of the party’s former general secretary, Vinod Mishra. The rally was attended by approximately 100,000 people, coming from all parts of India.

Ten years after Suharto, Indonesians fight 'democratic' neocolonialism

By Sam King

This year’s May Day demonstrations in Jakarta took on a special significance because they came 10 years after General Suharto was forced by mass street protests to resign as Indonesia’s president. The May 1 marches were followed by another lively round of protests on May 21, the anniversary of the day Suharto fell. These mobilisations also protested the removal of fuel subsidies by the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which has caused steep rises in the price of all basic goods including food — amounting to a pay cut for ordinary people.

Unfinished Nation: Indonesia before and after Suharto

Reviewed by Nick Everett

Unfinished Nation: Indonesia before and after Suharto
By Max Lane
Verso 2008 312 pages
RRP (Australia) $49.95

In May 1998, Indonesian dictator General Mohammed Suharto was forced out of power when his cabinet ministers and the other generals — faced with escalating mass protests — abandoned him. A second upsurge of protest, drawing in even larger layers of the population in November 1998, forced Suharto’s successor as Indonesian president, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, to call elections. These events signalled the end of Indonesia’s New Order dictatorship, which had dominated Indonesian political life throughout most of the archipelago’s post-colonial history.