Logo: Solidarity South Pacific

Poll Boycott

From Schnews issue 448.

On Monday 5th April people across Indonesia will be forced to vote in the latest round of parliamentary elections. The rather dubious list of politicians they will be able to choose from include Wiranto, the former defence minister and retired general indicted on charges of crimes against humanity in East Timor, "Sister Tutut" the daughter of ex-military dictator Suharto and Prabowo Subianto, Suharto's former son-in-law accused of kidnapping student activists. Transparency International this month put the Suharto family at the top of its list of all-time corrupt leaders estimating the family had stashed away $35bn in 32 years of rule.

It comes then as no surprise to hear that mass boycotts of these elections are planned in the country's most oppressed regions. For the first time ever, people in Aceh, Mollucas and West Papua will act together in resistance to the Indonesian state by refusing to vote and blockading polling stations. But this is no small act. Voting is obligatory in Indonesia and heavily enforced by violent police. The last time West Papuans refused to vote was in 1977 and in response Suharto unleashed a massacre, bombing highland villages, forcing thousands to starve in the jungles and slaughtering any that remained. People still talk of watching their families being thrown alive into mass graves and how the Baliem River "ran red with blood".