Subject: AUS:Army threat to 'cripple' mobs
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 17:57:34 +0000
From: "ETISC" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Army threat to 'cripple' mobs
Don Greenlees Jakarta correspondent
A senior Indonesian military commander has threatened his troops will "cripple" protesters who disrupt stability, as a formerly banned trade union plans to bring thousands of workers onto the streets today to demand the resignation of President BJ Habibie.
A Jakarta military Commander, Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, has deployed 25,000 troops in Jakarta in a show of strength, aimed at discouraging mass protests of the type planned by the Indonesian Prosperous Trade Union.
It comes amid concern about rising labour activism, as unemployment blows out and the purchasing power of wages shrinks. Aid donors, led by the World Bank, are warning the economic crisis could force as many as 50million people into poverty.
It is estimated 20million, or 21.8% of the work force, will be left jobless. Industrial disputes over mass layoffs and poor wages are becoming increasingly common. Some industrial workers earn as little as 7,000 R (90c) a day at a time when food and other essential items have risen sharply in price.
Trade Union leader Mochtar Pakpahan, who was released from gaol last month under an amnesty granted by Dr Habibie, has threatened to mobilise 10,000 union members in Jakarta today, to protest over the handling of the economic crisis, and to pressure the President to step down.
In Indonesia's second city, Surabaya, about 3,000 shoe factory workers tore down 3 branches and blocked the roads yesterday in the second day of protests calling for pay rises.
Despite signals from Dr Habibie of greater tolerance over public demonstrations, Major-General Sjafrie has warned labour unrest and strikes will be dealt with harshly.
"Anyone who wished to disrupt security will confront my troops. I have given them orders to warn the protesters first and then cripple them if they have to", he was quoted by the local press as saying.
International donors are retargetting their assistance to Indonesia to help address the rapidly worsening social situation.
The World Bank is planning to shift more aid into short-term safety net programs meeting basic needs, away from development projects.
A consultative group of international aid donors, including Australia, is poised to increase funds available for direct "social safety net support", that would include food aid and funds to keep children in school. The World Bank has already pledged US$4.5billion, ($7.37b), to Indonesia over the next 3 years.
"The economic crisis in Indonesia has led to other severe social problems which need special attention", the World Bank's Indonesia director, Dennis de Tray, said on Monday.
"As the condition worsens here, we are tending to move our focus away from project support towrads programs support which is where the Government needs it most".
Meanwhile, International Monetary Fund officials yesterday met Dr Habibie to discuss an impending agreement on the release of the next US$1billion loan tranche, suspended during the turmoil surrounding former President Suharto's resignation on 21/5/98.
Indonesian officials forecast a letter of intent on the next loan tranche could be signed as early as today.