Indonesia: The People struggle intensively against new Mega-Projects. Big Clashes against Police

Featured: massive demonstration in the province of the Riau Islands. Source: Al Jazeera.

In Indonesia during the last weeks intense and massive clashes between the people and the police erupted. Several mega-projects are moving forward and their progress can mean the expulsion of thousands of workers and peasants from their homes and harm their lands.

The first of the great clashes occurred in the province of the Riau Islands, on the island of Rempang. On this island, it is proposed to build a huge industrial park called Remppang Eco-City, where also the Xinyi Group, Chinese monopoly, plans to build a large quartz processing plant valued at 11.5 billion dollars. This project carried out, means the expulsion of 7,500 inhabitants of the island. The provincial governor of the Riau Islands firmly defended the project. Given this threat of the expulsion of thousands of workers and peasants, on 7th of September the people of Rempang rejected and expelled officials and police from their lands, and created blockages in the roads with demolished trees.

After this, on Monday 11th of September, a large mass of inhabitants of the island of Rempang went to a government building in the neighboring Batam Island. The inhabitants gathered in front of the building and surrounded it. After a while there were clashes with the police, who according to local activists, acted with great brutality, having dozens of detainees and injured on the side of the protesters. The protesters were strongly defending themselves with stones, Molotov cocktails, battons, etc.

Protesters clash with the police in the demonstration in Batam. Source: CNN.

The next clash took place on Thursday 21st of September on the island of Sulawesi, in the province of Gorontalo. 2,500 protesters gathered there and went to the building of the regency in Pohuwato (an Indonesian administrative entity, less than the province, but greater than the districts). There they demanded to speak with a representative of the institution. The lands of the people from Pohuwato is being affected by the expansion and works of a mining company and they wanted to be compensated for it. After the refusal to speak by the institutions, the people assaulted the building and burned it. After, other institutional buildings were damaged and there were strong clashes with the police that left dozens of protesters injured, another 40 detained and 11 injured police officers.

Administrative building of the Regency of Pohuwato burned. Source: Indonesia Posts English.

These clashes are nothing more than a small part of the conflict that the Indonesian people are suffering. The Indonesian people has been struggling against the monopolies and mega-projects that attack the rights of workers and peasants, and even often mean the expulsion from their homes.

The Indonesian State has been attacking its own people for years to defend the interests of imperialism in front of the protests of the working class and the peasantry. There are many reports that denounce this situation, and that there is a growing tendency in criminalization of protest against mining mega-projects. In 2020, the Parliament of Indonesia approved a new law that eliminated the size limit of the mining projects, allowing completely the mega-projects of imperialism. That same year they also approved a new law to criminalize the protests of the people against these large mining projects, being able to imprison the protesters and fine them with large amounts of money. In 2020, 69 Indonesians were judicially prosecuted for denouncing mining projects. In just the first quarter of the year 2021, 71 Indonesians had suffered arrests, physical abuse or had been unjustly prosecuted.

But all this repression has been unable to end the struggle, because how it happens in other semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries such as Mexico or in India, the people intensely struggle against industrial or mining mega-projects, and therefore, against the imposition of the interests of imperialism. The people also struggle against their own states and governments, which while they claim to defend national interests and develop strategic sectors for the nation, they actually behave as guardians of the interests of imperialism and they are developing bureaucratic capitalism under the command of imperialists.

But the attitude of the Indonesian people is firm in the face of the threats and attacks of the monopolies and the Indonesian State, and we can see it clearly in the example of the struggle in Rempang: several Indonesian government ministers went to this island and put on 28th of September as a deadline for neighbors to voluntarily abandon their home. Some neighbors who were interviewed, said the following: “Whatever we need to do on September 28th, we will do it. I am ready to die, if I have to.”

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