Banyuwangi, East Java. A public meeting on free health care services sponsored by the House of Representatives here on Thursday was rudely disrupted by a crowd that considered it to be a gathering of the banned Indonesian Communist Party.
Members of the local branch of the Islam Defenders’ Front (FPI), the Forum of Peace-Loving Banyuwangi, and nongovernmental organization Gerak arrived at the restaurant in Pakis village, Banyuwangi district, where the gathering was held, and demanded that those present leave.
“There are members of the PKI community here. Why are they here?” local FPI chairman Aman Faturahman shouted at the meeting’s participants, referring to the communist party by its acronym.
The meeting was attended by the chairperson of the House Commission IX for health, Dr Ribka Tjiptaning Proletariati, and Commission IX member Rieke Dyah Ayu Pitaloka.
Aman claimed the meeting was actually a reunion among former PKI members and their descendants while the stated purpose of free health services familiarization was only a
pretext or cover-up.
Amid the tension and to avoid further trouble, the meeting’s organizers eventually escorted Dr Ribka and Rieke out of the restaurant and took them to the local office of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle on Jalan Jaksa Agung Suprapto.
Aman said he suspected the meeting was part of activities to keep the PKI legacy alive and eventually to prepare for its comeback.
“We have to prevent a resurgence of the PKI because they began their actions to grab power in 1965 from Banyuwangi,” he said, referring to an alleged coup.
Ribka, speaking later, said the FPI-led crowd’s action in disrupting the meeting to familiarize the local community with free health care services was “quite deplorable” because the local people needed the services badly.
She refuted Aman’s allegation the meeting was a reunion of former PKI members and their offspring. “Our meeting was really part of the House Commision IX’s task to make people in the regions more aware of the need for free health care services,” she said.
Ribka, who authored a book titled “Aku Bangga Jadi Anak PKI” (“I Am Proud to Be a PKI Child”) in 2002, said she was inured to experiencing acts of intimidation.
“This only shows our country has actually yet to become a democratic one. There are still people who seem not to like my personal background,” she said.
Muhamad Abas, vice chairman of the PDI-P’s Banyuwangi district chapter, who organized the meeting, said the audience at the meeting was made up of diverse elements of the Banyuwangi community but it was true that some of them were related to former PKI members.