DITA SARI MESSAGE (3rd version)
Statement for the International Women's Day March, 8, 1997 Dita
Sari, Chairperson of Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggles and
leader of the Peoples Democratic Party of Indonesia. Dita was a
guest speaker at the 1995 Perth IWD march and rally.
[Dita Sari was the first prominent democratic leader to be
arrested by the Suharto dictatorship in the wave of repression
that began last July, 1996. She was arrested on July 8 while she
was leading a peaceful demonstration of 20,000 young women
workers demanding wage rises and other improvements. She has
been an outspoken defender of women's rights in Indonesia as
well as a courageous supporter of freedom in East Timor. She was
also active in solidarity with Megawati Sukarnoputri in her
campaign against harassment by the Suharto dictatorship. Even
though from a different political party than Megawati, Dita
spoke frequently at public meetings and demonstrations as an act
of solidarity with another victim of repression and a symbol of
I write this letter in a narrow and miserable cell in a gaol in
Surabaya. Exactly two years ago I was with you at the IWD rally
in Perth. Since then, time has flown bye and so many important
things have happened in the struggle for freedom in my country
This regime has chosen me as the lone woman among fifteen people
on trial for subversion. The Peoples Democratic Party has many
women activists, especially from among the workers. We think
that one of the measures of the progress of the movement here is
the participation of women activists, both quantitatively and
qualitively. As a president of a trade union, I personally
cannot separate myself from a special solidarity with the women
worker activists, even though I am aware too that every activist
is tested in the end via their commitment and loyalty and not
The regime has struck out at us with full force so that our
Party and its mass organisations are covered with bleeding
wounds. Everywhere the regime spreads the word that we are the
same as the old Indonesian Communist Party; the regime is trying
to create mass hysteria and to legitimise its repressive action
against us. They needed an appropriate scapegoat and they chose
the PRD. This is not a government that stands firm the defend
the sovereignty of the people and their economic and political
rights. It is a government built on authoritarian foundations in
order to defend special economic interests and capital.
In the midst of this disaster, we survive. We have survived well
the early period of big disruption to our organisation. Our
women cadre from the students and workers have stepped forward
to take leading positions in consolidating our organisation. The
terrorised workers have freed themselves from fear. And the
peasants swallowed up by the repression have began to rise up
And in the prison, the flames still burns bright among the
cadre. Belief in the justice of our struggle and our deep love
for the mass of workers are the two things which keep me going.
Of course, there are moments where I experienced the bitter pain
of losing everything, of a sense of failure, of loneliness.
There are times that I must struggle with myself and accept that
I will lose the productive years of my youth. And I think: can I
handle all this?
Yet, the next morning, I always awake with warmed by sweet
memories of struggling together with the workers, the people.
There are women in the prison here who were workers too, and
each time I look at them, I feel their hands reach out to me to
make sure I do not fall.
The emergence of Megawati Sukarnoputri, a woman, as a figure
supported by tens of millions of people is a sign of the
progress and qualitative advance made by the pro-democracy
movement and of the movement to end capitalism's use of
patriarchy to manipulate us.
Now we wait for the right moment, and prepare our forces, so
that we will have an era of democracy where all will have the
same rights, where women will have the opportunity to emerge as
leaders in all fields.
I truly hope one day to be able to be with you again, as I was
two years ago [in Perth], and to discuss with you the economic
and political issues effecting women. Your solidarity and
international support from countries, where workers are also
treated unfairly and women continue to be exploited, is
something which strengthens our resolve here in the midst of the
great losses and oppression of the Indonesian people.
Sisters, I miss you all. I long to be there among you.