The Jakarta Post is reporting the Alliance of Labor Unions Against Privatization (Alkatras), an organization of state-owned enterprise labor unions, held a conference announcing their support of retired Gen. Prabowo Subianto‘s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra). The government is concerned because this event appears to be breaking a law against employee’s of state owned enterprises actively campaigning in elections.
For others concerned with human rights, it may be puzzling, if not alarming, that a labor organization would support a candidate with as dubious a human rights record as Prabowo, which includes accusations of “human rights abuses during his tour of duty in East Timor and involvement in the kidnappings, torture, abuse and murder of anti-Soeharto intellectuals and activists during the turmoil of 1998.” However, as a part of his version of economic nationalism, Prabowo has made explicit overtures to the SOE labor unions by opposing privatization. Perhaps this incident is a sign that they are paying off, though it is hard to say from the article how representative Alkatras is of the SOE workforce as a whole.
[Update 4/7/09]: The SOE Minister made a statement today putting distance between the SOE’s leadership and the statements made by Alkatras in support of Prabowo. That is, despite the potential crossover interest of labor and mangement on the issue of privatization of the SOE’s and the fact that the press conference was held at PLN headquarters.