|Issue No 85||23 February 2001|
Violence Hits Indonesian Dispute
By Jasper Goss
- International Union of Foodworkers
The long-running Shrangi-La Hotel dispute in Indonesia has turned nasty, with thugs attacking union officials and workers.
Since the Shangri-La hotel workers' dispute began in Jakarta on December 22 last year Indonesian trade unionists have prided themselves on their unity and their struggle within the law. At no time has any Shangri-La worker utilised anything other than peaceful methods for struggle.
However, the same respect workers had maintained for their struggle was spurned on the afternoon of 19 February, 2001. Mr Muhammad Zulrahman, peacefully demonstrating at a Shangri-La Hotel picket, was grabbed away from his colleagues and assaulted by a goon squad linked to the owners of the Jakarta Shangri-La Hotel.
Mr Zulrahman is treasurer of the union at the hotel and an active supporter of the campaign to win Shangri-La workers their due rights under Indonesian law. The impunity with which the goon squad acted and the injuries sustained by Mr Zulrahman (severe bruising to the head, cuts, torn lips requiring stitching and missing teeth, see photo) clearly demonstrate that Shangri-La workers are now being targeted for violent reprisals.
Mr Zulrahman was saved from further beatings when two Shangri-la workers and a street worker saw the attack and intervened to save him. The three workers were also able to capture one of the attackers, a Mr Kaleb Ehanusa (see photo), who was later questioned by police, but claimed that Mr Zulrahman provoked him. Mr Kaleb, contradicting witness statements from three workers, also claimed that no one else took part in the violent assault on Mr Zulrahman.
Mr Kaleb Ehanusa, has been witnessed as acting as bodyguard for Mr Lyman (the founder of the Lyman Group), his son, Mr Osbert Lyman (the man in charge of Lyman Group investments at the Shangri-La Hotel), and Mr Tigor, personnel manager of Shangri-La.
The Real Terrorists?
Robert Kuok, billionaire Hong Kong share-holder in the Jakarta Hotel and boss of the five-star Shangri-La chain throughout Asia, recently visited Melbourne, Australia, to check on his proposed Docklands development which faces union opposition and possible boycotts if the dispute in Jakarta is not properly resolved. At the time of the visit it was suggested that the Shangri-La workers were terrorists and note real unionists.
Obviously, this was a rather unusual definition of the word terrorist.
No Shangri-La worker has ever kidnapped anybody. No Shangri-La worker has assaulted anybody. Yet, gangsters linked directly to the owners of the Shangri-La Hotel are now attacking with impunity workers engaged in peaceful struggle. Who are the real terrorists?
The IUF, the international federation of unions covering the hotel sector, has worked with its affiliate, the Indonesian Independent Hotel Workers' Federation (FSPM), of which the Shangri-La Hotel Union is a member, to draw international attention to this struggle.
Ma Wei Pin, IUF Asia & Pacific regional secretary, notes that "the owners and managers of the Jakarta Shangri-La have to understand that anything they do, any violent attack they make on workers will be known internationally the second it happens. They cannot avoid taking full responsibility for violent and brutal assaults on workers."
"If the management and owners of the Shangri-La think they can continue to act with impunity and that peacefully demonstrating hotel workers are targets for reprisals then they fail to understand the new world of global labour solidarity."
"The IUF continues to support the Shangri-La workers in their protracted struggle for dignity and basic workers' rights with every means possible. IUF affiliates and sister labour organisations around the world, such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), will continue to draw attention to any act which contravenes the rights of the
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