Denpasar, Bali. Dozens of university students and members of non-governmental organizations rallied in front of the American consulate in Denpasar, Bali, on Monday, calling for the World Trade Organization conference to be canceled.
The rally commenced with a long march from Niti Mandala Field in Renon, Denpasar, to the consulate, but demonstrators were blocked by barbed wire installed by police.
The activists were then forced to keep a 50-meter distance from the US consulate, while they chanted messages to end the WTO and “reject oppression by America.”
Reval Larung, coordinator of the rally, said the WTO was nothing more than a tool for the US to further its economic oppression of the world, including Indonesia.
“We must reject the WT O if we do not want to continuously be colonized by America,” he said.
The group plans to hold a bigger rally when the conference commences today, involving an anticipated crowd of up to 1,000 — comprising farmers, laborers, students, women and youth from more than 30 countries at Niti Mandala Field.
“The Bali package is a terrible agreement for developing countries,” said Henry Saragih, chairman of the Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI).
“We are being forced to accept the agreement, which will tie us to the WTO’s trade mechanisms, while subsidies are not allowed for farmers and other hungry citizens.”
Yudhvir Singh from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, India’s largest farmers union, also insisted that WTO negotiations would bring no good to farmers in his country.
“We do not want to be involved in the WTO negotiations, whether the peace clause will be applicable for four or 10 years, what is most important is to highlight that the WTO is doing nothing for the farmers.”
“In the long run, free trade will mean death for farmers,” he said. “Farmers in India will never agree to this kind of deal.”
The Bali Police have confirmed they would deploy thousands of officers to ensure conference security.
According to Bali Police operational chief Sr. Comr. I Gede Alit Widana, security measures on the island will also be aided by police units from West, Central and East Java, all of which will help with security convoys, intelligence activities, technical issues and counterterrorism measures, among others.
Rallies similar to the one in Bali have also taken place in other regions. Members of the Indonesia National Students Movement (GMNI) in Solo, Central Java, have called for the WTO conference to be stopped.
“There are many developing countries who are not ready to compete with developed nations in the liberalization of trade,” Irwansaebudin, coordinator of the rally in Solo, said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com. “Only developed nations will gain because they will find ways to market their products in Indonesia.”
In Sukabumi, West Java, students also marched to the Sukabumi Legislative Council to express their opposition to the WTO conference.
“We are very concerned that farmers do not own farming fields, and that the fields they develop belong to other people. The fields belong to the big bosses ,” Ade Putra Daulay, secretary general of the central board of the Indonesia Agriculture Students Association, said on Monday, as quoted by Pikiran Rakyat.
“Farmers merely tend the fields, most of which belong to the owners of the capital. This is not fair.”