Sat, 13 May 2000

Commemoration of 1998 shooting marred by clash

JAKARTA (JP): Hundreds of university students taking part in a commemoration of the May 12, 1998 fatal shooting of four Trisakti University students clashed with security personnel while rallying near the residence of former president Soeharto on Friday evening.

Witnesses and police said at least 15 people, consisting of three journalists, two students and 10 policemen, were wounded in the head by flying stones during the clash.

The protesting students, who were blockaded by troops while attempting to get closer to Soeharto's residence, became enraged and burned the Megaria Police post and vandalized many public facilities, such as flower pots, along Jl. Diponegoro.

The clash, which started at 7:40 p.m. ended some two hours later when the students decided to disperse.

Most of the protesters, who were demanding that Soeharto be held accountable for his alleged wrongdoings and a series of human rights violations, including the May 12 incident, were members of City Forum (Forkot) student organization and students from several universities, such as Bung Karno University and Muhammadiyah University,

According to the chief of the Jakarta Police Operational Control, Col. Soenarko, who was at the scene, his men detained "a number of people".

He, however, refused to elaborate.

Separately, police spokesman Lt. Col. Zainuri Lubis announced that six people had been arrested. He also said two police posts had been set on fire by the students.

Zainuri said the clash caused a loss of some Rp 30 million (US$3,750).

An Antara reporter and a TPI television crew member were injured in the melee. A TPI camera was also damaged.

Unlike protesters on the streets, thousands of students of Trisakti University peacefully commemorated the four students killed in the bloody shooting on May 12, 1998 by staging a series of events throughout the day.

Hundreds of students from other universities and student organizations, including the Network of Indonesian College Students (JMI) -- a joint association of several leading universities across the country -- also joined the events at the campus in Grogol, West Jakarta, some five kilometers from the House of Representatives complex.

The first event started in the morning when Trisakti University rector Toby Muthis dedicated a four-pillar silver monument in the front garden, a memorial to the four students -- Hendrawan, Hafidin Royadi, Heri Hartanto and Elang Mulya Lesmana -- lost in the May 12 tragedy.

Designed by two students from the university's school of architecture, the May 12 monument depicts traces of bullets in each of the pillars, with heights ranging from 10 meters to 12 meters to indicate the dates of the events leading up to and including the tragedy.

The five sides of each pillar represent the month and the 98 slabs of stone scattered about the pillars signify the year.

During the day, the students participated in an open dialog with former student activists, Andi Mallarangeng and Hariman Siregar. They discussed Indonesian student movements, their objectives and impact on society.

At about 1 p.m., after the Muslim Friday prayer, the rector marked the beginning of construction work on the campus mosque, also dedicated to the four reform heroes.

The 1,140-square-meter mosque will be named Asy-Syuhada, the Arabic term for heroes who die in a holy war.

Later in the afternoon, some of the students left the campus and staged protests at the Ministry of Defense and at Soeharto's residence in Cendana, both in Central Jakarta.

Dozens of local police were seen on guard around the Trisakti campus, but no clashes were reported as all the students dispersed peacefully. They later returned to their campus for a "night of contemplation".

The commemoration ended with a performance of famous singers and musicians Chrisye and Erwin Gutawa.

The May 12, 1998 tragedy began when thousands of students, mostly from Trisakti University, dubbed by many as the school for the wealthy, staged a peaceful antigovernment protest around their campus.

When attempting to march through the House building, they were blocked by lines of armed riot police and military personnel.

There was a brief standoff as students and security officers negotiated a peaceful solution. They had just reached an agreement in which both students and soldiers agreed to pull back simultaneously, when the shooting began.

The case has twice been brought to the courts, which failed to determine responsibility for the shooting: the police or the Army.

The parents of Heri, Elang and Hafidin, who attended a media conference held at the campus, showed their disappointment at the government's failure to reopen the case.

"The President has yet to show his willingness to open the case. We just hope that a trial can be conducted soon and will successfully uncover the real masterminds," said Enus Yunus, Hafidin's father. (09/nvn)