Tue, 15 Aug 2000

More than 1,000 rally at Assembly session

JAKARTA (JP): Over 1,000 people from different groups rallied on Monday in front of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), voicing various demands ranging from support for the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid to the expulsion of the military/police faction in the nation's highest law-making body.

It was the largest demonstration since the Assembly's Annual Session started last week. Less than 100 people had turned up on average for previous rallies.

No incidents were reported during the rally, expect for ensuing heavy traffic jams on access roads to the MPR compound.

In an apparent show of force, some 700 protesters linked to the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama dominated Monday's rally. They yelled support for Abdurrahman, or Gus Dur as he widely known, who chaired the organization for 15 years before elected president last year.

"Gus Dur-Mega tergusur, rakyat siap tempur (Gus Dur-Mega ousted, people ready to fight)," a banner read.

Al Zastrouw Ng, a former close confidant of Abdurrahman, said the protesters were simply expressing their disappointment with the maneuvers engaged in by Assembly members.

"This is only our way of expressing our demands. We are sick and tired of seeing the Assembly members maneuver to topple the President," he said.

A group of Irianese stole the show during the joint rally. Wearing traditional costumes, the Irianese, who prefer to call themselves Papuans, thronged the gate and asked to be admitted to the Assembly compound.

They said they wished to deliver their demands directly to Assembly members. But no members appeared saying that the Annual Session had not slated a discussion on Irian Jaya's problems.

Other groups of protesters consisted mainly of students, including the Greater Jakarta Students Council (DMJ), the Jakarta Union of Youth and Students (SPPJ), and the Indonesian Association of Muslim Students (PMII).

The students tried to force their way into the MPR compound, but dozens of police personnel kept them at bay. The dejected protesters battered the entrance gate, while chanting "revolution to the death."

Police officers took the precaution of lying down a line of barbed wire in case the protesters managed to break through and enter the MPR grounds. Several officers were seen carrying tear gas launchers.

Despite their different agendas, there were no clashes between the protesters groups because as each of them gave sufficient time to others to air their aspirations. (nvn)