Fri, 21 Mar 2003

Nation weeps for Iraq after attack

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

When the United States and its allies started their attack on Iraq at about 10 a.m. Jakarta time on Thursday, thousands of people took turns demonstrating outside the U.S. Embassy to demand a stop to what they called an attack on humanity.

Students, non-governmental and religious groups and supporters of the Justice Party (PK) and its affiliate the Welfare Justice Party (PKS) voiced their objection to the use of armed force to resolve the Iraq crisis.

About 500 officers from the police's mobile brigade and riot police stood by outside the embassy on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta to keep protesters a safe distance from the embassy fence. All rallies proceeded peacefully.

Heightened security was also apparent at the embassies of Britain, Australia and Kuwait.

U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce invited in representatives of the protesters for one hour to hear their demands and to explain why the U.S., under the administration of George W. Bush, had resorted to attacking Iraq to resolve the crisis.

The representatives included PK president Hidayat Nur Wahid and PK secretary-general M. Anis Matta, PKS chairman Almuzammil Yusuf, Red-and-White Young Generation (GMMP) chairman Adhyaksa Dault, Indonesian Prayer Group (Badan Kontak Majelis Ta'lim) chairwoman Tuti Alawiyah, Indonesian Hizbut Tahrir spokesman Muhammad Ismail Yusanto and Catholic Youth (Pemuda Katolik) chairman Nicolaus Uskono.

"We're both fully aware that nothing could be done to stop the war. The ambassador also said that he could not change our opposition to U.S. policy on Iraq," Anis Matta told reporters.

Nevertheless, Nur Wahid stressed that they would keep up the pressure. "The United Nations Security Council should declare Bush a war criminal for conducting state terrorism and bring him before a UN tribunal".

Employees of companies located near the embassy joined the demonstrators during their lunch breaks. About 2,500 people rallied outside the embassy, where a band played religious songs. Tears rolled down the faces of protesters during a prayer for the safety of Iraqis.

The protesters said they would return in larger numbers on Sunday and also rally outside the British Embassy.

In Surabaya, hundreds of supporters of the East Java branch of PK also demonstrated at the Governor Suryo Statue Park, since the police had blocked off access to the U.S. consulate.

"There is no invasion or aggression in the name of democracy. It (the attack) only means that the U.S. is the world's savage police and want to occupy Iraq," PK member Ahmad Ridho said in his speech. The protesters dispersed after two hours.

They claimed a bigger demonstration would take place on Friday.

In Semarang, the police arrested six students from Sultan Agung University involved in the burning of a paper effigy of Bush inside the Central Java council compound on Jl. Pahlawan during an antiwar demonstration.

They were released later in the afternoon after the university deputy rector on student affairs, Mahfudz Ali, spoke to city police head of operations Comr. Yudi Suwarto.

The demonstrators clashed with the police when the students poured gasoline on the effigy to boost the fire and council workers rushed to put it out.