Tue, 08 Aug 2000

Peace and calm as MPR begins Annual Session

JAKARTA (JP): Peace and calm prevailed in the capital on Monday as some 700 legislators gathered for the opening of the 12-day Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

A similar mood also prevailed in the country's other major cities.

In Jakarta, several groups of protesters staged peaceful and orderly rallies in separate places, allowing traffic to run smoothly on the city's main streets.

City police spokesman Supt. Zainuri Lubis described the situation for the initial session as "conducive".

"Life goes on as usual, either within the MPR complex or outside it," he announced from his office on Monday evening.

But despite the favorable atmosphere, police remained on alert for possible security threats on the session, the officer said.

"Thousands of police personnel are being deployed at several places here, including in the MPR complex," he said, adding that a total of 3,000 police personnel were being deployed in the complex.

The city police have also concentrated its personnel at strategic places in Central Jakarta at, among other places, the Senayan area, the Semanggi cloverleaf, the National Monument (Monas) area and at the Hotel Mulia and Hotel Hilton, where the MPR members are staying during the session.

He said the police also put some 2,000 police personnel on alert at the city police headquarters, ensuring they were ready for deployment to anywhere in the city should the situation worsen.

Several groups of protesters staged different themes of protest in separate places in the city.

Some 50 Muslim students staged a rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Monday, urging the legislators and their constituents to prevent anarchy during the session.

The students, who were from the Students Executive Board of the state Syarif Hidayatullah Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN Syarif Hidayatullah), unfurled banners and posters which read: "Reject Anarchism, Safeguard the Agenda of Democracy".

Amril, a protester, said the rally was held amid fear that anarchy would mar the session unless the legislators were able to either emphasize the nation's interests or exercise self- restraint.

Another 100 protesters of the National Children's Front Against Intervention staged a protest at the entrance of the MPR complex on Jl. Gatot Subroto in South Jakarta.

During the protest, which was held as President Abdurrahman Wahid was reading his progress report, demonstrators distributed leaflets to passersby, rejecting foreign intervention over the prolonged unrest in Maluku.

"Besides troop intervention, the government must also be selective of the foreign aid from foreign non-governmental organizations," Ismail, the coordinator of the demonstrators, said.

The protest did not disrupt traffic on the city's main thoroughfare of Jl. Gatot Subroto.

Another 30 students, who claimed to be activists from the Concerned Students and Youths of Indonesia, also staged a rally at the entrance gate of the MPR complex.

The group staged an art performance on the importance of national reconciliation, featuring four people in masks who symbolized President Abdurrahman Wahid, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, MPR Speaker Amien Rais and House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Akbar Tandjung. (asa)