Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Political parties urged to hold anti-war rallies

The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The two largest political parties came under fire from a small party on Friday for not joining the antiwar rallies against the United States-led strike on Iraq, which has now entered its 16th day.

"If we all agree that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with religion but an attack on humanity, those major political parties especially who call themselves nationalists, should join antiwar rallies," said Hidayat Nurwahid, the President of the Justice Party (PK).

Hidayat was referring to the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar, which between them hold 273 seats at the 500-member House of Representatives.

The two parties have never sent out their supporters or organized antiwar rallies since the attack on Iraq began on March 20. They were absent in the largest rally ever in the country to protest the war on Sunday as well.

Over 120 mass organizations, nongovernmental organizations, religious groups and student associations took part in Sunday's demonstration, which drew hundreds of thousands of people. Hidayat coordinated the mass rally.

Hidayat said the anti-war rallies should become all parties' business as the U.S.-led military forces and Iraq troops were set to engage in street-to-street battles in Baghdad.

The prolonged war in Iraq may claim more war victims, mostly innocent civilians, Hidayat said.

However, Hidayat admitted that his party had not planned to organize another large rally in the near future.

A wave of antiwar rallies continued on Friday in several cities across the country.

In the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar, the antiwar rally staged by dozens of students from Makassar University 1945 was tainted by the forcible closure of two fast food restaurants Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Texas Fried Chicken at the Ratu Indah Mall.

Students picketed the restaurants and demanded the managers to close down, but the managers refused initially, causing heated debates.

The managers of the restaurants asserted that all employees were locals and would be hurt, and local businesspeople would be adversely affected by a closure, as the restaurants procured nearly all its food from local producers.

However, the students insisted on closing the restaurants.

At last, the restaurant managers were forced to succumb to the students' anger and closed their restaurants at 2 p.m.

The students then harassed several customers who were trying to eat at the restaurants.

Separately in Surabaya, some 100 physicians in their white outfits rallied outside the U.S. Consulate General Office on Jl. Dr. Sutomo against the attack on Iraq, which they claimed had cost the lives of many civilians.

Abdul Ghofir, field coordinator of the rally who also works as a surgeon at the Dr. Sutomo General Hospital, called the war in Iraq a tragedy against humanity.

Ghofir said two volunteer physicians were ready to follow in the footsteps of a medical team with the nongovernmental organization, Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), which dispatched a group of doctors to Iraq last Tuesday.

The team consisted of two surgeons and two physicians, namely Fauzi Nasution, Sarbini Abdul Murad, Yogi Prabowo and Jose Risal Jurnalis, the team leader.

Jose said earlier that his team had been allowed by Iraq government to help treat war victims in Iraqi hospitals.

In Surakarta, around 3,000 people turned up for an anti-U.S. rally, the biggest in the Central Java town so far.

Activists from Muslim hard-line groups, the Indonesian Mujahiddin Council and Surakarta Islamic Youth Front were among the rally participants, who gathered at Manahan field. Other organizations included the Association of Islamic Student Movement, the Prosperous Justice Party and the Muhammadiyah Youth.

Speaking at the rally, Muhammadiyah secretary Din Syamsuddin said he suspected that the U.S. attack in Iraq was part of its attempt to destroy Islam.

Interfaith leaders, including Muhammadiyah chairman Sjafii Maarif, have insisted that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with religion.