Thu, 10 Apr 2003

Rallies urging end to Iraq war continue to heat up

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Star Party of Reform (PBR) failed on Wednesday to make good on its earlier boast that it would gather one million supporters in a rally against the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

Party chairman Zainuddin M.Z., a prominent Muslim cleric, led a few thousand supporters who turned up for the rally, which marked the new name of the party. The PBR changed its name from the United Development Party of Reform in accordance with the political party law, which bans parties from bearing the same name.

PBR is a splinter group of the United Development Party, which is chaired by Vice President Hamzah Haz.

Zainuddin said during the rally in front of the U.S. Embassy on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta that the incursion of Iraq was aimed at ousting the legitimate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which is against international law.

"It is very clear that a rage to toppling President Saddam Hussein's regime is behind U.S. President George W. Bush's motive to devastate Iraq," he said.

Zainuddin also called on Americans to urge the U.S. government and its allies to stop the war that created "Hell in Baghdad".

"Only my brothers, the Americans, can manage to stop Bush, who is out of his mind, now," he said.

Meanwhile, dozens of protesters dressed in traditional attire rallied outside the British Consulate Office and the U.S. Consular Agency in the Balinese capital of Denpasar.

The protesters, who came from the Hare Krishna and Ashram Gandhi spiritual Hindu groups in Bali, chanted several religious songs during the rally.

In the East Java capital of Surabaya, around 100 activists of the women's wing of the Association of Islamic Students (HMI), rallied outside the U.S. Consulate Office on Jl. Dr. Sutomo to demand an end to the war.

The students said the U.S. and its allies were promoting neo- colonialism and neo-imperialism by invading Iraq, burned the American, British and Australian national flags, and called for a boycott of U.S. products, including the American dollar.

They also unfurled banners reading "PBB stands for Persatuan Badut-badut" (The United Clowns) and "Boycott the U.S. Dollar". "PBB" is the Indonesian acronym for the United Nations.

"We demand the Indonesian government to withdraw all diplomats from the U.S. and its allies and sever diplomatic ties with those aggressors," they yelled.

In Yogyakarta, about 200 activists from the National Students Front (FMN) and the Indonesian Muslim Students Front (KAMMI) of Gadjah Mada University rallied on campus.

In a written statement, the FMN condemned the attack on Iraq, calling it a war initiated by an imperialist country which wanted to expand its power, and therefore, they urged President Megawati Soekarnoputri to freeze Indonesia's diplomatic ties with the U.S. and its allies.

KAMMI, on the other hand, demanded an international tribunal for President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard on charges of war crimes.

The government has repeatedly dismissed calls to sever diplomatic ties with the countries involved in the war and to boycott their products.