Tue, 23 May 2000

Student protests against Soeharto fan across city

JAKARTA (JP): The city witnessed another wave of anti-Soeharto protests on Monday when over 1,200 university students from different groups rallied at the Presidential Palace, Attorney General's Office and near the residence of former president Soeharto.

The demands remained the same: bring the ex-strongman and alleged corruptor to court!

No clashes were reported although the protesting students, who have taken to the streets for many consecutive days to air their demands to President Abdurrahman Wahid and his cabinet ministers, were sometimes blocked by cordons of police and security officers.

During the rally at the office of Attorney General Marzuki Darusman at around 3:30 p.m., the crowd of some 1,000 students from the Indonesian Students Network (JMI) and Oppressed People's Community (Karat) turned angry after learning that the gate at the rear part of the office was locked.

They abruptly forced their way in by breaking down the gate. Some of them lowered the red-and-white national flag to half mast.

An hour later, Marzuki -- accompanied by Director of Politics at Intelligence Affairs, Purnama Munthe, met the students and assured them that the probe into Soeharto's alleged corruption cases would not be halted.

The case, he said, has already been slated to be brought to the court before Aug. 10.

Upon being asked if he dared to resign if Soeharto walked away free from the investigation, Marzuki replied: "We won't step back, we dare to keep going (with the investigation)".

One of the protesters then handed over a lipstick to Marzuki to symbolize, according to the students, the womanish attitude of the Attorney General which, they said, cannot keep his promises.

It's the second gift the Attorney General has received in the past few weeks. Last month students presented him with a woman's underwear, bought from a nearby street vendor in Blok M area.

The students arrived at Marzuki's office in 10 buses after staging a similar rally at the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta.

They failed to meet with the President because he was attending the inauguration ceremony of the Habibie Center at the Jakarta Convention Center.

The students refused to meet acting State Secretary Bondan Gunawan, who offered to meet with them in place of Gus Dur, as the President is popularly called.

In their written statement, the students, calling themselves as the government's permanent opposition, demanded the government uphold the law and put Soeharto on trial, as well as probe various alleged human rights violations perpetrated during his 32-year rule.

"The weakening rupiah, the growing number of protests, new KKN (corruption, collusion and nepotism) practice networks in the current government have proven that Gus Dur and Megawati Soekarnoputri have failed to lead this country," the students said in their statement.

Gus Dur's political efforts have been ineffective in progressing an economic recovery.

Before going to Marzuki's office, the students drove to Jl. Teuku Umar and stopped about 200 meters from Soeharto's residence, and aired the same protest.

Separately, some 200 students from City Forum (Forkot) were kept away from Soeharto's private residence on Jl. Cendana in Central Jakarta by the tight security of some 100 police officers around the area.

They had planned to camp for a week around the fountain on Jl. Teuku Umar, some 200 meters from Soeharto's house.

"We decided to camp here for a week until we see a concrete development in the legal proceeding against Soeharto," Forkot coordinator Didi said.

"We'll stay longer if there is no significant progress with the probe," he said.

Oktav, a student from Udayana University in Bali, said that such protests show the students' solidarity with the nation.

"That's all we have," he said.

However, at about 6 p.m. the students changed their minds and marched to the Proklamasi Monument.

According to them, they will stay at the monument area instead where they will show a movie about earlier student movements in the country.

Before leaving the scene, they burned a one meter effigy of Soeharto in front of the troops.

Soeharto, who resigned on May 21, 1998 following massive waves of anti-government protests, was about to be moved by the current government to an unidentified place of safety, Marzuki said separately on Monday. (06/01)