Sat, 12 Aug 2000

Student rallies at the Assembly rise

JAKARTA (JP): The number of student rallies has increased since the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly opened on Monday with at least 300 students staging rallies in front of the Assembly complex here on Friday.

The differences in their demands were as varied as the backgrounds of the demonstrators.

A group of students calling themselves the National Student League for Democracy (LND) demanded the trial of former authoritarian president Soeharto.

The students also urged that Indonesian Military (TNI)/National Police not be given seats in either the House of Representatives or the People's Consultative Assembly.

Their protest comes as Assembly members are leaning toward supporting a draft article in the 1945 Constitution which could permanently enshrine the TNI/National Police presence in the Assembly.

Another group of students, the Islamic Student Front, supported the planned amendments to Article 29 on religion which would include an obligation to adhere to Islamic law (syariah) for Muslims.

The planned change, which was proposed by the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP), has received strong opposition from major factions such as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan).

Opposition toward the inclusion of Islamic law in the Constitution has also grown outside the Assembly with the nation's two largest Muslim organizations -- Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah -- also saying they do not support the change.

Just as there were student demonstrations supporting the change in Article 29, another group, the Indonesian Nationalist Student Movement (GMNI), turned up to demonstrate changes to it.

They also warned all parties to be wary of the return of New Order figures, and called for those affiliated with the New Order regime to be excluded from government institutions.

They also demanded that the trial of former president Soeharto be speeded up.

One reason the demonstrations have increased compared to previous five days is that Assembly members have now turned their full attention to draft decrees and constitutional amendments.

Much of the agenda of the first three-days of the annual session had been dominated by the presidential progress report.

Despite the plethora of groups and demands, no incidents were reported on Friday. (jun)