Wed, 31 Mar 1999

Students demand legislator Nurdin's dismissal

UJUNGPANDANG, South Sulawesi (JP): Hundreds of students staged a fresh rally here on Tuesday to demand the dismissal of Nurdin Halid from the House of Representatives.

The students, under the banner of the Communication Forum of Makassar Muslim Students, alleged Nurdin was responsible for abducting student leader Syafinuddin Al Mandary, 26, two days before the local district court acquitted Nurdin from corruption charges on March 22.

Reports said that Syafinuddin, chairman of the local office of the Association of Islamic Students group (HMI-MPO) was kidnapped by Nurdin's henchmen on March 20.

Syafinuddin, who according to the Kompas daily has indirect family ties with Nurdin, was reportedly taken to the Golkar legislator's house on Jl. Mapala and questioned for about one hour by Nurdin over the mounting student protests against him.

Syafinuddin was released several hours later. He filed a report to the police last Friday.

Carrying placards and posters, the students marched through the city streets from the Teachers Training Institute to the local Golkar office.

"We call on Golkar to dismiss Nurdin Halid from the DPR because he has betrayed the cause of the party," Iswari, another student leader, told The Jakarta Post.

"How come Golkar says it is the proponent of reform if it is protecting one of its members who is clearly involved in an abduction?" Iswari added.

The rally disrupted traffic for three hours as the students blocked off Jl. Pattarani, which links southern parts of the town.

Ujungpandang Police chief Col. Jusuf Manggabarani said on Tuesday police were still questioning Syafinuddin and two witnesses.

Jusuf said that if there were strong indications of Nurdin's involvement in the abduction, the police would try to secure a presidential permit to begin investigations into the case.

A presidential approval is needed to launch investigations against legislators and Cabinet members.

The Ujungpandang District Court acquitted Nurdin of all charges on the request of prosecutors, who said they lacked evidence to prove that he embezzled Rp 115.77 billion (US$12 million) from farmers' compulsory accounts at a large cooperative.

At least one student was injured when security personnel outside the courthouse fired shots to disperse the enraged crowd protesting the court's decision.

Nurdin was previously the director of the central cooperative, which acted as the sole buyer of cloves from village cooperatives in the province. (27/byg)