Fri, 05 Mar 1999

Students groups demand Wiranto's resignation

JAKARTA (JP): Student groups in several cities staged rallies on Thursday demanding Armed Forces (ABRI) Commander Gen. Wiranto's resignation over the uncurbed violence in Maluku that has so far claimed the lives of at least 166 people.

Hundreds of Muslim students grouped in the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front (KAMMI), the Muslim Students Association (HMI) and Muhammadiyah Students Association (IMM) among others lashed out at the military for allowing the violence in the Maluku capital of Ambon and its surroundings to escalate.

In Bogor, West Java, around 1,000 students of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) said they were giving Wiranto three days to solve the conflict.

"If he fails to meet that deadline, we will demand that he relinquishes his post as Armed Forces Commander," student leader Aly Yusuf said.

The Bogor students accused ABRI of dragging its feet on purpose in order to further certain interests. The inaction, they said, had caused Indonesians to become suspicious of one another and to live in fear and restlessness.

This had also given birth to "killers", they went on.

The students also lashed out at the National Commission on Human Rights, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute and other non-governmental organizations which had so far turned a blind eye to the unrest in Maluku.

"Now, if those organizations had certain political interests, they would work hard, and provide accurate data in a short time," Aly charged.

The students performed in the Baranangsiang campus of their college the shalat ghaib (prayer for the dead) and, finally, distributed registration forms for those who wished to go as volunteers to Maluku.

In Surabaya, East Java, around 250 KAMMI members marched to the headquarters of the Brawijaya Military Command, demanding firm military action in the unrest in Maluku.

Antara said the students' advance was blocked by two platoons of Battalion 507 Sikatan and Battalion 516, as well as a team of military troopers on motorcycles. The students then unfurled banners and posters, and gave speeches on Jl. Hayam Wuruk.

"Where's your sense of responsibility, ABRI?" one of the posters said.

Activist Herman Susilo read out a statement, demanding Wiranto resign for "his inability to control his men in Ambon."

In Jakarta, around 200 Muhammadiyah students marched to the office of the National Commission on Human Rights, urging it to be more "proactive" in finding solutions to the violence in Maluku.

Commission secretary-general Clementino dos Reis Amaral and his colleagues, Benjamin Mangkodilaga and Sugiri, received the students, some of whom stayed outside the building to hold a free speech forum.

The students demanded that the commission establish a fact finding team for the case before the June 7 general election.

"If Wiranto is unable to take the masterminds to court, restoring stability and security there, he'd better resign," student Taufik said.

Amaral speculated about the presence of "a third party" which pits Muslims against Christians in Maluku. Benjamin concurred, and blamed the situation on "provocateurs."

The same demand for Wiranto's head was made on Thursday by Matori Abdul Djalil, the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), in Central Java town of Ungaran. "If he did not think he was able to lead his men in solving the unrest in Ambon, he should resign," Matori said.

Matori also blasted President B.J. Habibie for the crisis in Maluku. "Habibie is fooling around in running this country, he is staging a farce, and unable to solve various problems of the nation, including the unrest in Ambon," he said.

He said Habibie should own up to his incapability and resign. "Why wait until after general elections and the presidential elections when this country's situation is worsening all the time?" Matori said.

The same criticism was voiced by Amien Rais, the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), who said in Surakarta, Central Java, that the unrest had tarnished Indonesia's international image even more.

"What's so strange is that President Habibie and General Wiranto seem to be so calm in the face of such a situation. I really don't get it," Amien said.

The Indonesian Committee for World Muslim Solidarity (KISDI) also lashed out at Habibie for his statement on Wednesday blaming the violence in Maluku on "handfuls of Muslim and Christian radicals."

The organization, in a press release, quoted the imam of the Al Fatah Mosque in Ambon, Abdul Aziz Arbi, as saying that the statement was untrue and should be withdrawn.

Abdul, an eyewitness, said the violence involved an attack by Christians on Muslims. "We are the ones being attacked all the time. The Muslims never initiated the violence," he said, describing horrendous incidents that included the killing of pregnant women.

KISDI said Habibie's statement was a cover up for religious tension, which smacked of the New Order regime's practices under Soeharto. "This is the same, sweeping dirt under the carpet," said chairman Abdul Rasyid Abdullah Syafii.

The Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) also expressed sadness and condolences for the deaths in Maluku. "We are praying that the Muslims who died in the violence become syahid (martyrs)," chairman Achmad Tirtosudiro in a statement.

The organization also called on the military to take firm actions against those seeking to undermine national unity. (24/har/swe)