Wed, 24 Mar 1999

Students urge government to put a stop bloodshed

JAKARTA (JP): About 200 students protested in front of the Ministry of Defense and Security, demanding the government and the military take firm action to resolve recent incidents of unrest because of the threat to national unity.

"If President B.J. Habibie and Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto fail to halt the continuing unrest, they'd better resign," said Alawy, a coordinator of the protest led by the Communication Forum for Greater Jakarta Student Senates.

Alawy reiterated the nation's leaders were responsible for effecting a solution to ethnic and sectarian discord which has claimed hundreds of lives over the last few months.

Terming Habibie's administration "a transitional government", Alawy urged leaders to guarantee the June general election would be conducted freely and justly.

"No free and fair election can be accomplished unless the government and the Armed Forces succeed in halting the recent violence," he said.

Protesters also urged the government to give greater autonomy to all regions on political, economic and cultural affairs as part of an overall solution for the battered nation, which they believed was on the brink of disintegration.

"Violence is caused partly by the absence of equal distribution of the fruit of development between the central and regional governments," the protesters said in a media release.

Guarded by about 50 riot police officers at the Central Jakarta ministry, they unfurled banners and posters, with messages including: "Disintegration-Federation, No, Unitary State, Yes" and "Peace for Indonesia. Stop the Nation's Disintegration."

A caricature compared Habibie with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, blamed by some for the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Protesters chanted "Long live students" and sang heroic songs.

Others distributed leaflets and statements to passing motorists and public transportation passengers.

Four representatives of the protesters failed in their quest to meet Wiranto to convey their grievance.

Col. Dasiran, who received the four representatives at the ministry building, told them that Wiranto was busy attending a special meeting. (01)