Sat, 15 May 2004

TNI officers' children attack Medan students

Apriadi Gunawan and Nana Rukmana, Medan/Cirebon

At least eight students were injured after being attacked by children of military and police personnel in Medan, North Sumatra, witnesses and police confirmed on Friday.

The assault was launched on Thursday night after the victims along with their colleagues staged a rally to oppose voting for presidential candidates from military backgrounds.

The attackers from the Communication Forum for Children of Retired Military/Police Officers (FKPPI) also destroyed a makeshift post the students set up at the Heroes Cemetery Park on Jl. Sisingamangaraja, Medan, two days ago.

Eye witnesses said the violence started at around 10 p.m., when FKPPI members arrived at the student post in cars and on motorcycles.

The attackers had asked the students to disperse and to dismantle their post, arguing that it was unethical for them to be present at the cemetery for an antimilitary protest.

The request was then rejected by the students, sparking a verbal and physical clash.

"At the time, we were only eight students at the post and we could not do anything. So we fled after they (the attackers) beat us and destroyed our post," recalled Okto Fitria, a victim.

Other victims injured in the incident were Suri Parwita, Izal Kentong, Anwar Basri, Rizal Rozi, Mukhlis, and Ardansyah -- from the Medan Institute of Technology, and Julia Taufik from the North Sumatra Islamic University.

Okto said the victims later reported the incident to Medan Teladan Police at around 12 p.m.

Medan Teladan Police chief of detectives First Insp. Ernesto Seser confirmed the reported attack, saying the victims demanded the arrest of the perpetrators.

The student victims were questioned on Friday by police investigators to take their statements about the incident, Ernesto said. But it was not clear why none of the attackers were immediately arrested.

"The case file drafted from the investigation will be handed over to Medan Police for further action," Ernesto told The Jakarta Post.

Responding to the attack, North Sumatra's FKPPI chairman Ardjoni Munir said he knew nothing about the incident, but stressed that he supported the police's move to look into the case.

He lamented the students protest against presidential candidates from military backgrounds, and that it was held at a sacred place like the cemetery.

The students should have been able to embrace ethics when expressing their opinion during Thursday's protest, he argued.

"The students are prospective intellectuals. They should have avoided demonstrating at the Heroes Cemetery Park. Is that ethical? My father was buried there. So I'm offended," he said.

Ardjoni, however, regretted what his members did to the protesters.

Street rallies have hit towns and cities across the country to oppose the nomination of presidential/vice presidential candidates with military background -- Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Wiranto and Agum Gumelar are all retired army generals.

Meanwhile, speaking in Cirebon, West Java, on Friday, Agum said antimilitary demonstrations should be respected in a democratic society.

"We are a democratic state. Democracy means accepting and respecting differences of opinion. That some are opposed to military candidates should be respected," he said.

Agum, who was nominated as the running mate of presidential candidate Hamzah Haz, said such protests should not be considered a negative campaign aimed at dampening the chances of presidential hopefuls contesting the July 5 election.

Agum denied the notion that the nominations of the three retired generals for the presidency showed that civilian leadership had failed.

Nor were their bids for the top post a special phenomenon in politics, he said.