Mon, 22 May 2000

Workers, students mark second year without Soeharto

JAKARTA (JP): Dozens of students and workers belonging to the Workers-Students Joint Action group staged a rally at the Proklamasi Monument in Central Jakarta on Sunday to commemorate the second anniversary of former president Soeharto's downfall.

The protesters, from the Students League for Democracy (LMND) and the National Front for Indonesian Workers Struggle (FNPBI), demanded the government immediately bring the former strongman to court for alleged human rights violations during his 32-year tenure.

The protesters, some wearing red "FNPBI" headbands, also demanded in their two-hour protest that the government seize all Soeharto's and his associates' assets.

Apart from speeches, the protesters also unfurled banners and posters during the protest, one of which read: "Hang Soeharto from a Hashish Plant."

FNPBI coordinator Dita Indah Sari said a fair trial against the former president was a must.

"The former president is responsible for crimes against humanity in the past, including the massacres and military oppression in Aceh, Tanjung Priok and East Timor," Dita said.

She said the former strongman was also responsible for the rampant corruption that went unchecked during his reign.

"The fruits of the development were only enjoyed by Soeharto and his cronies. It's high time to seize his and his cronies' assets, and use them to finance, for example, a hike in teachers' salaries," she said.

At around 12 a.m. the workers and students marched to Soeharto's residence on Jl. Cendana, Central Jakarta, which is some two kilometers away from the monument.

At the beginning of Jl. Cendana, the protesters were met by a cordon of dozens of police personnel, stopping them from proceeding.

After airing protests in front of the police personnel, the students and workers marched to YAI University campus on Jl. Diponegoro, also in Central Jakarta, and then dispersed peacefully.


Separately in Yogyakarta, at least 150 students grouped under the Committee for Yogyakarta People's Struggle (KRPY), staged a similar protest in front of Gedung Agung, a former state palace.

The students condemned the government for its sluggish investigation into the former president.

"The government has not shown significant progress in its investigation into the former president. Students are pessimistic that the investigation can be completed, since Attorney General Marzuki Darusman is a member of Golkar Party, which Soeharto still has a strong grip over," said protest coordinator Setiawan Cahyo.

In Semarang, dozens of students grouped under the Islamic Student Association (HMI) and the Students for a Democratic and Just Revolution (Merdeka) demanded Soeharto's prosecution.

President Soeharto was forced to step down on May 21 in 1998, after massive riots in the city and a student occupation of the parliament building.


Also in Semarang and Yogyakarta, other student groups staged separate protests on Sunday, commemorating National Awakening Day, which fell on May 20.

In Yogyakarta, dozens of members of the Action Committee for People's Democracy (Kader) demanded the government cut off its dependency on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which the students said was the cause of the economic hardship. (44/06/har/asa)