Jakarta undergrads protest against ‘mismanagement’

MORE than 1,000 university students in Jakarta staged a demonstration yesterday – the largest in the capital since last year – blaming the government for the country’s economic woes.

The protesters sang patriotic songs in a carpark at the University of Indonesia as over 200 security personnel with riot gear and automatic rifles were deployed around the campus.

Several students, wearing the yellow jackets of the university, covered a large sign saying “Welcome to the Campus of the New Order” with a white cotton shroud. Others sprayed black paint over the words “New Order” on another sign.

The demonstrators released a six-page statement, saying Indonesia’s current problems were a result of economic mismanagement.

“There has been a deviation in the orientation and practice of the five-year development plans,” it said.

“There has been manipulation in the implementation of the Constitution. It has not been in line with the soul and spirit of democracy.”

The students said the soaring prices of staple items had caused unease among the public and explained the outbreak of recent riots in the country.

“The result of rising food prices has been riots which are coloured with racial overtones,” they said.

They also blamed the economic crisis on the business practices of large firms which had been given special privileges by the government.

Many students expressed the hope that President Suharto would accept responsibility for the ailing economy.

In 1978, the government banned political activities in campuses following a series of demonstrations involving students, many of them from the University of Indonesia.

One of the country’s oldest universities, the state-run University of Indonesia has as its alumni many prominent student activists who, in the 60s, helped President Suharto establish the New Order government.

The protest took place less than a week after the students had held similar, albeit smaller, rallies on campus grounds, pushing for the same demands.

Earlier this month, the capital saw demonstrations by hundreds of people protesting against rising food prices.

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