Abri to start student dialogues

The military hopes to ease tensions by giving students a chance to air their views on the economic crisis.

THE Indonesian military is pressing ahead with its dialogue with university students who are calling for political and economic reforms in the country.

A senior officer of the armed forces (Abri) said that the talks were aimed at giving them a chance to air their “views and aspirations in a constructive manner”.

“We want to diffuse tensions that exist on various campuses by giving them a forum to air their views,” the two-star general told The Straits Times.

“We are facing a very difficult situation in that many students are now challenging the government openly.”

He said that dialogue with various student groups began two weeks ago after Abri chief, General Wiranto, called for meetings between students and the military.

The Abri chief had said earlier this month that he preferred students to have talks with the authorities rather than cause disruption by holding protests.

The source said that so far, regional, provincial and district military commanders across the country had met student activists on an ad hoc basis.

The aim now was to make the talks more systematic.

He said that senior Abri officers were now visiting different regions to brief governors, university rectors, student leaders and provincial and district military commanders, on the format and frequency of these talks.

On Wednesday, Abri socio-political chief Bambang Yudhoyono held a closed-door meeting with 25 university rectors in Bandung to explain the military’s aim to have talks on a regular basis.

He was accompanied by the West Java military commander, Major-General Djamari Chaniago, and the Abri chief’s political and security affairs adviser Agus Wirahadikusumah.

The Jakarta Post yesterday quoted Lieutenant-General Yudhoyono as saying that some students were still “allergic” to the military proposal for talks.

“It is the students’ right to reject our invitation for a dialogue,” he said.

“The dialogue should be understood as a forum to absorb the people’s aspirations and to treat differences on an equal footing.”

The Abri source said the university rectors and provincial governors supported the military proposal and would encourage their students to engage in the talks.

Posted in Indonesia