Suharto to hold meeting with students

The President is willing to engage in a dialogue “sometime in the future” with university undergraduates who are demanding reforms.

PRESIDENT Suharto will hold a dialogue with university students demanding political and economic reforms in Indonesia, Golkar chairman Harmoko has said.

“I am sure that the President will receive the students sometime in the future,” he said.

“The President will not refuse the offer to hold such a dialogue as opinions and aspirations serve the national interests.”

The Antara news agency yesterday quoted him as saying that Mr Suharto was no stranger to holding dialogues, preferring it as a means to resolve national problems.

Mr Harmoko stressed that Mr Suharto was open to criticism – a point the President had made when he was sworn in a for a record seventh term last month.

Mr Suharto had noted then that criticism “was needed for the development of the nation”.

Said Mr Harmoko: “Therefore, in this era of openness, it is important to develop constructive ideas that can solve the problems.”

It was not immediately known when the dialogue would be held, but it contradicted what other ministers said about Mr Suharto not meeting the students. Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs, General Feisal Tanjung, said last week that a meeting was impossible as certain protocols had to be observed.

He suggested that the students channel their demands through their legislators or university rectors.

Youth and Sports Minister Agung Laksono questioned the necessity of a meeting, saying: “Basically, the President is willing to hold a dialogue with all the people, including students.

“But if the problem to be discussed can be handled by his aides, why should he engage in more dialogues?”

Meanwhile, Indonesian Armed Forces chief General Wiranto has confirmed he would meet students from 17 universities.

Students welcomed the idea of a dialogue with Gen Wiranto and particularly Mr Suharto. Said Mr Prasetyo, 20, an engineering undergraduate: “We hope the President is hearing our calls for change. We want to have a dialogue with him.”

Meanwhile, AFP reported that 300 students from the State Islamic Institute in Yogjakarta yesterday stoned police and troops who prevented them from staging a rally.

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