Students keep up protests


Students vow to continue their demands for change in clashes with security forces.

STUDENTS yesterday vowed to keep up the pressure for change in Indonesia as they continued staging anti-government protests.

In the North Sumatran capital of Medan, students clashed with security forces again, continuing the cycle of violence which began last Thursday.

About 2,000 students from the University of North Sumatra demanded that President Suharto quit over Indonesia’s worst economic crisis in three decades.

University authorities, in a bid to keep the students on campus grounds after the violence last week which saw Molotov cocktails and rubber bullets fly, locked the campus gates.

But the students tore them down. Most remained near the gates but about 100 walked out to some 50 police in full riot gear. Chanting “We hate Suharto”, they began throwing rocks at the police, who fired tear gas and water cannons in response.

Unlike last week’s battles, however, they refrained from using rubber bullets.

Elsewhere in Medan, the demonstration took on peaceful overtones. Security forces stopped students from leaving the grounds of the Islamic University of North Sumatra initially, but a 30-minute talk later, the students marched 1km out of the campus.

Demonstrations also broke out elsewhere, but they were smaller in scale, largely due to semester-end examinations in many universities.

In the East Java capital of Surabaya, 200 students from the Airlangga university staged rallies calling for political and economic reform. Similar protests took place 80 km away in Malang at the Gajayana University.

Security authorities also were on alert in the South Sulawesi capital of Ujung Pandang, where some 300 students from different universities protested.

The students maintained that they would continue to press for change. In Ujung Pandang, student leader Alam Shah of the University of Hasannudin shot down any notion that the students would run out of “stamina”.

“We will continue with our calls for political reform even if it means taking a beating from the authorities,” he told The Straits Times. “We have begun a process and will not end it until we achieve our aims.”

Similar sentiments were echoed elsewhere. At the Kristen Duta University in Yogyakarta, student leader Iswardi Lay said students would pace themselves in organising rallies.

“The idea is to run this marathon until someone at the top listens to us.”

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