Students in Medan push for violence

Small group of hardliners is urging other student leaders to use force during anti-government protests.

A MINORITY group of student hardliners in the North Sumatran capital of Medan have rejected plans for peaceful protests and are pushing for violent confrontation with security forces, sources said yesterday.

Five “die-hards”, whom sources said were linked to unnamed non-governmental organisations, wanted 30 other student leaders attending a secret closed-door meeting late on Monday night to use Molotov cocktails among other forms of violence in their anti-government demonstrations.

“There is a split in the student movement here with a small group trying to influence the majority,” said a lecturer from the University of North Sumatra (USU) with links to the various student groups.

He said most students at the meeting objected to the recurring cycle of violence in the city since last Thursday and preferred peaceful rallies within campus grounds.

This fact corroborates what some senior military officers have been saying – that only a fraction of students advocated violence in Medan and elsewhere and had links to left-wing extremist elements.

University authorities are worried that the hardliners would have their way during future protest marches.

“Sometimes big demonstrations can get out of control. You get one or two individuals throwing rocks and petrol bombs and the whole crowd just flares up,” said the university lecturer.

“There is a chance that they will get more converts after fighting the police because many grow bolder and see themselves as martyrs.”

He said that besides discussing ways of carrying out future rallies in the face of tougher military action, representatives from USU, Medan Technological University, St Thomas Catholic University and Teacher’s College also talked about getting the military to release detained students.

Security forces have lifted a blockade at USU to allow thousands of students to leave the campus after demonstrations on Monday.

USU rector Professor Chairuddin Lubis said police handed over 13 students to him and as far as he knew they were the only students detained after a demonstration in Medan on Monday.

Medan, like other university towns, was otherwise calm yesterday, a national holiday. But sources said protests are likely to continue for the next few months.

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