Students rally to protest reform decree

Anti-Suharto demonstrations are held in campuses nationwide, and for the first time, workers join the students.

IN NATIONWIDE rallies yesterday, thousands of Indonesian students protested against President Suharto’s decision to rule out major political reforms in the next five years.

Meanwhile, workers for the first time joined them on several campuses in the capital in a “show of solidarity”, to stress students were not alone in calling for changes in the New Order regime.

Besides Jakarta, students in Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya, Bandung and Medan all staged anti-Suharto protests.

Reiterating demands which have been growing since mid-February this year, they called on him to quit and accept responsibility for the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

University of Indonesia (UI) activist Linda Rahman, 22, said that the students were not prepared to wait five more years for reforms, as Mr Suharto had urged on Friday, in response to mounting criticism of his government.

She said: “The only way out is for him to go, then we can implement reforms. There can be no change as long as he is in power. Mr Suharto is the problem and the solution in this crisis.”

Labourer Abdul Kadir, 30, said that he and 300 other factory workers from Tanggerang in East Jakarta joined the demonstrations in front of the medical faculty of the state-run UI at the invitation of the university’s student leaders.

“Our aim is to turn this into a movement big enough to put pressure on the government,” he said.

“We are not happy with what is going on in Indonesia. The government is oppressing us, not helping us. More and more of us will be joining the students’ cause.”

The workers, who wore red arm bands to distinguish them from students dressed in the yellow jackets of the country’s most prominent university, joined 3,000 students in the sometimes carnival-like atmosphere, by singing songs and chanting political slogans calling on Mr Suharto to step down.

Most of yesterday’s protests were peaceful, but there were some exceptions.

Security forces prevented more than 100 students from various universities, who rallied at the Academy of Foreign Languages in central Jakarta, from marching to the nearby UI campus. At least three students were injured as police used batons and tear gas to disperse them.

Reuters news agency reported that clashes also broke out between students and troops in the North Sumatran capital of Medan.

More than 1,000 students gathered at the private Nomensen University in central Medan to demand reforms, and clashed with security forces while attempting to take their protest to the streets. One military jeep was burnt.

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