Some Indonesian cities see calm again

CALM returned yesterday to several Indonesian cities, including the North Sumatran capital of Medan, after weeks of student protests and sporadic violence.

Medan, the scene of intense rioting, which saw shops being looted and burnt and dozens of cars torched, was back to normal with many shops re-opening, although yesterday was a public holiday.

Elsewhere, despite the relative calm on Sunday and yesterday, which many attributed to the public holidays, students remained defiant. Some talked about holding more protests.

But shop owners in Medan contacted by The Straits Times said most people were confident that no more large-scale rioting would take place, because the armed forces had the situation under control.

Miss Ima Pitri, 23, a sales assistant at a clothing store in Medan Plaza, Medan’s largest shopping centre, said nearly all the shops were open for business.

The district military command told The Straits Times that “the situation was no longer serious”, but security forces would be on the alert for any potential problems.

In Tokyo, coordinating economic minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita described the unrest as temporary and noted that order had been restored in Sumatra.

The onset of examinations in several Medan campuses seemed to have dampened the mood of students to hold demonstrations.

But sources at the University of North Sumatra said it was unlikely students’ mood had been dampened, as they had sat for their examinations two weeks ago.

Students in Medan and other cities were backed by government critics, like Mr Amien Rais, who yesterday were still calling for Mr Suharto’s resignation.

The Indonesian leader, in Egypt for the G-15 summit, called on Indonesians to make “huge sacrifices” to help contain the country’s economic downturn and warned that the Asian financial crisis could spill into other parts of the world.

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