Students hold biggest rally


Huge gathering of university students at Parliament defies Suharto by demanding he quit immediately.

MORE than 10,000 students defied President Suharto’s decision to stay on in power until fresh parliamentary elections that he promised yesterday by staging the largest student demonstration in the capital in the last 30 years.

As he spoke at the Istana yesterday, buses with students from 32 universities here jammed the roads of the busy Jalan Gatot Subroto to make their way to Parliament.

Dressed in yellow, blue, green, orange and red jackets, to represent the different campus colours, the students sang songs and chanted political slogans calling on the 76-year-old leader repeatedly to quit.

They carried banners and pictures of him, some even making their way to the dome-like roof of the Parliament house.

One group of students staged a mock funeral procession of Mr Suharto.

The carnival-like atmosphere of the protests was sometimes punctuated by slogans against the President’s family as thousands chanted “Hang Suharto!” and “Give us back our wealth”.

They maintained that a Cabinet reshuffle and other reform measures were not enough to resolve problems.

Said Mr Ahmad Setiawan, the president of Jakarta’s Universitas 17 Agustus 1945: “The only solution is for the President to resign.”

In fact, many students vowed to “sit in” in the Parliament compound until the House of Representatives scheduled a special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly to elect a new President.

The Indonesian military was on Alert One status yesterday for potential problems.

Tanks, armoured vehicles and pockets of soldiers were deployed at various points in the city in a show of force unprecedented in recent years.

Said a senior intelligence officer: “The situation has somewhat returned to normal compared with what happened last week.

“But these are still uncertain times for Indonesia because political emotions are running very high.

“The people calling for sudden change don’t seem to realise the ramifications this country could face in terms of loss of life and damage to property.”

Pro-reform military officers pushing for talks with student activists were concerned that a “Tiananmen-type crackdown” could occur given that an Abri faction was pushing for a harder line against the protest movement.

Posted in Indonesia