Opposition front set to disrupt MPR

But the military is ready even as the 50 organisations plan to stage demonstrations at the assembly’s special plenary session next week

FIFTY ORGANISATIONS not represented in the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) are planning to stage massive protests here during the assembly’s special plenary session next week.

Sources here said that the powerful Indonesian Armed Forces (Abri) had gotten wind of the plans and would deploy 30,000 military and police personnel in the capital “to counter demonstrations that might go astray”, and safeguard the meeting of the country’s highest legislative body.

An Abri insider told The Sunday Times that the organisations were operating under the “umbrella” of the National Front (Barnas).

This is an association of retired generals, officials and former Golkar leaders – which senior government figures have branded as “radicals and revolutionaries” out to hamper the reform process.

Barnas, which was established in August this year, has declared itself to be a “moral force” in opposition to President B. J. Habibie.

The source said that the 50 organisations represented a cross-section of students, human-rights activists, labourers, and the newer political parties such as the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) and the Democracy for Indonesia Party (Pudi), which mushroomed after President Suharto’s fall in May.

He said that they were attempting to disrupt the MPR session and force Dr Habibie to resign by carrying out large-scale demonstrations.

“Their ultimate goal is to force the government to set up a National Council or Presidium to run the country,” he said.

PNI executive Usep Ranawijaya said the party had obtained the “signatures of 50 groups to take part in the demonstrations and are now waiting to map out our plans on the field”.

Activists here said that the threat to take to the streets came after Dr Habibie’s “cold response” for a plan to hold a national dialogue.

They said that at least 20,000 people would take part in the protests outside the Parliament building, although many expected that the number would be much higher given that they would also be joined by student demonstrators from Medan, Lampung, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Ujung Pandang.

Sceptics, however, said that poor organisation plus a heavy troop presence could “hamper the dreams of protesters to cause chaos”.

Abri chief General Wiranto said on Friday that his soldiers were prepared to protect the session against “any effort aimed at aborting it”.

He said that protests in the country were “no longer a demonstration but a show of force and anarchy which violated the law”.

The military has brought troops from other parts of the country to beef up the security presence in the capital.

Pockets of soldiers armed with M16 and light assault weapons have been deployed, particularly near the presidential palace and the central business district.

They have also set up a military tent outside the Parliament building with more than 20 police officers forming a human barrier at the entrance of the MPR complex.

The Media Indonesia daily yesterday quoted MPR secretary-general Afif Ma’roef as saying that it would be possible for the plenary to be held away from the Parliament complex.

It said sources had confirmed that back-up preparations were underway to hold the session at the nearby Jakarta Hilton Convention Centre, which had an underground passageway to the Hilton hotel, where some 400 out of the 1,000 assembly members would be staying.

The three-day session will debate laws pertaining to political parties, elections and the composition of the MPR and the lower house.

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