10,000 rally to support MPR session


The gathering, organised by several pro-government Muslim leaders, calls on those who plan to disrupt the special assembly to stop

MORE than 10,000 Muslims yesterday gathered here to rally in support of next week’s special session of Indonesia’s highest legislative body which will set a date for the general election.

Mr Manarul Hidayat, the head of a Muslim boarding school, one of several speakers at the gathering, told the thousands packed in the Senayan Sports Stadium that Indonesians were facing economic hardship and that it was inhuman to block moves to improve their lot.

“We call on those who plan to disrupt the special session in a violent, anarchist and unconstitutional way, to desist and refrain from their plan,” he said.

The rally yesterday was the second show of support this week for the special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). Earlier this week, 3,000 Muslims made a similar call.

Analysts and military sources here said that the “biggest security threat” next week would be a “bloody confrontation” between those for and against the special session.

Students and other groups opposed to the meeting say that the current MPR membership, which returned Mr Suharto to power for the seventh five-year term in March, is not representative of the people.

A two-star army general told The Straits Times that the military had deployed 30,000 troops to keep watch on the situation.

At least 50 groups under the umbrella of the anti-government National Front – an association of retired generals, officials and former Golkar leaders – are planning to stage “massive demonstrations” in the capital.

Islamic leader and chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Amien Rais told foreign journalists yesterday that many politicians like him faced a dilemma on whether or not to support the MPR session.

“If we support it, we will only strengthen the Habibie government which is trying to buy time and hold on to power,” he said. “If we join forces to foil the session, the consequences will be worse. The anarchic situation will just drag on.”

Mr Amien, a key figure in May’s student protests which helped bring down President Suharto, said his party would not join the students in trying to halt the special session. He called for calm, saying that demands for the dismissal of the MPR and the Habibie government could lead to a vacuum of power.

“The situation will become maybe very revolutionary and I don’t believe revolution is appropriate for now,” he said.

Yesterday’s gathering, which is organised by several pro-government Muslim leaders, also called for unity among Muslims who make up more than 90 per cent of the 200 million population.

Said Mr Manarul: “Do not let differences among Muslims be exploited by enemies of Islam, so that Muslims will become weak, disunited, powerless and become oppressed by the tyranny of a minority.”

Mr Amien yesterday downplayed suggestions that there were serious splits between Muslims and non-Muslims and said that ideology and religion “has now been neutralised in Indonesia”.

He said: “Ideological politics has been cut down to size. We are no longer bothered by religion as a political factor anymore.”

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