Yogyakarta – Student actions have entered a new phase, moving off campus. As a result, at several campuses which held demonstrations on Thursday, April 4, battles with security forces could not be avoided and resulted in students being injured.
At the Gajah Mada University (UGM) and the Islamic Religious State Institute (IAIN), student actions clashed with security forces which resulted in at least 29 injuries and a private vehicle parked on the UGM campus destroyed, when it became the target of the Yogyakarta students rage.
At a press meeting yesterday, the head of the local police, Colonel Bani Siswono and the commander of the local military, Colonel Djoko Santosa, said that 29 students suffered injuries and three are still being treated at the Panti Rapih Yogyakarta public hospital.
On Thursday afternoon, the UGM Student Executive Body also reported that there were 29 victims of the violence and tear-gas attack.
However according to the UGM Emergency Aid Unit, there were 42 students who were injured at the UGM demonstration. The three victims who are being treated in hospital are Rahmat from the Faculty of Politics, Edi Hutapea from the Imanuel Christian University (Ukrim) and Titien, a male student from the Yogyakarta Madrasah Aliyah Negeri (MAN).
It was not only university students that took to the streets. The UGM demonstration was joined by high-school students who rallied under the flag of the Inter-School Student Organisation (OSIS). Meanwhile the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Foundation reported that at least 53 people were injured.
Rallying to the local parliament
The clashes at UGM an IAIN both occurred when the students broke through a blockade by anti-riot personal with the intention of marching to the local parliament which is around three kilometres from UGM and five kilometres from IAIN. But student were unable to break through the blockade by troops armed anti-riot shields and clubs.
At IAIN, students repeatedly tried to force their way through the campus gates but their efforts were only able to force the troops retreat. Blockade was not broken. Finally, at around 12.30pm, the students were given an ultimatum. If they left the campus and went out on to the streets the security forces would take stern action against them. The security forces blockading the student at the campus then withdrew. Seeing the opportunity, the determined students began to march, however as they entered Jalan Solo, the students reconsidered because the street was still blocked by security forces.
The clash at IAIN did not result in many victims except for a number of students who were hit with clubs by police. The students dispersed after seeing how tight the security was.
Gajah Mada demonstrations
A clash also occurred at UGM at around 12 noon. Initially students marched around the campus from the Faculty of Politics, Sociology, Psychology, Arts and then gathering to hold a free speech forum. From there, students planned a "long-march" to the Yogyakarta Parliament on Jalan Malioboro. Security forces were guarding the streets around the campus. The clash followed a call by the leader of the demonstration to go "Forward two steps". When the university and high-school students position came up against the security forces there was an order to go "Forward four steps!"
A clash could not be avoided. Students and security personal pelted each other with stones. The security personal responded by throwing rocks and waving their batons, firing tear-gas into the demonstrators and chasing students. The university and high-school students involved in the action scattered in disorder.
According to students, the identity of the owner of a vehicle which was overturned by students was found. Also found were tear-gas which was used against students. However the head of the Yogyakarta police, Colonel Bani Siswono said it would be investigated and the total number of tear-gas canisters used by the security personnel counted.
Meanwhile in press statement, Colonel Djoko Santosa from the Yogyakarta Danrem 072/Pamungkas military, said they were very concerned about the incident. "ABRI [the armed forces] and students are a component of the nation which have the potential to contribute to the nation. The victims of this clash have fallen uselessly", he explained.
Djoko said that the demonstration at UGM was no longer responding purely to the economic crisis that has occurred in the country, because during the demonstration, Fretilin flags and East Timor independence banners were displayed.
The UGM Executive Student Body said in a written statement, that they regretted ABRI's violent action because it violated human rights and conflicted with the [the state ideology of] Pancasila. The Executive also demanded that ABRI publicly apologise and take responsibility for all damages suffered by the students.
On Thursday April 2 in Jakarta, student actions continued at the National University (UI), the National Development University (UPN), the Institute of Science and Technology (ISTN), the August 17 1845 University and the Academy of Industry Leadership (APP). The students not only held a free speech forum on the campus but rallied off campus.
Scores of ISTN students marched around 500 metres from the campus towards APP, which is around one kilometer away. To prevent the students marching too far, security forces from the Mobile Brigade blocked the intersection between Jalan Moh. Kahfi II which leads toward the ISTN campus and Jalan Timbo, which leads to the APP campus.
Despite this, a clash occurred between ISTN students and security personal after they marched off campus. They read poems, presented speeches and sang in front of the security force barricade. As mid-day approached, they dispersed in an orderly manner.
At the UPN university, students who were able to leave the campus, were asked by the Rector's assistant, Brigadier-General Dedi Atmanandi, to return to the campus. The action proceeded orderly although student were able to march as far as 15 metres from the campus before security forces ordered them to return.
It was similar at the UI campus. This time students march quite orderly, although the action was carried out outside the campus gates. The police which were deployed, prevented the students from going far from the campus. The road in front of the campus was close for some time.
An action in Purwokerto, Jateng, resulted in pushing and shoving between students and security personal who tried to block students from going into the streets. A number of students were beaten with clubs in an incident at the Purwokerto General Soedirman University. Security personal from the police and military were able to prevent around 1000 students from taking to the streets.
In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, around 200 students from the Tanjungpura University (Untan) held a "long-march" to the local Kalbar parliament, around 1.5 kilometres from he campus. The students carried a coffin which was covered with a black cloth and a seat without legs.
The Untan students, calling themselves "Student Solidarity with the Little People", went to the parliament intending to hold a dialogue with the people's representatives. Parliamentary members however, did not respond. On returning from the parliament, students were tightly guarded by security personal until they reached the gates to the campus.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski]