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Students intensify pressure for reforms

Jakarta Post - April 16, 1998

Jakarta – Thousands of students kept up their demands for reforms and lower prices of basic commodities yesterday in on-campus rallies organized concurrently at dozens of universities.

At least four campuses here witnessed noisy rallies demanding a reshuffle of the cabinet, clean government, lower prices of commodities and the empowerment of the. House of Representatives.

Almost 1,000 students gathered at the University of Indonesia's campus on Jl. Salemba, Central Jakarta.

The university's students were joined by representatives of 15 institutions from across the country for a free speech forum. Participants said the government had failed to recognize the people's sovereignty and they demanded a change in leadership, including a reshuffle of what they described as a nepotistic and inept cabinet.

The largest contingent from other schools was the 200 blue-jacketed students from nearby Indonesian Christian University (UKI), which arrived about 30 minutes after the rally began.

Their arrival caused a mild commotion when they called on students from their position outside campus to take the protest onto the streets.

About 100 uniformed policemen initially moved to disperse the gathering, but subsequently desisted when the students on campus refrained from taking up the call. Instead, they ringed the campus perimeter with placards declaring their grievances.

Although protests and rallies have been tolerated within campus boundaries, the military has prohibited students from venturing onto the streets.

Students have been increasingly vociferous in expressing their discontent at the deepening crisis. Several campuses throughout the country have been the sites of rallies.

Yesterday was the first time protests were organized simultaneously in the capital.

A University of Indonesia student leader, Suma Mihardja, said yesterday that rallies were held concurrently on 35 campuses in the greater Jakarta area.

In another high-profile protest, 200 students gathered at the Institute of Social and Political Sciences in South Jakarta.

Carrying banners and posters, they began to walk off their campuses but retreated after a peaceful exchange with police.

An almost identical scene occurred at the National Institute of Science and Technology, as students complied with the urgings of police to stay on campus.

Adi Andojo

At the Trisakti University campus in West Jakarta, former deputy chief justice Adi Andojo Soetjipto, currently dean of the university's law school, was the main attraction at a rally.

In his speech, Adi said the government should take heed of the students' demands. He encouraged Minister of Education and Culture Wiranto Arismunandar to be accommodative and listen to what students had to say.

He also urged the 1,000 students in attendance to refrain from radical and emotional actions in conveying their aspirations.

Adi retired in May after serving 18 years as deputy chief justice He made headlines during his tenure by claiming that collusion was rampant in the Supreme Court.

There were no reports of clashes in any of the rallies in Jakarta, with the cooperation of students apparently working to prevent serious altercations with security personnel.

With protests restricted to campuses, there was also little disruption in the daily activities of the city.

Students rallies in Jakarta have not been marred by the violent clashes with security apparatus which have occurred in Yogyakarta; Surabaya, East Java-Surakarta and Purwokerto in Central Java; Bandung, West Java, and Bandarlampung, Lampung.

Protests and rallies were also held at about two dozen campuses across the country.

In Surabaya, East Java, three of the city's largest campuses--the state-run Airlangga University Surabaya Institute of Technoiogy (ITS) and Adhi Tama Institute of Technology – were the site of rallies demanding political and economic reforms and the elimination of nepotism.

About 1,000 ITS students loudly condemned Minister of Education and Culture Wiranto Arismundar's ban on student involvement in practical politics.

In Semarang, Central Java, hundreds of students of Diponegoro University bore banners with messages including, "We need a skillful and competent cabinet".

In Malang, East Java, students of the Teachers Training Institute and Brawijaya University sang songs denouncing corruption, collusion and nepotism. In Bandung, West Java, hundreds of students jostled with dozens of police armed with sticks inside the campus of the state-run Padjajaran University.

Four students were injured in the scuffle that broke out when they tried to leave the campus, private TV station ANteve reported yesterday.