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Indonesian protesters demand reforms

Dow Jones News Service - April 24, 1998

Jakarta – Thousands of university students held peaceful protests against the government Friday, a day after a dozen students were injured in a clash with police on the tourist island of Bali.

In Jakarta, several dozen students took a bus to the presidential palace complex to drop off a statement urging President Suharto to lower prices and use restraint while handling student protests.

The biggest demonstration Friday was in the Java island city of Yogyakarta, where several thousand students rallied at the state-run Gadjah Mada University. They were joined by activists from Muhammadiyah, a Muslim social group.

In the statement, organizers urged the government to apologize for its handling of Indonesia's worst economic crisis since the 1960s.

"The government has to be responsible for the crisis," said Haryo Setyoko, secretary-general of the student senate. "It has to carry out total and immediate reforms in all fields. If not, it has to resign."

Indonesia is implementing economic reforms under a bailout plan set up by the International Monetary Fund. But students also want democratic reform of the tightly controlled political system.

Thousands of students held protests Friday at all seven colleges in Ujung Pandang, the capital of South Sulawesi province.

The protests in Ujung Pandang coincided with the second anniversary of what students call "Bloody April", a protest over higher transportation fares that left at least five people dead.

The official Antara news agency said some students marched into the streets, but there were no reports of violence. The military has ordered protesters to stay on campus, but students have sometimes flouted the order. In Solo, about 1,000 students staged a rally at March Eleven University. In Jakarta, about 500 students shouted anti-government slogans at National University. About 300 protesters also rallied at an Islamic university in Bandung.