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Student protests continue

Jakarta Post - April 24, 1998

Jakarta – University students here and in many other cities plugged on with their demands for an end to the economic crisis and comprehensive reforms in more demonstrations yesterday.

At least two incidents of violence were reported after rallying students attempted to leave their campuses and clashed with security personnel. These occurred in Medan, provincial capital of North Sumatra, and Denpasar, the capital of tourist resort island Bali.

In Denpasar, at least 12 students were injured in a clash with security personnel. Also injured was the head of the Bali Legal Aid Institute, Soni Qodri.

The melee broke out when about 1,000 students demonstrating near the entrance of state-run Udayana University were blocked by police officers as they tried to march onto the streets.

The two groups became embroiled in a stone-throwing altercation. Police subsequently released tear gas.

"Both parties were to blame for this incident. But which should be blamed more, I can't tell. But I hope students won't repeat this again," said Udayana rector Sukardika when he visited the injured in Sanglah Hospital.

In Medan, at least three people were injured when hundreds of students from several universities who had gathered at the Medan Institute of Technology clashed with the police.

Students resorted to throwing stones at the officers when they failed to break through the cordon.

In Semarang at least three students suffered minor injuries after they were beaten with rattan sticks after trying to pierce the police blockade. The students numbered about 2,000.

In Jakarta, an estimated 1,000 students managed to force their way out of the Indonesian Christian University in Cawang, East Jakarta, and onto the street, causing traffic congestion in the busy area.

They shouted demands for reform and for President Soeharto to step aside as they set out to march to the Borobudur University campus on Jl. Kali Malang Raya. They returned to their campus following negotiations with security officers, who arrived some time after the demonstration began. No violence was reported.

In the West Java capital of Bandung, protesting students at the Bandung Institute of Technology appeared to have changed their approach to voicing the people's aspiration for reforms yesterday

Unlike previous protests, the students staged their demonstration near the university entrance but kept their distance from watchful security officers ringing the campus.

A special stage equipped with a set of musical instruments and an extensive sound-system set was erected on Jl. Ganesha inside the university compound. They named the area "public space", and invited members of the surrounding community to join their demonstration.

Dozens of housewives took them up on the offer, listening to fiery speeches by student activists.

"This is an alternative way to pressure the government for our demands, namely taking control of Jl. Ganesha," said Widi Aswidi, a student leader.

Widi also said the university's schools of electronic engineering and physics were currently working to establish a special FM radio transmitter to air messages for reforms.

The station, on frequency FM 108.95, would be named Radio Suara Perubahan (Radio of the Voice of Change), the activist said.

The students plan to air special "provocation" programs during two hours in the morning and two in the evening.

Other demonstrations occurred peacefully yesterday in the East Java capital of Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and South Sulawesi's capital of Ujung Pandang.

On the campus of Perbanas Banking Institute in Surabaya hundreds of students, some in tears, listened to a speech by a 60-year-old man who identified himself as Soewignjo.

"Frankly, I did not even finish my elementary school. I don't know what reform means. But I hope students will not be afraid to always voice people's aspirations. People outnumber the military. March on, don't stop, don't retreat," he shouted to the applauding students.

Hundreds of students from other universities joined a free speech forum held later at the institute, and returned to their respective campuses on foot.

Police did not stop them from walking together on the streets.

"They are just walking back to their campuses, that's okay. Students cannot be treated harshly," East Surabaya Police Precinct Chief Lt. Col. Oegroseno, who was at the scene, said.