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Student protests pop up again in Indonesia

Associated Press - May 28, 1998

Jakarta – Anti-government student protests flared again in Indonesia on Thursday, one week after the army evicted demonstrators from the Parliament complex in Jakarta.

Several hundred university students showed up at the main gate Thursday morning as President Habibie met inside with Parliament leaders to discuss his plans to reform the political system.

Habibie took over the top job on May 21 after a wave of protests and riots forced then President Suharto to resign last Thursday after 32 years of authoritarian rule.

Habibie has promised new elections after reforming laws governing polls and political parties.

But the students said they don't trust Habibie, a longtime friend and aide to Suharto, to oversee that process.

The students carried banners that said "We're sick of slogans from state leaders," and wore head bands that read "Total Reform," as they chanted "Bring down Habibie right now."

Three student leaders tried negotiating with police commanders to allow them inside the Parliament grounds, but they were refused.

Dozens of local journalists, meanwhile, protested outside the Information Ministry demanding greater press freedoms.

Under Suharto, criticism of the government was rarely permitted and some journalists and publications were banned.

Other protests reported in Java

In the eastern Javanese city of Surabaya, about 2,000 students have occupied the grounds of a local government building for the past three days demanding Habibie step down.

"We will stay here until a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly is called," said Ida, a student from Unitomo University.

The assembly, made up of 1,000 legislators and government appointees, has the power to choose a new president.

In the central Javanese city of Yogjakarta, about 200 students rallied Wednesday. As more than 2,000 students were ejected from the Parliament in Jakarta last Friday night, many vowed to return, saying that protest was the beginning of a campaign for completely changing the political system.

On Wednesday, a delegation of 20 students from two Jakarta universities met separately with leaders of the ruling Golkar Party and the armed forces faction in the House of Representatives. Also, 52 lawyers filed a class action suit in Jakarta's Central District Court on Wednesday against all members of the assembly appointed for the 1998-2003 term, the Jakarta Post said Thursday.

The suit contends their memberships are invalid because they were not fairly elected, and seeks to nullify any decrees, including the appointment of President Habibie, they passed.