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Demonstration attacked in Jakarta

Green Left Weekly - August 4, 2004

Max Lane – On July 27, outside the office of the Jakarta governor, scores of civil service police – the governor's security corps – attacked a peaceful demonstration as it was dispersing. Some 700 people had gathered outside the Presidential Palace earlier in the day to demand that the perpetrators of the 1996 attack on the offices of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) be brought to justice.

As they were leaving, the security corps started firing shots and wielding truncheons. They attacked and chased demonstrators, and all but destroyed a bus in which some protesters were waiting to leave. During all this, the national state police who were nearby did nothing.

Scores of protesters were injured. Gregorius Eko Wardoyo, a chairperson of the Indonesian Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI), was knocked unconscious and had to be rushed to hospital. He was released from hospital the next day with stitches to his scalp, a broken nose and internal bleeding to his left eye.

The demonstration was organised by three coalitions: the Peoples Forum, the Forum of Concern for Education, and the United Opposition Front (BOB), which includes the FNPBI and the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). In the attack on the offices of the PDI on July 27, 1996, scores of people were killed and many were injured. No military or police have been charged, but more than 20 people who were inside defending the building were tried and jailed by the Suharto regime.

The anniversary protest also called for the disbandment of the Armed Forces' territorial command, the nationalisation of army and police businesses, a reduction in the size of the regular army, a wage rise for ordinary soldiers, the lifting of the civil emergency in Aceh and an end to military operations in Papua.

After a peaceful action outside the Presidential Palace, the demonstration moved to the governor's office. The current governor, retired General Sutoyoso, was the territorial commander in charge of the Jakarta region at the time of the July 27, 1996 attacks. Former General Yudhoyono, now a presidential candidate, was Sutiyoso's boss at the time.

The coalitions are demanding that Sutiyoso apologise and resign, and that the Jakarta government cover all medical costs and repairs to the bus. They are also insisting that the police be held accountable for doing nothing to assist the unarmed protesters.

The demonstrators also wanted to show their support for another protest outside Sutiyoso's office. Teachers, parents and others had assembled to pressure the govenor not to allow a junior high school to be demolished to make way for a commercial development.

[Max Lane is the chairperson of Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific.]