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Colour war rages as political rivals repeatedly paint the town

Agence France Presse - February 20, 1997

Jakarta – A war of political colours in a Central Java town took another turn this week after supporters of an ousted opposition leader painted the town square in the colours of the national flag.

The "colour war" in Solo, about 650 kilometres southeast of Jakarta, has led to pavements, trees, lampposts and fences in the town's square being repainted three times since late last year, the Jakarta Post reported.

Sympathisers of ousted opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri took to their paint pots on Monday and Tuesday and covered the yellow paint - applied to the public facilities by supporters of the ruling Golkar party in mid-January - with the red-and-white of the country's flag.

"Red and white symbolise unity. We don't want to see the nation divided," Megawati loyalist Mustofa Budiwaluyo said.

Ms Megawati, a daughter of founding president Sukarno, was removed as Indonesian Democracy Party chairman last June by a government-backed party faction, but remains a popular figure among party members.

Last year, Solo's mayor ordered the square to be painted in the Golkar party's yellow. This angered the local chapter of the Muslim-led United Development Party, who changed the colour to white in January, saying it was a neutral colour not linked to any political entity.

Golkar supporters then repainted everything yellow a few weeks later and an angry Solo mayor threatened to sue the Muslim party for changing the colour of the square without the approval of city authorities.

Central Java Governor Suwardi, who came to the defence of Solo's mayor, was widely ridiculed when he said yellow was not just the colour of Golkar but also that of Central Java's mascot bird.

Meanwhile, the local Muslim party chapter has said it planned to sue Mr Suwardi for ignoring the people's aspirations in connection with the painting of the square.

Solo chapter chairman Mudrik Sangudi said his organisation was conducting a poll to see whether the population agreed with the party's plan to sue the Governor.

Ms Megawati will answer a police summons today as a witness in a probe into an alleged illegal meeting at her house, one of her lawyers, Ahmad Dilapanga, said.