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More disturbances in Pekalangan

Tapol - April 8, 1997

According to reports in Monday's Republika and Media Indonesia, there were more disturbances in the northern Central Java city of Pekalangan. Around midnight Sunday, 6 April thousands of people ran riot on the streets, destroying motorbikes and vehicles. A tomato puree warehouse was destroyed as well as a batik dyes shop.

Two weeks ago, the city was shaken by disturbances when a huge crowd burnt down a podium on which the president's daughter, Mbak Tutut, vice chair of the government party, GOLKAR was due to speak, along with the well-known singer Rhoma Irama who only recently switched his allegiance from the PPP to GOLKAR. The disturbances on that occasion lasted for three days, from 24 - 26 March.

The local army chief Col Amirul Isnaeni, said on Sunday that the disturbances had been brought under control. 'The security forces are being kept in readiness in locations where they occurred,' he said.

According to Republika (7 April), the troubles started when young people of one of the contesting parties tried to remove the election symbol of another party. This led to physical clashes which grew worse as youths of the other party tried to remove the symbols of the first party. The papers don't identify the parties but it is not difficult to conclude that the clashes were between the Muslim PPP which is known to have massive support in the city and GOLKAR which is trying to assert its superiority in a Muslim stronghold, ahead of the elections due on 29 May.

Some local residents in the Buaran district where the trouble erupted say that many of those who started the trouble were outsiders and unknown locally.

The local authorities said seven people had been arrested, of whom two were likely to be charged. A number of people were injured in the clashes.

While it was said that things were now back to normal, a number of shops remained closed.

[From the sketchy reports available, it would appear that this is a conflict between PPP supporters and GOLKAR. There appears to be no suggestion that the crowds attacked Chinese shops or churches as has happened in other cities in Java.]