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Fresh Clashes between Party Supporters

Straits Times - April 9, 1997

Susan Sim, Semarang – Troops were called out to guard a housing estate in the coastal city of Pekalongan yesterday following fresh clashes between supporters of rival political parties.

Seven houses were damaged when about 100 youths went on a rampage in the Tina Griya housing estate late on Monday night, a resident of an Islamic boarding school in the area told The Straits Times.

"I don't know who they are. They could have been from Golkar or the United Development Party," he said.

More than 100 soldiers were now guarding the estate, while many residents had fled, he said.

Most of the residents were civil servants, who by tradition are supporters of ruling party Golkar. Their attackers were re-portedly from the Muslim-based PPP, which considers the city of 125,000 people its stronghold. The clash on Monday night, the latest in a series of politically-motivated violence in the past 10 days, left other residents in the batik-producing city, about 65 km from here, feeling tense.

Although no troops were deployed in the city itself as police insisted that the situation was secure, some residents said they were still afraid.

Many left work early yesterday and returned home.

Meanwhile, the authorities described a riot in the early hours of last Sunday here as a "misunderstanding". Hundreds of PPP supporters had attacked several shops in the Buaran district and torched 15 vehicles.

"Seven rioters were arrested but only two of them will be taken to court," Pekalongan police chief Colonel Solichin was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying.

Thirty people are presently serving jail terms for damaging and vandalising 60 buildings, mostly owned by local ethnic Chinese, after thousands of PPP supporters went on the rampage, angered by the removal of their party banners by Golkar supporters.

Over the weekend, clashes were also reported in two other Central Java towns. Youths from Golkar and PPP fought in Temanggung, some 65 km south of Semarang, late on Sunday afternoon, a resident told The Straits Times.

Formerly a PPP stronghold, the tobacco-producing town crossed over to Golkar in the last general election and yellow Golkar banners now hang in every available space.

Reports said seven motorcycles, one car and a house were damaged, but calm was restored quickly.

In Rembang, 150 km east of Semarang, riots broke out after Golkar supporters torched a stage to be used for a religious sermon to com-memorate the PPP's 24th anniversary. One PPP supporter was stabbed during the violence.

Over the past few months, sporadic violence has broken out in several areas in Java. Several major riots in Situbondo, Tasikmalaya and Rengasdengklok last year and early this year also claimed several lives and billions in damage.