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Party rivalry sparks new wave of rioting

South China Morning Post - April 9, 1997

Jenny Grant and Agencies in Jakarta – Troops were called out in the town of Pekalongan yesterday as political violence flared again.

"Armed soldiers are stationed in the town. Many shops are closed today because the owners are afraid of fresh violence," said one resident.

Hundreds of people, apparently supporters of the Muslim-oriented United Development Party (PPP), attacked a housing estate mostly inhabited by civil servants late on Monday night.

Civil servants usually support the ruling Golkar party.

"A number of motorcycles were burned, but there were no reports of injuries or arrests," said another resident.

Yesterday the PPP accused Golkar of provoking unrest as part of a strategy to win back two seats it lost to the PPP at the last elections.

"Pekalongan and Pasuruan are strongholds of the PPP. With Golkar bringing preachers and popular singers to those areas, it is provoking the sympathies of PPP members," said Hadimulyo, a PPP executive.

The PPP clinched between 43 and 45 per cent of the votes in Pekalongan, Central Java and Pasuruan, East Java, in the 1992 elections.

Riots have rocked Pekalongan, 300 kilometres east of Jakarta, four times in the past two weeks.

The unrest was sparked two weeks ago when Golkar cadres tore down the green flags of the PPP before a Golkar-sponsored pop concert and replaced them with yellow flags.

On Sunday, hundreds of Muslims returning from an evening prayer session in Pekalongan burned motorcycles, ransacked factories and tore down Golkar flags. Riots have also hit the Central Java towns of Rembang and Temanggung, motivated by similar inter-party tensions.

In Rembang a group of locals, thought to be Golkar supporters, destroyed the stage at a PPP anniversary celebration in apparent retaliation for a Golkar stage burning in Pekalongan.