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Mega-Bintang masses rebel, palace almost attacked

SiaR - 19 May, 1997

Jakarta, the army and anti-riot solders backup and allowed youths, members of a Golkar mass organisation to attack and destroy homes and shops of people who were believed to resident's of the pro "Mega-Bintang-Rakyat" coalition. The army also allowed the youths to attack and throw rocks at PPP convoys. This became the trigger for a Jakarta and surrounds for the last two days, Saturday (17/5) and Monday (18/5).

For two days the riot around Jalan Matraram Raya, the alliance between the army and "kolong" youths – a term for youths living in military complexes – were clearly seen. Unhampered, youths from the Zeni Berlan Complex are supporters of Golkar stoned local peoples' houses in Palmeriam were supporters of PPP live. As a result, not only local peoples' houses got attacked, but also surrounding shops. During the attack, the Berlan youths armed themselves with bricks and rocks, and a group of people with short hair and large bodies continuously gave commands and encouragement.

A conflict almost occurred between these youths which were backed up by anti-riot troops and soldiers from the marines who arrived later to help to secure the situation, because the marines prevented and dispersed the Golkar mass organisation youths who were busy stoning the residents.

"Dammit, why are they being left to destroy things" said a marine indicating the anti-riot and army solders in the location of the riot. A number of the marines were angry and pushed and pointed their batons towards the Golkar mass organisation youths. This obviously surprised the youths, while the army soldiers who were backing them up did not have the courage to do anything.

Near the Zeni complex on Jl Mataran is located offices of the Komite Nasional Pemuda Indonesia (Indonesian National Youth Committee, KNPI). During the riot on Saturday, the youths gathered at this office. Together they yelled "Viva Golkar... Just shoot them" when the anti-riot troops fired tear gas in the direction of the "Mega-Bintang" masses who were 3/ intercepted at the intersection of Jl Urip Sumohardjo, Jl Otista and Jl Matraman Raya. Before this, the "Mega-Bintang" masses held a march at around 3pm which started from Jl Dewi Sartika. They carried banners reading "Mega-Bintang Are The Peoples Aspirations So They Will Surly Triumph", "Ibu Mega in Prayer Blessings From You, I Entrust My Vote To PPP-Mega Yes", "Don't be Jealous, Mega-Bintang-The People are United". The masses were blockaded by fully armed anti-riot troops at Jl Otista in front of the Koinonia Church, Jatinegara [South Jakarta]. But the large crowd was able to break through the blockade.

The security forces had already prepared themselves in ranks at the traffic light intersection before entering Jl Matraman Raya. Approaching the masses though the rail bridge at Jatinegara, the security forces provoked them [the demonstrators] by firing machine guns into the air. The masses were also shot at with tear gas.

The crowd were forced to retreat. But unexpected by the security forces, the masses resisted with an intifada as don by the Palestine people facing the Zionist Israeli soldiers. A "war" occurred between the masses armed with rocks fighting the anti-riot police who rained tear gas on them. The battle ended as call to sunset prayers approached.

The security forces taking sides could also be seen on Saturday (17/5) when a PPP convoy passed the Kebayoran Lama Defence and Security complex which was also attacked and pelted with rocks by youths from the complex. Security personnel who were on guard just ignored this. The actions of the Defence and Security Complex youth which was ignored by Security Personnel then turned their anger on the "Mega-Bintang" masses. The result was that for the entire day, many shops, a bank, a police station and the South Jakarta Civil Service Institute offices were attacked and damaged by the masses.

"Don't blame us if we attack police stations and government offices. There is the source of all of the injustice and oppression that has happened until now", shouted a "Mega-Bintang" supporter during the rioting. The riot spread as far as Jl Ciputat Raya and Pondok Pinang.

The peoples' anger apparently was still blazing until the next day when it was Golkar's turn to hold a rally. In Pondokpinang, local youths stopped a Golkar convoy, then forced the Golkar masses to take of their shirts and other Golkar paraphanalia. "We don't want you to be fooled, for the sake of 15,000 Rupiah. You should joint with us to fight injustice, if that succeeds you will get two thousand times as much" said an older "Mega-Bintang" supporter giving instructions to remove the Golkar T-shirt worn by one of the youths. The Pondokpinang "Mega-Bintang" masses who were also angry set fire to Golkar banners and flags.

The worst rioting on Saturday was when thousands of "Mega-Bintang" masses returned home from campaigning – who were on foot or driving vehicles – tried to enter the area around the State Palace on Jl Merdeka Utara. Apparently the "Mega-Bintang" masses were to give "a show of strength" in front of the palace repeating the "success" of last May 11. The thousands of people were stopped by security forces before Jl Veteran. Anti-riot police and soldiers were forced to fire shots in the air and use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Not of the mainstream mass media reported the riot near Jl Veteran because of sensitivities about the security of the head of state and the presidential palace.

Although the riot had already approached the area of the state police, police chief Maj-Gen Hamani Nata who was observing the riot in the Jl Tambak area, told reporters that the riots which had occurred were a normal part of the campaign. "If it's not like that its not festive" he said. This was quite surprising, because the conglomerate Sofyan Wanandi had said that if riots continue to occur it was possible that in a specific time period it would cause concern to capital. "It is not impossible that capital flight will occur" he said at the time.

Hamami Nata's unclear statement, may indicate that there are efforts by the security forces themselves to create a "frame" towards a chaotic situation, which could rock the Suharto government which is already 30 years old. Like last week (Friday, 16/5), when thousands of Megawati supporters held a "Golput" [White Movement, boycott] rally in Bogor [West Java] and held an action removing Soerjadi [the government installed head of the PDI] supporters T-shirts, yelling not just: "Viva Megawati", but also "Viva Red-White Armed Forces", watch out for the military leadership and the police guard". At this action appeared the paranormal Ki Gendeng Pamungkas and Permadi SH.

Apparently the period approaching 1998 is a transitional period to advance toward an Indonesia which is more democratic. According to a SiaR business source, more than 70 percent of capital is by stages being moved overseas. Friction is occurring between the civil and military elite. Sofyan Wanandi's warning, the attitude of the marines who were not compromised in confronting the Golkar mass organisations, along with the Bogor incident are a number of phenomena which indicate that friction is already occurring within the civil and military elite.

[Translated by James Balowski. "Mega-Bintang" refers to an alliance of Megawati Sukarnoputri supporters and pro-Megawati PPP members (Bintang - a star, the symbol of PPP)]