APSN Banner

Fraudulent elections, the people angered, seven shot by military

Liberation - June 16, 1997

The vulgar and blatant election fraud by the government, election administrators and the military to ensure a victory for the Golkar's sole majority is no longer being tolerated by the people. Protests have erupted everywhere, from peaceful demonstrations such as those by the Megawati Supporters Movement (GPM) and K-UNPAD at the headquarters of the United Development Party (PPP) [posted in a previous asietnew-l posting] to violent demonstrations such as the killing of a head vote counter in Sukabumi, burning down his house.

There were also protest actions at opportunistic PPP functionaries themselves, such as the protest by PPP cadre in Semut which demanded that the chair of PPP Semut resign because they wanted to accept the election results.

On Friday, June 13, thousands of people supporting the PPP in Jember, East Java held a protest action over the elections. This action eventually developed into mass rioting, at 12.15 pm. Why did it turn into a riot? Because there had been a number of previous protest against the fraudulence of the elections but they had received no positive response. The masses who had finished their Friday prayers became even more emotional and rallied to the local government offices two kilometers away. The crowd swelled as others arrived from different areas.

The protesters unfurled banners which read "District head: please listen to the voice of the people" and "Democratic justice or destruction!". A number of the participants in the action carried weapons such as traditional knives and stones.

In the end the masses surrounded the Jember government offices and pelted it with stones. They were able to get in by breaking down the front gate of the office. In the end the offices were destroyed by the masses.

In this action, seven people were shot by the military and three soldiers were seriously wounded after they were severely beaten and hit with rocks. One of those who was shot died. The remainder are being cared for at the Jember army hospital. Three hundred others were arrested by the military.

A local military commander, Lieutenant-Colonal Djasmib Senos from Dandim 0824 became the target of the masses. One of the demonstrations carrying a Keris (a traditional knife) tried to stab him. But the oppressor of the people was able to escape. One of the protesters apparently tried to throw a rock as large as a fist at his chest. The rock throwing by the masses happened when their emotions boiled over after one of the demonstrators was shot and hit in the groin.

Police Captain J. Panjaitan who was also in the field was shot by one of his own subordinates. He had do be taken to the Jember hospital and is still in intensive care.

By Saturday, Jember was still in the grip of the demonstrations. The shops and offices closed. The people were still considering the possibility of a much larger follow-up action while the military continued to stand guard. KH Sodiq Fikri, a religious figure and head of the Riyadlush Sholihin Islamic school warned his followers not to combat evil with evil. He also regretted the actions of the soldiers who fired causing a feud with the people.

Fikri also regretted the attitude of the Jember local government which took no clear action against those who carried out the election fraud. "If the local government had acted decisively, yesterdays incident would not have occurred" he said. He also added that one of the triggers of the riot was the arrogance of those who carried out the election fraud who are now walking about freely in society when they should be arrested.

Another religious figure, HM Madini Faruq considered that the riot was the climax of a series of previous incidents expressing the people protest in the face of fraudulence in the conduct of the elections. (From Harian Merdeka and Terbit).

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski]