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Housewives join protests

Jakarta Post - April 18, 1998

Jakarta – Huge numbers of students in many cities were kept up their fervent protests for lower prices and sweeping reforms yesterday with housewives in one city helping to boost the rallies.

In Surabaya, the capital of East Java, around 10,000 students from 16 local universities assembled at the Sepuluh November Institute of Technology demanding economic and political reform, new national leadership and an end to nepotism, collusion and corruption.

The students also marched three kilometers through kampongs, where residents, especially housewives, joined in yelling for affordable prices of basic essentials. Motorists also stopped and joined the crowd.

Agung Febriyadi, one of the student protesters, said: "This proves that masses of people are suffering. The people and the students must unite to stand up against the corrupt."

Hundreds of security personnel kept watch on the proceedings but kept their distance. The crowd dispersed peacefully after several hours.

In Ujungpandang, the capital of South Sulawesi, some 16,000 students held three separate simultaneous demonstrations at Hasanuddin University, the Indonesian Muslim University and the Islamic Studies Institute. Protesters wearing their varsity jackets sat in yards under the sun listening to fiery speeches from student leaders demanding an end to corruption and collusion.

At Hasanuddin University students demanded that Minister of Education and Culture Wiranto Arismunandar resign for allegedly curtailing academic freedom. A speaker also used the platform to lash out at local officials who lived in luxury while most people were suffering from the economic crisis.

"There are officials here who have more cars than family members," said one student.

Some of the students tried to march off the campus but were effectively blocked by security personnel. At all three universities school administrators were seen mingling with the students.

Job security

In Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, thousands of students and alumni of the Medan Teachers Training Institute held a noisy rally demanding not only lower prices and economic and political reform but also job security. In a free-speech forum, the students decried a report that the Ministry of Education and Culture would not recruit new teachers this year. "What are we going to do after we graduate?" one speaker said.

A spokesman of the teachers college expressed concern over the reported plan, pointing out that only last week the college graduated 1,226 new teachers.

In Jakarta, activists from the Association of Moslem Students and students of Yarsi University, and their counterparts at the Islamic medical school held separate demonstrations. They also marched down some streets under the watchful eyes of the military.

In Surakarta, Central Java, some 1,500 Sebelas Maret University students held a demonstration after Friday prayers and were involved in a scuffle with hundreds of security personnel. Five students were injured in the stone throwing started by the students. Police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowd.

In Yogyakarta, around 100 students of the Indonesian Islamic University held a demonstration on their campus. Student leaders gave speeches critical of the government's development policies.

"The crisis that is affecting Indonesia now is the fruit of 30 years of development that neglected the people," one student said.

The students also demanded a succession of the national leadership and the formation of a new cabinet which was more accommodating of people's aspirations. The demonstration concluded peacefully.

In Jakarta, the military, City Police and rectors and their assistants from several universities agreed to limit student rallies on campuses for security reasons.

The agreement was reached after a meeting between Jakarta Police Chief Maj. Gen. Hamami Nata, Jakarta Military Commander Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, and administrators of, among others the University of Indonesia and the Jakarta Teachers Training Institute.

In a media briefing following the meeting, Hamami said students who continued to rally on the streets would be charged under Article 510 of the Criminal Code for conducting street rallies without the necessary police permit. The maximum penalty is two weeks in detention.

The rally could disturb public order and create traffic jams, he said, referring to student rallies which had spilled over onto the streets over the past few days.

Sjafrie warned certain groups against pushing their own agendas by exploiting the student rallies. He identified the groups only as "Indonesia's opposition movement network."

"This network is trying to take advantage of all elements in society who are prejudiced against the current situation," he said, adding that the military was currently investigating the organization.