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Students shrug off warnings

Straits Times - April 24, 1998

Jakarta – Thousands of Indonesian students have shrugged off repeated warnings from the authorities to keep up protest rallies across the country as 13 more people were hurt in a clash in Java, reports said yesterday.

Their ranks are being swelled by others demanding urgent economic and political reforms since the rallies started in February.

On Tuesday, students clashed with security forces, leaving seven students and six security staff injured in fighting outside Bandung Islamic University in West Java as the authorities tried to stop students from marching in the streets, the reports said.

The clash in Bandung followed a gathering of up to 1,000 students from various universities at the Islamic University, the Kompas daily said.

About 2,000 students also gathered at the Bandung Institute of Technology for an anti-violence demonstration.

In the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, about 1,000 women were allowed, after much haggling, to march briefly in the streets from the Airlangga University, Kompas said. The group, which included students, lecturers as well as Catholic nuns, nurses, housewives, factory workers and even a number of prostitutes, demanded urgent reforms and lower prices of essential goods, the Jakarta Post said.

Thousands of students in the capital also gathered at Mercu Buana University, owned by President Suharto's half-brother Probosutedjo, at Sahid University and at the Jayabaya University.

Fifteen students, frustrated by Home Affairs Minister Hartono's refusal to give them a straight answer during a government-sponsored meeting with students here on Tuesday, walked out.

"We want you, sir, to give direct and concrete answers," the Media Indonesia daily quoted a student as saying. "It is better that you hear my explanations out first. Do not just interrupt," said the minister.

Thousands of students from dozens of universities have rejected state-sponsored talks, the first of which were held with 15 Cabinet ministers last weekend.