Jakarta – Waves of student protests critical of the government and demanding sweeping reforms were unrelenting yesterday, with clashes between students and security officers erupting on several campuses.
There was no respite in the persistent cries for the lowering of prices of basic commodities and an insistence that the government be held accountable for the economic doldrums enfolding the country.
In Jakarta, four police officers were treated for head wounds when a shower of stones was hurled by about 400 students protesting at the Syarif Hidayatullah Institute for Islamic Studies on the southern outskirts of the city.
The violence unfolded when students failed to break through a police blockade preventing them from taking their protest onto the streets. They vented their frustration by throwing stones at the police. No arrests were made, however.
City police spokesman Lt. Col. E. Aritonang said police deplored the incident and pleaded that it should be the last of such violence to happen in the capital.
Meanwhile, two other institutions, the Institute for Computer Management (STIMIK) and Tarumanegara University, according to Antara, were able to hold minor demonstrations which eventually moved onto the streets.
Students at STIMIK held a free-speech forum which heard from notable speakers including former Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin.
In the North Sumatra capital of Medan, the situation was relatively calm yesterday after the previous day in which students from Sumatra Utara University clashed with security officers.
A puff of black smoke was seen, however, as about two dozen students from Ksatria Academy of Information and Computers set fire to tires during a rally on their campus.
Long banners spread around the campus carried their statements: Reformasi Oke. Kau Perasi? Tidak Layau! (Reforms Yes. You Manipulate Us? Of course not!), ABRI=Mahasiswa=Rakyat Sama-Sama Susah (Armed Forces=Students=People Suffering Together), and Oh Tuhan, Tolong Dengar Aspirasi Kami (Oh God, Please Listen to Our Aspirations).
In a related development yesterday, the local chapter of the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) lodged a strong protest over the beating of an Antara journalist covering Wednesday's protest at the Sumatra Utara University campus.
Munawar Mundaling, 30, was allegedly beaten up by plainclothes officers despite having shown them his official press badge.
In the East Java capital of Surabaya, more than 2,000 students from several universities staged a free-speech forum and a theatrical performance on the campus of the Surabaya Teachers Training Institute (IKIP Surabaya).
The free-speech forum featured an English professor, Djoko Marhaen, who asked the students to continue their protests and keep demanding reforms in every sector of state life.
The event was witnessed by hundreds of security personnel who watched from behind a fence.
Reform fever also caught on at several campuses in which protests are a rarity.
In Yogyakarta, about 1,500 students of the military-managed Pembangunan Nasional University called on the government to faithfully implement the 1945 Constitution.
Rector Prof. Tarwotjo and deputy rector in charge of student affairs, Brig. Gen. (ret) Helmizan, were both present at the demonstration.
In Semarang, Central Java, 3,000 students from various universities gathered on the grounds of the Diponegoro University campus.
The protest also drew the attention of hundreds of nearby residents who came to watch the demonstration, where students demanded the government be held accountable for the economic predicament.
A minor clash occurred when police officers, backed by troops and several military armored vehicles, forced back students who tried to make their way to the streets. In the West Java capital of Bandung, similar student demonstrations took place in at least seven universities here--the Sunan Gunung Djati Islamic Institute, the Mandala Technical College, the Textile Technology Institute, and YPKP Economic College (STIE YPKP), and the Bandung Institute of Technology.
An estimated 1,000 students of the Bandung Institute of Technology were able to march on the street, peacefully attempting to take their protest to the nearby Padjadjaran University.
But they were later stopped by police and troops who had set up a blockade at strategic street points leading to the Padjadjaran campus. No violence was reported as they dispersed.
In Surakarta, Central Java, student activists held a free-speech forum at the Muhammadiyah Surakarta University campus calling for lower prices and immediate reforms.
The early morning rally spontaneously traveled onto the streets but security forces standing guard were lenient. They allowed them to march peacefully along the Solo-Semarang roadway.
Police officers were kept busy attempting to ease the traffic congestion caused by the rally.