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Students continue with demonstrations

Jakarta Post - May 23, 1998

Jakarta – Students in many cities continued rallying for reform yesterday, with most demanding a fresh presidential election through a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and the trial of former president Soeharto for alleged abuses of power.

In Yogyakarta, thousands of students held separate rallies in university campuses, expressing gratitude for Soeharto's resignation but calling for an investigation into the alleged wealth of the former president. "Reveal, in a transparent manner, how Soeharto amassed his wealth," said one student in a rally at Indonesian Islamic University.

The same call was made separately by a group of 300 students who called themselves the People's Committee for Reform at Gadjah Mada University campus. The students said Soeharto must not be allowed to wash his hands of the policies which brought about the crisis now facing Indonesia.

"Don't let him go without facing the law," said one student in the demonstration that ended peacefully after two and half hours.

Also in the city, a group of 1,000 members of Yogyakarta Moslem Students League held a rally calling for an extraordinary session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to demand Soeharto account for his leadership and his alleged wealth.

The group also demanded that the "transitional administration" under President B.J. Habibie hold general elections within three months. They said the current MPR was a product of political engineering, and that a fresh election was needed to establish a better government.

In Surabaya, East Java, 200 students from four universities marched to the local legislative council to demand a special MPR session and legal action against Soeharto.

Calling themselves "Children of Reform", the activists said their fight had not ended with Soeharto's resignation and Habibie's appointment. They said they would continue to press for a special session and "total reform."

"A special session would be the constitutional way to transfer power, because Soeharto would then have to account for his work during his time in office," said one of the students.

In Semarang, the capital of Central Java, hundreds of female students from various universities gathered at Simpanglima Square to express gratitude for "national unity, and the peaceful and orderly transfer of the national leadership. " The students, Moslem girls wearing green veils and headbands emblazoned with "KAMMI" (Association of Moslem Students Action Front), began their rally at 11 a.m., chanting Allahuakbar (Allah the Greatest) and shalawat (praises for Prophet Muhammad).

They brought posters and banners which read: "Praise be to Allah, Soeharto resigns." The students dispersed peacefully an hour later.

In Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, around 5,000 members of the Nationalist Students Movement (GMNI) and 35 non-governmental organizations grouped in an alliance called Pro-Democracy Solidarity, held a rally at the provincial legislative council.

Orating speeches and waving banners, the youths demanded that an extraordinary session of the MPR be convened as soon as possible. Habibie's government was transitional in nature, born in an emergency, and was not in line with the Constitution.

The students also demanded that Soeharto be held accountable for mistakes made during his administration, and that the MPR investigate his alleged wealth.

The students then called on the MPR to initiate total reform in political, economic legal and social and culture fields.

The protesters made legislators Hazrul Azwar, Leo Sukardi and Aminullah Purba join their demonstration, then chased them when they attempted to leave to say their Friday prayers at the mosque.

One of the student leaders and lecturers from St. Thomas Catholic University later apologized to the Moslem legislators.