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Shades of Soeharto in Jakarta round-up

Sydney Morning Herald - November 17, 1998

Louise Williams and Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta – Claims that opposition figures were guilty of inciting rebellion meant the Habibie Government was now "panicking" and had lost all its remaining legitimacy, a former environment minister, Mr Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, said yesterday.

Ten opposition figures were detained yesterday over a communique last week in which they called for President B.J. Habibie to be replaced by a caretaker "presidium" until elections next year.

The daughter of Indonesia's founding President Soekarno, Ms Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, three retired generals and six other opposition figures were detained by police for questioning under summonses issued over the weekend. The summonses appeared to target the opposition Barisan National (National Front), which issued the communique and is being blamed for provoking the student demonstrations last week.

However, student leaders have denied they are being manipulated by the front and say their protests were independent.

A National Front spokesman, retired Lieutenant-General Bambang Triantoro, said the opposition figures were detained on suspicion of committing subversive acts, the same legal weapon former President Soeharto used against political dissidents. "Subversion is an act to change the basic law using armed rebellion. We don't use guns, what we support is a movement to enact the Constitution and democracy in Indonesia."

Mr Sarwono, in an interview with the Jakarta Post, said: "It is a folly on the part of the Government. It has cornered itself with the use of violence and by pitting civilians against civilians.

"Now they are trying to lay the blame on the National Front ... the Government has lost all of its remaining legitimacy."

Ms Sukmawati, the sister of popular pro-democracy figurehead, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, was one of the petition's signatories and was detained following the questioning late on Sunday night of the deputy treasurer of Megawati's Parti Demokrasi Indonesia (PDI), Mr Meilono Soewondo.

Former Jakarta Governor and prominent Soeharto critic, retired Lieutenant-General Ali Sadikin, and the former chief of the Army Strategic Reserve, retired Lieutenant-General Kemal Idris were also questioned. General Kemal is the leader of the National Front, which is dominated by retired military officers.

Another former political prisoner and opposition politician, Sri Bintang Pamungkas, was summonsed on Sunday night under sections of the Criminal Code which deal with "inciting rebellion against the legitimate Government".

As students met yesterday to plan their next strategies a Government Minister, Mr Juwono Sudarsono, warned that unnamed groups were working to pit trouble-makers against students. Mr Sudarsono, the Minister for Education and Culture, urged the academic community to consolidate and abide by the law when staging demonstrations which are expected to resume this week.

A student leader at Jakarta's Trisakti University, Mr Alwi Assegaff, 22, said he believed the trouble-makers had been recruited by elements of the Government which wanted to create chaos and give the military an excuse to crack down on anti-Government groups demanding political reforms.

Yesterday students distributed leaflets repeating demands for former President Soeharto to be put on trial for corruption, Defence Minister and head of the armed forces, General Wiranto, to be brought to account for excessive force used by soldiers last Friday and Saturday and for the military's role in civilian affairs to be reduced.