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UI faculty members say Wiranto must resign

Jakarta Post - November 19, 1998

Jakarta – Members of the University of Indonesia faculty, in a moving eulogy to their students slain last Friday in a clash with security personnel at Atma Jaya University, blamed the tragedy on Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto and demanded that he resign.

A group of 47 respected professors – including anthropologists Koentjaraningrat and T.O. Ihromi, economist Moh. Sadli, philosopher Toety Herati Noerhadi and psychologist Saparinah Sadli – expressed their outrage in the statement made available to the media on Wednesday. "We demand that Gen. Wiranto ... be held responsible. We demand his resignation and that he be brought to trial."

They declared their support and assistance for the students campaigning for political reform. "We have been with them since May 1998 when their efforts led to the resignation of president Soeharto after 32 years in power. "We are their teachers and also their friends. We stand by them."

On Nov. 13, the last day of the Special Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), "the shocking news arrived. Some of our students had died, others were seriously injured – their blood staining the streets of Jakarta.

"We saw and heard the police and other members of the Armed Forces beating and shooting the students as if they were nothing ... It is hard to believe that this government, which proclaims itself as a true arm of reform in Indonesia, would dare to attack and kill the students who are the inspiration and the executors of this process.

"We ... demand an end to this wanton killing of our nation's youth, taking place under the present government." said the statement whose signatories also included Budisantoso, Mari Pangestu, Sjahrir and Kartini Sjahrir, Meutia Swasono, Sri Mulyani and Riga Adiwoso.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces took out advertisements in many editions of Wednesday's newspapers expressing its condolences for the deaths of at least 15 people during last week's clashes. "With deepest sincerity, we express our condolences for the deaths of students, members of the public and security apparatus during the Special Session of the People's Consultative Assembly," the advertisement read.

Student-led demonstrations against the Assembly and the slow pace of democratic reform ended in bloodshed on Friday when security forces opened fire on protesters. Most of the victims were shot dead. National Police Chief Lt. Gen. Roesmanhadi said Wednesday one security force member was among the dead.

Riots broke out in several parts of Jakarta on Saturday in the worst violence to hit the capital since the bloody May riots. An estimated 1,200 people died in the unrest which upped the pressure for Soeharto's ouster. Numerous groups have demanded that Wiranto, who is also the defense minister resign to take responsibility for the shootings. This call was voiced on Wednesday during student demonstrations in various cities.

In the East Java capital of Surabaya, hundreds of students rallied at Heroes Monument over two demands: Wiranto's resignation and an investigation into Soeharto's wealth.

The students had originally planned to hold a dialog with Governor Imam Utomo, but canceled at the last minute because they could not agree among themselves on the meeting. They continued with their free speech forum at the monument and promised to hold the rally every day until their demands were met.

In Yogyakarta, thousands of students from Sanata Dharma University and STIE economic college staged a demonstration calling for Wiranto's resignation. About 3,000 people – professors and students alike – rallied at the Sanata Dharma campus on Jl. Gegayan, expressing sadness over the death of "reform heroes".

Several speakers condemned the military's sociopolitical role, and called on students and the general public to unite in fighting "militarism and Armed Forces (ABRI) dual function."

At the STIE campus, about 700 students held a similar rally. "General Wiranto must be responsible for the bloody Semanggi incident and must resign immediately from his position as the minister of defense/Armed Forces commander," the students said in a statement.

In Ujungpandang, the capital of South Sulawesi, students from a number of universities gathered and marched down several major streets. They damaged a military vehicle they encountered during the march. Some of the student members of the Moslem Students Association (HMI) visited the headquarters of Wirabuana Regional Military and met with Commander Maj. Gen. Suaidi Marasabessy to air their demand that those responsible for the killings be held responsible.

In Jakarta, the Committee for Indonesian Workers Action Front (KAPPI) issued a statement demanding Wiranto's resignation because "he had failed in his duty".

The association also called for the establishment of a provisional legislature to replace the current House of Representatives/People's Consultative Assembly which had "openly hurt people's feelings, failed to help the people and were part of Soeharto's regime".