APSN Banner

Anti-violence demonstrations on rights day

Kompas - December 11, 1998

Jakarta - Uproarious anti violence demonstrations were held to commemorate the Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations half a century ago on Thursday (10/12) in the capital. On the whole the action went by in a peaceful manner, even though it was joined in by thousands of students, activists, housewifes, professional people, researchers and reporters. It was not just a peaceful affair, the affair became a gross theatrical act.

Small incidents caused by instigators, took place at several locations, like Pejambon. They were quickly suppressed by students and security troops. The relatively peaceful situation was made possible because both sides, demonstrators as well as security troops, kept a tight lid on their emotions.

The Student Action Front for Reformation and Democration (Famred) resorted to sympathetic and attractive ways to break through the military cordon at the roundabout of Hotel Indonesia without getting into a clash with security men. The students achievement were applauded and encouraged with jubilant roars from the public, while a number of security men stood by and shook their heads in disbelief. This was the largest demonstration since the Special Session of the People's Consultative Assembly in the middle of November 1998. Different from the recent actions in the capital, yesterday's demo went by without security men having to arrest people.

Keeping to the anti violence theme and respect of human rights, the crowd also consisted of various groups, each keeping to their own theme. A few to mention were, demands to settle human rights violations in Aceh, East Timor and Irian Jaya, by activists from the respective regions.

Besides this, students were still clamoring for bringing Soeharto to trial, the abolution of ABRI's dual role, responsibility of ABRI (armed forces) leaders for the Trisakti and Semanggi Tragedies. The slow followup on these demands, have hardened the theme of a group of students, from total reformation into "revolution."


The roundabout of Hotel Indonesia filled up with demonstrators from 10.00 in the morning. Hundreds of laborers, becak drivers, the poor who called themselves Poor People of the City, came into action.

Demonstrators in the front lines carried black colored dolls, resembling burned corpses of the May riots. Behind them followed hundreds of poor people clad in various traditional clothing. They started to move towards the Monas region and decorated the Ardjuna statue with the black dolls.

After them followed the action of professionals, reporters, researchers, NGO activists, female activists, and various other groups. They too made an interesting scene. Two giant flowers made of red and black cloth were paraded by the colorful flag and banner waving crowd. Female activists were dressed in white and released assorted colored baloons in the air.

After some time, thousands of Famred students appeared from a side road next to Plaza Indonesia mall. Behind a spear wielding group, students in orange jackets, armed with orange colored bamboo shields and phony rifles made of banana trunks, were leading the ranks.

They moved slowly. The spear wielding troops advanced towards the barricade of Marines and Kostrad troops. However, unexpectedly, the car on which students were holding a speech followed by thousands students, moved around the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, right into the lines of the spear wielding demonstrators.

Three lines of spear bearers repeatedly manoevred back and fro, thereby attracting the attention of the security troops. Suddenly, they fell on the ground before the troops which brought a smile on the faces of the soldiers.

At the same time a huge crowd of students ran around the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in the direction of Jalan Thamrin. The troops scurried after them to quickly form a line. The spear bearers made once more a hilarious move. They dropped themselves to the ground and crawled towards the troops.

That was the time, when the crowd of students, running at the right, broke through the security line. Thousands of students stormed through the gap in the barricade. Security troops could not help laughing when they discovered that students had tricked them. The public, however, admired the tricks of the students which they expressed with screams of delight and applause.

On the way to the United Nations Building, a number of students approached the professional group which stood before the office, they held speeches and urged them to sing reformation songs.

In front of the United Nations Building more speeches were held. Some time after that, a number of farmers belonging to the Association of West Java Farmers, held an installation act before students. Standing on a makeshift plot of land on which was written "Land for the People", the farmers started to plant rice.

Some housewifes in sarong and kebaya (traditional blouse) accompanied the farmers with the beating sounds from paddy stampers. Heavy rain did not drain their enthusiasm. Then, all of a sudden, military trucks appeared from the direction of Monas. Hundreds of students and citizens spontaneously chased the trucks away. The students circled around toward Hotel Indonesia, for fear that a clash might happen.

On their way they met other groups, as the Aliansi Aksi Rakyat Menggugat (Alarm), Forbes, Trisakti students, en FKSMJ. The Forbes students deployed many busses and mini vans, private cars and motorbikes. They cruised safely along Imam Bonjol Road, then drove into Sudirman with the intention to go to Parliament Building. The massive crowd of students and people, moved into the course of Semanggi bridge. In front of Atma Jaya University, students scattered flowers. The Famred students entered Atmajaya campus, while others went on demonstrating until the night.

Small incident

At the Banteng Square around 1.500 people of the Islam Committee for Human Rights (KIP HAM), were holding a free forum right in front of the Department of Religion. KIP HAM stated that the nation was in danger of serious threats from anti-Islam groups.

After the KIP HAM group had issued their warning, students of the Student Action and People for Human Rights (Amarah) assembled in front of Hotel Borobudur. They were immediately stopped by security troops who foiled their plan to go to the Palace. Two armored cars were ready. When the troops had made a line in front of the trucks, students up front tried to push their way through the human barricade. The incident died down at once when student coordinators calmed the public.

Not long after that, a shuffle started again when an instigator was caught hitting the hand of one of the students. Students caught the white t-shirted instigator and started to hit him. Security troops appeared on the scene which sent the students off in the direction of the Foreign Ministry. Security troops held them back, however, later four armored cars were called in. The instigator was saved by security men and driven away in a military truck.

Parliament building

A massive crowd of students who joined the Communication Forum of the Student Senate in Jakarta (FKSMJ) tried to enter Parliament Building. They drove on the toll road, whereby the toll road had to be closed for the public. Beside the Manggala Wanabakti Building, they jumped outside the toll road and gathered at the crossroad toward Grogol and Pondok Indah. Here, they were held up. As the students sat down on the road, a convoy of military cars carrying one company of the Jaya Military District Commando and tried to disperse the student crowd.

When the trucks were approaching, students stretched themselves fully on the road. The convoy stopped in front of them. The commander got out of his car and started to talk with the students. The cars turned around after that and drove away in the direction of Cawang. After spending some time on that location, the students went to Semanggi and joined their friends at the roundabout of Hotel Indonesia.

Another convoy of students, the Student Forum of Rawamangun (Formara), appeared from the Grogol area in five buses. The Fomara group stopped about one kilometer from the assembling location of the FKSMJ students. There they grouped together and started discussions among themselves.

Meanwhile, another crowd of students who joined Forum Kota, also went up to Parliament Building. They too were cut short by riot police in front of Police Headquarters. A small incident occurred when the crowd started to push and threw with bottles of mineral water. Two students were injured in the act.

Students were then allowed to resume their trip, but were again stopped by a barricade of security troops under the flyover of Taman Ria. There they held on until 21.00 before splitting up in the evening.