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Students to resume rallies after Idul Fitri

Jakarta Post - January 12, 1999

Jakarta – Student movement groups have vowed to take to the streets of the capital again shortly after the Idul Fitri holidays to voice their strong objections to this year's planned general election, their leaders said Monday.

During the rallies, the groups also intend to continue restating their irrevocable demands particularly regarding the trial of former president Soeharto, the establishment of a transitional government, an end to the Armed Forces' dual function and the resignation of President B.J. Habibie.

Speaking in a media conference, the student leaders, representing at least nine major student organizations, jointly pledged that they would only stop raising their demands on the streets when a "New Indonesia" is established.

The meeting at the Indonesian Christian University (UKI) in Cawang, East Jakarta, was attended by leaders of – among other groups – the Big Family of the University of Indonesia (KBUI), the Jakarta Front, the Communication Forum of Jakarta Student Senates (FKSMJ) the City Forum (Forkot), the Independent Front of Gunadarma University Students (FIMA), the Collective Forum (Forbes) the Committee of Students and People for Democracy (Komrad) and the Students and People Forum (Fomara). The representatives grouped themselves together as the Committee of United Students (KMB).

"Essentially, we are demanding a new government and a new system," Mohammad Sofyan alias Ian from the Committee of Students and People for Democracy told the media briefing. The students planned also to encourage the general public to join their street protests. "We don't have money. We don't even have media to draw public attention to our demands. So our choice of action is to take to the streets," City Forum spokesman Eli Salomo said.

According to the student leaders, they wanted Habibie to step down to give way to a transitional government which would take his place and prepare for a credible general election. They said they strongly rejected the scheduled general election in June this year as they believed that it would not be carried out freely and fairly.

"The main problem is that the current government and legislators were elected under defective laws. How can we expect them to hold a free and honest election?" asked Indra Parindrianto of the Jakarta Students Senate.

His colleague Eli added: "We don't believe the current government and legislators can alter their behavior and become more democratic in the space of only a few months.

So, we believe that the election will not bring about a democratic government as it's organized by people from the former regime." Therefore, the student leaders said they would collaborate with the ordinary people in order to pursue their hopes of a New Indonesia.

To reach this objective the students said they had organized "political education ' courses for the general public. particularly the common people, on general politics and the country's current political issues.

"We don't agitate people. We want them to have political awareness," said Ian, a student from the Institute of Social and Political Sciences (IISIP). "The people for instance would likely form their own mass organization in which they could exercise their own authority. It was of course impossible to have such an organization under the former regime," he added.

But the courses, the students said, would not prevent or seek to deter participants from voting in the upcoming general election. "We want the people to exercise their rights, including the right to vote. Either they want to participate in the election or they want to reject it, but there would not be any force from us," said Eli, a student of the National Institute of Science and Technology (ISTN).

To begin with some student groups have already initiated social research in the residential areas neighboring their campuses. Suma Mihardja from KB-UI stated that his group had set up a body called the Salemba People's Committee (KRS) which consisted mostly of youngsters living near their campus at Salemba Central Jakarta.

"We discuss with these people and give them lectures on politics. We teach them to analyze the current political situation and explain to them the political maneuvers used by the government and the reasons why we keep on protesting. We hope they can pass on their knowledge to others," he said.