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Protests at Borneo parliament over fate of governor

Agence France Presse - June 22, 2000

Jakarta – A series of peaceful protests at the provincial parliament in Indonesia's West Kalimantan on Thursday forced the postponment of a meeting to decide on the fate of the governor there, an official said.

"The plenary session was postponed before noon today [Thursday] because the assembly had to deal with several protests," the Secretary of the West Kalimantan provincial parliament, Morni Sahidan, told AFP by telephone.

The session had been scheduled to decide whether the parliament would accept or reject the annual accountability speech of Governor Aspar Aswin. A rejection would lead to the dismissal of the governor.

Speaking from Pontianak, the main city in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan in Borneo, Sahidan said the protestors had been both pro-and anti-Aswin.

The first group of hundreds of people, claiming to represent the population of Pontianak district, had arrived shortly before noon and demanded to be able to meet all MPs. The MPs obliged and suspended their meeting to meet the demonstrators outside the building, he said.

The protestors were in support of West Kalimantan Aspar Aswin, who has been under mounting public pressure to resign. "The protestors said that the governor's resignation would not solve the problems faced by the province," Sahidan said.

The first delegation of protestors was immediately followed by two separate demonstrations by student groups demanding Aswin's resignation, and urging authorities to immediately conduct an investigation into the death of a student last week, Sahidan said.

Calls for Aswin's resignation have redoubled since a student protestor was shot to death while returning from a peaceful protest at the parliament on June 14. Students accused security forces of having shot the victim while doctors attributed the death to the penetration of a blunt object in the head, a category that could also include a bullet.

Aswin's critics have also accused him of being incapable of addressing the problems faced by the province and of being the product of the old regime, since he was elected by the parliament while former president Suharto was still in power in 1997.

Others said Aswin has failed to bring progress and peace to the province, citing the bloody ethnic conflict that swept some districts of West Kalimantan in 1998 and left thousands dead and tens of thousands of refugees.

"Both protests were peaceful and they left the parliament after conveying their respective demands," Sahidan said. The leaders of the parliament will convene Friday to decide when the plenary session will be resumed, he added.