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Demonstrators in Surabaya burn effigy of Akbar Tanjung

Tempo Interactive - February 12, 2004

Surabaya – Around 100 students held a demonstration in front of the Grahadi State building in Surabaya, East Java, on Thursday February 12. They were demanding that the Supreme Court reject the appeal by [Golkar Party chief] Akbar Tanjung in the corruption case involving 40 billion rupiah of Bulog (State Logistics Agency) non-budgetary funds. During the action, the demonstrators burnt an effigy of Tanjung.

Students had been gathering in front of the Grahadi State building since 10am. The group, calling themselves the Poor People’s Struggle Front (Front Perjuangan Rakyat Miskin, FPRM) includes members of the People’s Democratic Party (Partai Rakyat Demokratik, PRD), the National Peasants Union (Serikat Tani Nasional, STN), the National Student League for Democracy (Liga Mahasiswa Nasional untuk Demokrasi, LMND) and the Indonesian National Labour Front for Struggle (Front Nasional Perjuangan Buruh Indonesia, FNPBI). They were also joined by around 20 members from the United Indonesian Muslim Student Action (Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia, KAMMI).

While waiting for Supreme Court’s verdict on Tanjung’s appeal, the students gave speeches and sang songs on Jalan Gubernur Suryo. As well as effigies of Tanjung, they also brought a chicken cage with a Golkar T-shirt inside it. Outside of the cage was the writing “A home for Akbar” and a poster which read “Jail the corrupter”.

The climax of the action occurred at 12noon when students burnt a 1.5 meter cardboard effigy of Tanjung, which they set fire to starting with his socks. As the flames spread over the effigy, the continued to sing “Hang… hang… hang the corrupter… just hang the corrupter now”.

Following this, the students then set fire to the chicken cage while singing “Goodbye, goodbye, just disband Golkar. What good is Golkar, what good is Golkar, Golkar is of no use”. They then jumped up and down on the burning cage.

In the same location, a demonstration with the same theme was organised by the Unitomo Student Advocacy Forum (Forum Advokasi Mahasiswa Unitomo). They had four demands, that the Supreme Court sentence Akbar Tanjung, that the Golkar party be disbanded, that corruption, collusion and nepotism be eliminated and for a motion of no confidence in the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-president Hamzah Haz who in their view are incapable of overcoming the country’s problems.

Meanwhile, the secretary of the Golkar Party Surabaya branch, Erick R. Tahalele, said that whatever the Supreme Court’s decision was it would not influence the Golkar Party’s struggle. “The Golkar Party is not dependent upon one figure. We are big because of the strength of the organisation’s supporters which reaches down to the grass roots”, he asserted.

However, the Golkar Party’s number 1 legislative candidate for the electoral district of Surabaya I also added that if the Supreme Court decides to free Tanjung, his party would feel relived. “During the campaign, we won’t be hit by this heavy burden”, said Tahalele accusingly when he was met at the Tempo News Room at the Golkar Party Surabaya headquarters on Jalan Adityawarman.

Conversely, if the Supreme Court decides that Tanjung is guilty, Tahalele was convinced that his party will be able to replace its general chairperson before the elections are held.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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