|Subject: Students plan mass protest to push Habibie
out of office
Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 09:03:20 -0500
From: "Nugent, Kevin (STP)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Indonesia warned of deepening violence Students plan mass protest to push Habibie out of office
JAKARTA (Reuters) Sept 9, 1998 - Embattled President B. J. Habibie warned yesterday of worsening social unrest in Indonesia as students vowed to step up their campaign for his ouster.
Students said Monday's demonstration at the parliament building was just a warm-up for a mass protest today when Habibie visits Indonesia's second-largest city, Surabaya.
``If need be, we will hold Habibie hostage,'' student activist Desta Fajar said.
Habibie took power in May after 32 years of autocratic rule under president Suharto. Suharto quit after days of student protests and riots sparked by a collapsing economy.
``If our economic problems cannot be solved within a short time, their influence will be felt in other areas,'' Habibie told a human rights conference.
``Social unrest will prevail,'' he said. ``Crime will rise. The feeling of being safe and tranquil will be further away. Economic poverty is one of the important factors giving rise to abuses of human rights.''
Hundreds of students were evicted from parliament early yesterday after spending over 12 hours there to demand Habibie's removal for failing to resolve the country's economic crisis.
Two students were stabbed with bayonets, five were overcome by tear gas and three suffered head injuries in the clash with security forces outside parliament, witnesses and students said.
In Surabaya yesterday, 2,000 students protested at the city police headquarters, local parliament and other government offices, calling on Habibie to quit. The students said the demonstration was only a prelude to a mass protest during Habibie's visit to the city today.
Justice Minister Muladi urged protesters to be patient.
`If our economic problems cannot be solved within a short time, their influence will be felt in other areas. Social unrest will prevail. Crime will rise. The feeling of being safe and tranquil will be further away.' - Indonesian President B. J. Habibie
``We need time and we ask for the chance to improve the situation,'' he said. ``We have to be realistic because we have just been in the job for 100 days, but we have done a lot.'' In fact, there's little Habibie can do to appease Indonesians, the bulk of them facing a future of abject poverty, analysts said yesterday.
Habibie faces the dilemma of printing money for more subsidies or toughing it out and watching violence escalate, said Tom Inglis, head of research at ING Barings.
Analysts said the political uncertainty is bound to remain while parliament later this month debates new election laws, meant to bring a new era of democracy to Southeast Asia's largest country.
Indonesia's currency, the rupiah, yesterday fell victim to the student protests, dropping more than 8 per cent against the U.S. dollar.
``The market can ignore trouble in the provinces, but not when it returns to Jakarta,'' one currency dealer said.
In Central Java, looting continued yesterday in the town of Kebumen, but there was no repeat of Monday's riots in which 20 Chinese-owned shops were burned, residents said.
``About 400 people have stolen everything in several shops,'' a witness said.
Ethnic Chinese are often the targets of mob violence in the Muslim-majority country of 200 million because of their perceived wealth.
In a related development, Human Rights Watch called on the Indonesian government to stop discrediting allegations of mass rapes, primarily of ethnic Chinese women, during the May riots. At least 1,200 people were killed in Jakarta that month and thousands of shops and cars were looted or torched.
Human Rights Watch said government officials who denied rapes took place had made already reluctant victims less likely to come forward to report sex crimes.
``Ethnic Chinese women have many reasons for not going to the police, including . . . widespread belief that security forces were involved in the May violence,'' the London-based group said.
Human rights activists and non-governmental organizations estimate at least 150 women were raped during the Jakarta riots.
Armed forces chief Gen. Wiranto said last month investigations had found no evidence to support claims of rape in 103 cases it had examined.