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Demonstrations by Gus Dur supporters turn violent SURABAYA - Disgruntled supporters of the incumbent President Abdurrahman Wahid continued venting their anger in East Java on Monday by vandalizing the National Awakening Party (PAN) and Golkar Party offices in the town of Gresik, some 30 kilometers northwest of Surabaya. No fatalities were reported, but the police said that they had failed to curb the violent actions committed by at least 2,000 people.
Walking and riding vehicles, the people, declaring themselves as Abdurrahman's supporters converged at the gate of the Bunder-Surabaya toll road in the morning before moving down town. The enraged people, who arrived from various districts, then proceeded to Jl. Pahlawan, where the Golkar Party office is located. They simultaneously threw stones at the building, and smashed the windows with clubs. Eyewitnesses said that two policemen in charge of guarding the office could not stop the action.
The attackers, declaring themselves supporters of Gus Dur, then crossed Jl. Kartini, and started to vandalize the PAN office, which is located in the Kartini building shop/house. They also smashed the windows, broke into the building, damaging all documents and set ablaze a motorbike belonging to the PAN office. Abdurrahman's supporters had earlier accused Golkar, PAN, chaired by speaker of People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Amien Rais, and the National Development Party (PPP) of engineering the anti-Abdurrahman protests nationwide.
Gresik Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Usman Nasution confirmed the violence, admitting that his men were outnumbered by the attackers. "Police officers had tried to do their best. But what they could do was just minimize the damage. The damaged motorbike has been confiscated as evidence." The protesters finally headed for the provincial capital of Surabaya to join around 3,000 Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) supporters from Surabaya, Mojokerto, Sidoarjo and Pasuruan who had gathered at the provincial legislative council office since 8 a.m.
They made provocative speeches, condemning and threatening Amien Rais and House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Akbar Tandjung. "If Gus Dur is really toppled, Akbar and Amien must die for that," said Gus Shamud, a demonstrator from Pasuruan. His colleague Gus Suadi said he would use supernatural powers "to attack" Amien, Akbar, Fuad Bawazier and Bachtiar Chamsyah.
For NU supporters Fuad, former minister in Habibie's administration, is notorious for "his hidden role" in provoking anti-Gus Dur movements, while Bachtiar is infamous for being the chairman of the DPR's special committee on the Bulog and Brunei scandals which led to the issuance of DPR's memorandum for the President. The protesters, mostly students of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) in East Java, finally met with speaker of East Java legislature Bisri Abdul Djalil of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and other legislators.
During the meeting the legislators agreed to convey the protesters demand for the cancellation of the memorandum (for Gus Dur), the trial of Soeharto and his cronies, as well as the dissolution of Golkar. Meanwhile, the blocking of roads by Gus Dur's supporters in Malang, Probolinggo and Situbondo continued. Amid the clamorous rallies which turned violent in some places, President Abdurrahman called on his supporters to exercise restraint and avoid destructive behavior.
National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Matori Abdul Djalil told reporters after a meeting with Abdurrahman at the State Palace on Monday that Gus Dur was referring to supporters of PKB and the country's largest Muslim organization NU. "Both NU and PKB supporters have to maintain peace and order and refrain themselves from any move that will only cost the national unity," Gus Dur said as quoted by Matori. Abdurrahman denounced on Sunday efforts to dissolve Golkar, saying that the former ruling party had changed.

Central Java

Waves of people also appeared in Demak regency in Central Java, when around 25,000 NU supporters, claiming to be from the Truth and Justice Defender Front crowded the square, demonstrating their support of the incumbent President. They declared their readiness to defend Gus Dur to the end. Abdurrahman supporters were also in Semarang on Monday when a large number of students of the Walisongo Islamic Institute, the 17 Agustus University, Wahid Hasyim University, Semarang state University, Diponegoro University, Sultan Agung Islamic University, Soegiyopranoto Catholic University and some other Christian higher institutions took to the streets.
In Purwokerto, some 1,000 people took to the streets expressing their support of Abdurrahman and Megawati Soekarnoputri. They said if the MPR held a special session to impeach Gus Dur, people power (to defend Gus Dur) would reach from Banyumas to Jakarta. In Jakarta, the Muhammadyah Youth Movement protested on Monday several cases of attacks on educational institutions it runs in the East Java towns of Gresik and Situbondo, allegedly by Abdurrahman's supporters from the NU and the PKB.
The movement's chairman Nadjamuddin Ramly claimed that the attacks had caused damage to signboards of a university in Gresik, and junior and senior high schools in Situbondo. He said the vandalism took place around 10 a.m. on Monday, when hundreds of people turned up for a rally in support of Abdurrahman. Nadjamuddin also criticized the sluggish response of security apparatus to the violence.
The group's deputy chairman, Djoko Susilo, warned that if the vandalism continued, there would be no other way for Muhammadiyah youths than to take revenge. "If they cut our ears, then we will cut theirs too," Djoko told the press briefing. During the press meeting, Nadjamuddin declared the Muhammadiyah youths' support for the House in its decision to rebuke the President over his alleged involvement in two financial scandals.
The group also urged the People's Consultative Assembly to revoke its mandate given to Abdurrahman for his failure to uphold the reform movement. "Gus Dur himself is part of the problem in our reform agenda. Instead of fighting corruption, collusion and nepotism, he has practised them and failed to uphold the supremacy of law," Nadjamuddin said. Separately, National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said police are hunting people who masterminded the cutting down of trees and blocking off traffic between Situbondo and Banyuwangi in East Java.
"The action itself violates existing regulations on public order. We'll hunt the people behind the action and take necessary measures against them," Bimantoro told reporters at the National Police Headquarters.

Posted in Protests @ 06 February 2001 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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