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Gus Dur supporters burn Golkar offices SURABAYA - The anger of President Abdurrahman Wahid's supporters boiled over on Wednesday when they torched Golkar Party offices in Surabaya, Mojokerto and Malang, all in East Java. In protest at the censuring of the President by the House of Representatives (DPR) over the Bulog and Brunei financial scandals, tens of thousands of the President's supporters continued to vent their anger publicly.
Arriving from Pasuruan, Situbondo, Gresik, Mojokerto and towns on the island of Madura, the President's supporters marched to the Surabaya Golkar office on Jl. Kertamanunggal at about 2:30 p.m. Some of them started to pelt the building with stones before hundreds of them stormed onto the grounds and started to ransack the building under the gaze of the security forces. The security forces fired warning shots but these failed to deter the attackers.
They set the building ablaze as well as two Toyota Kijang vans parked in the grounds. The building was reduced to a charred ruin within the space of two hours as two fire engines were prevented by the mobs from approaching the scene. At the same time, other Golkar Party offices in Mojokerto and in the regency of Dau, Malang, were also set ablaze by mobs. Six people, including two policemen and four reporters, were injured in Wednesday's disturbances in Surabaya.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) condemned the attacks on the journalists, saying that such actions were unacceptable. East Java is the home to Abdurrahman's supporters. The anarchy brought Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, to a halt. The streets were mostly deserted as shops closed for the day. The city's main thoroughfares, such as Jl. Urip Sumohardjo, Jl. Pahlawan, Jl. Raya Darmo, Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Basuki Rachmat were quiet. However, residents, including housewives and children, enjoyed watching the demonstrators' from the sidewalks.

Price to pay

Responding to the escalating anger of his supporters in East Java, the President reiterated later on Wednesday his calls for restraint among his supporters. "I truly call on the people to exercise restraint," Abdurrahman told a snap press briefing at the Merdeka Palace. He said, however, that the attack on Golkar's office in Surabaya earlier in the day was "understandable" and was "the price everybody has to pay for democracy".
"It (the attack) has shown that the people are really outraged by what has been perpetrated by the House," said the President, referring to attempts being made in the House to bring forward a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly. "The incident is actually a sad lesson for all of us and this should not be allowed to continue," Abdurrahman added. He then called on the media not to publish provocative statements that would only exacerbate the tension between his supporters and their political opponents.
Golkar Party chairman Akbar Tandjung, after a late night meeting in Jakarta with party regional chapter representatives, said the party "regrets and condemns" the attacks. "We call on the security forces to take resolute action and prevent the destruction of Golkar property. "Since the attackers claim to be supporters of the President, we call on President Abdurrahman Wahid to make a statement to calm the situation in East Java," Akbar said, adding that it was the constitutional duty of the President to ensure order and security across the country.
Akbar said that the party would file an action against the government, the police and the "anarchists", stressing that Golkar was an officially registered and legal party. Separately on Wednesday night, Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when asked stated that at this current juncture the central government could not declare a state of emergency in the affected areas.
"It will be up to the administrations in those areas to decide," he remarked after chairing a ministerial meeting on political and security affairs. Also in Jakarta, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of Golkar, Yasril Ananta Baharudin, urged the police to take firm measures against those attacking Golkar offices. "If this happens again and the East Java Police chief is unable to handle it, we will consider him to have failed in the performance of his duty and will thus ask the government to replace him," Yasril warned.
During Wednesday's meeting with the House of Representatives defense and information commission, National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro, said that the police lacked sufficient personnel to handle the situation in East Java. Meanwhile, thousands of students flocked to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Jakarta, repeating their demands that the President step down. Braving the rain, the students marched to Merdeka Palace to voice their aspirations.
In Yogyakarta, some 7,000 supporters of Gus Dur took over Jl. Malioboro to call for the dissolution of the Golkar Party, which they said had masterminded the recent political chaos. They also demanded that Akbar quit his post as House speaker. Police said, however, that everything remained under control. In Bandung, hundreds of Gus Dur supporters attacked the Islamic Students' Association (HMI) secretariat on Jl. Sabang.
The demonstrators broke windows in the building, but no clashes were reported. In the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar, anti-Abdurrahman feeling was still evident on Wednesday when a group of students condemned the vandalism conducted by Gus Dur's supporters. In Semarang, some 50 students from the Indonesian Muslim Students' Association took to the streets, shouting that Gus Dur, Megawati Soekarnoputri (the Vice President), Amien Rais and Akbar Tandjung were all traitors to the nation. In Kendal, thousands of Gus Dur supporters blocked the roads, causing traffic jams on the northern coastal route that lasted for three hours. They demanded that Gus Dur stay in office until 2004 and that the Golkar Party be disbanded.

Posted in Violence @ 08 February 2001 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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