Indonesia's Unintentional Martyrs
Slayings of Four Students Transformed a Nation
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, June 8, 1998; Page A01
JAKARTA, Indonesia-Elang Mulya Lesmana's parents first noticed changes
Elang Mulya Lesmana, 19, fatally shot at top of stairs. |
in their son at the beginning of April. He started reading newspapers,
asking questions about the country's economic decline, becoming more
politically aware. Then he brought out his dark blue university blazer
and asked his mother to sew on all the school patches, declaring,
"Starting tomorrow, I'm going to wear this every day!"
The one day Elang forgot his jacket was May 12, the day of the big
demonstration here at Trisakti University, called to demand the end of
President Suharto's 32-year-old authoritarian regime. When the
shooting started, he must have stood out at the top of the school
steps, a sole T-shirt amid a sea of dark blue blazers, waving his arms
and directing the other students to safety. That's when a sniper's
bullet ripped through his chest.
Elang, 19, was one of four Trisakti students killed that day by unseen
gunmen. Hery Hartanto, 21, was killed by a bullet in the back after he
paused during a lull in the chaos to wash the tear gas from his face
and hands with water from a plastic bottle. Henriawan, 20, was shot
twice while running, once in the back and once in the neck; he managed
to make it to the base of a flagpole in the center of the campus to
sit down and die. Hafidhin Royan, 21, a quiet young man who had never
gotten involved, died instantly when a bullet pierced his head, just
above the ear.
More than any other single incident during months of political and
economic turmoil, the shootings at Trisakti University led to the
toppling of Suharto and the emergence of a new political order in
Indonesia. The slayings triggered massive rioting here in the capital
that left more than 1,000 people dead, and they led the armed forces
to decide that Suharto had to go before the security situation in the
capital became untenable. And they added new urgency to demands across
Indonesian society for a more democratic political system.
A reconstruction of the Trisakti shootings offers a revealing look at
how and why Suharto's government collapsed so suddenly and raises
questions about the role of powerful military commanders that still
haunt Suharto's successor, President B.J. Habibie. The stories of the
slain Trisakti students show that these four average young men from
middle-class families, like many young people across this archipelago
of 204 million people, were swept up in a rapid political awakening
this spring that transformed their lives and ultimately made them
An investigation of the shootings suggests strongly they were a
deliberate act supported by hard-line military elements opposed to
reform. Interviews with students at the scene that day, including two
of those still hospitalized -- as well as friends, family members,
human rights investigators and diplomats -- indicate the shootings
were not random acts by security forces firing blindly into a crowd.
Almost all the victims, killed and wounded, were shot in the head,
neck, chest or back.
"It was not a sudden burst of fire," said a Western diplomat who also
has studied the incident. "It was slow, deliberate fire, for over an
hour, and that can be proven. . . . You're talking about targeting --
that counts for the high number of kills for the number of wounded."
On Saturday, the military announced it was charging two police
officers, 1st Lt. Agus Tri Heryanto, 29, and 2nd Lt. Pariyo, 30, of
the police anti-riot brigade, with disobeying orders and not
controlling their troops. An internal military investigation has
blamed the police for using live rounds, instead of rubber bullets,
when dispersing the students.
But police officials have denied issuing any live rounds to officers
on May 12, and defense lawyers and other Indonesian sources said they
suspect the police are being made the scapegoats for a military unit
that was really behind the Trisakti slayings.
Several sources said they suspect elite units of the army special
forces, called Kopassus, of masterminding the incident because of the
skill needed to carry out the shootings. Those units were once under
the command of Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, a tough and ambitious
officer who is also Suharto's son-in-law.
In March, Prabowo was promoted to head the much larger Army Strategic
Reserve Command in Jakarta, but he maintained his influence over the
Kopassus forces he helped train and equip, with assistance from the
"This was not an unfortunate action," said Marzuki Darusman of the
government-sponsored National Commission on Human Rights. "There was a
great deal of planning. The high degree of skill that went into
Trisakti and the sophisticated weaponry indicates only certain units
which have that," he said. He added that witnesses have come forward
suggesting that Kopassus was behind the attack.
Prabowo was relieved of his strategic reserve command after Suharto's
May 21 resignation, but he remains in the army, teaching at a staff
college in Bandung, 75 miles southeast of Jakarta. Five days after the
Trisakti shootings, and before his reassignment, Prabowo visited the
home of one of the slain students, Hery Hartanto. As Hartanto's
startled parents looked on, Prabowo took a copy of the Koran, the
Muslim holy book, held it above his head and swore before God that he
did not order the Trisakti slayings.
"It was the first time in my life I've ever seen anything like it,"
said Hartanto's father, Sjahir Mulyo Utomo, 70, a retired army 2nd
lieutenant. After that display, he said, he now believes Prabowo was
Whoever did order the killings may not have realized that the day's
violence would give a new set of martyrs to Indonesia's popular
uprising. And to those who knew them, the four who died were the
unlikeliest of heroes.
Elang Mulya Lesmana was worried about forgetting his blue Trisakti
jacket that day. Since only students were allowed in the
demonstrations, he knew that anyone without the distinctive dark blue
university blazer might be suspected of being one of the police
informants who infiltrated all such anti-government protests.
He had left at 6 a.m. for the 90-minute bus ride from his parents'
spacious home in the far southern corner of Jakarta to the Trisakti
campus in the northwest. He told his parents he was going to take a
final exam that day, the last of Trisakti's academic term.
Since the beginning of the year, Indonesian students had been mounting
steadily larger protests, demanding that Suharto resign. The unrest
was touched off by the collapse late last year of Indonesia's
currency, the rupiah, which forced a massive bailout by the
International Monetary Fund and induced a severe economic crisis
marked by massive layoffs, soaring prices and the collapse of the
But the students were not just protesting prices; they were demanding
that Indonesia embrace democracy after decades of Suharto's
authoritarianism. Trisakti University, a private institution that
attracts students from many leading Indonesian families, had recently
become a focal point of the demonstrations; students there were
pressing to move their marches off campus and into the streets of
Elang, his parents said, was an average teenager, fond of playing
basketball in the evening with neighborhood friends and playing the
guitar in a band. But his parents said they knew Elang was changing
when he began wearing his Trisakti jacket and had his mother sew on
all the patches.
"From the beginning, when he brought down that jacket and started
wearing it, he started getting up earlier, he was reading the
newspapers, he started asking questions about the fall of the rupiah,"
said his father, Bagos Yoga Nandita, 49, a graphic designer. "At the
time, I was really proud that my son was getting more involved."
Only later, when they were called to the hospital morgue to collect
Elang's body, did his parents discover that their son had become a key
student activist, organizing on behalf of the architectural school
where he studied. "Maybe he didn't want to worry his parents, so he
never told us he was going to demonstrations," said his father.
Hery Hartanto underwent a similar transformation. The son of a
Funeral Day, 13 May 1998. |
well-to-do family, he had a wide circle of friends and was always
lending money to those in need. It was in February, his parents said,
that he discovered political activism.
"I told him not to join in with the other students," said his mother,
Lasmiati. "But he was becoming very concerned about the economic
situation, so it was impossible for me to stop him from going."
At dinner conversations, Hartanto grew vocal, once saying adamantly
that Suharto had to resign. "I told him not to talk about such
things," Lasmiati recalled. He was young, his parents thought, and
The demonstration was to begin in the late morning of May 12. The
protesters were becoming bold -- encouraged, many believe, by the
armed forces' relative leniency even as they pushed their rallies
farther beyond the campus gates. This time, the students planned to
take their protest a few miles down the highway to the national
parliament building. Suharto was out of the country, attending a
conference in Cairo.
Just before 11 a.m., the red-and-white Indonesian flag in the center
of campus was lowered to half-staff, and the students, joined by
faculty members, began singing the national anthem. There was a moment
of silence, a sign of respect for the country's poor and suffering,
followed by a series of fiery speeches. The crowd was getting revved
up for the march.
Hafidhin Royan didn't care much for demonstrations. A reserved
engineering student who never got involved in the campus protests,
Hafidhin had come to school that day only to finish his assignments
before returning to his home town, Bandung, for the summer break. He
had told his mother he was going home on May 13.
When he arrived at Trisakti, Hafidhin found that all classes and exams
had been canceled because of the demonstration. He could have left
then. But friends say Hafidhin was a follower, not a leader. He stuck
around, "out of solidarity with the students," said his engineering
school classmate, Agung.
Just after noon, students noticed that security forces were gathering
on an elevated toll road that swings past the campus as it winds
toward Jakarta's international airport. Some became angry. Elang was
Elang told a friend he wanted to go home because he was feeling
"uncomfortable" about the demonstration. Another friend said he was
going off to pray, but Elang stopped him. "If you go pray, we may
never see you again," Elang said.
Then the friends threw their arms around one another and posed for a
photograph -- Elang without his blue jacket.
Just before 1 p.m., students began moving out of Trisakti's main gates
en route to parliament. Hafidhin turned to Agung, his classmate, and
said, " 'Gung, we shouldn't move out, we shouldn't go. We'll get
shot!" The friends became separated.
On the street outside there was a lengthy standoff, with two rows of
riot police, later backed by truckloads of reinforcements, refusing to
let the students pass.
For hours, the students alternately negotiated with police to be
allowed to move and sat on the pavement in protest. They made
speeches, sang patriotic songs unable to move forward, refusing to
retreat. They held their ground through a brief but heavy downpour.
Henriawan had already gone home at 2 that afternoon; his uncle,
Subanning, saw him talking with other neighborhood youths. Then,
without saying a word to his uncle, Henriawan went back to rejoin the
Subanning was not particularly worried about his nephew. He never knew
Henriawan to be involved in politics, although lately they had started
discussing Indonesia's economic crisis at the dinner table. Subanning,
a Jakarta city government employee, took night classes at Trisakti. He
arrived near the campus at 4:30 and found the scene to be "chaotic."
But as Subanning looked on, the students began to file back to campus.
Two faculty administrators apparently had brokered a deal with police
to end the standoff peacefully. The students would retreat to campus,
and the police would move back their line.
But just then, a Trisakti dropout, identified by students as "Mashud,"
appeared and began shouting obscenities at some of the female
students. A small group of Trisakti students suspected "Mashud" was a
police informant or was being paid to stir up trouble and chased the
intruder back toward police lines.
Just then, at about 5, the police charge began. They fired tear gas,
swung their batons at the retreating students and opened fire with
rubber bullets. The slow move back to campus became a wild stampede.
"What was that?" Subanning asked, hearing the cracking sound. Someone
yelled back, "They're firing at the students!"
Henriawan made it as far as the campus gates. The first bullet hit him
in the right side of the neck, twisting his body around. The second
bullet caught him in the middle of the back. Once on campus, Henriawan
was able to walk as far as the flagpole; a friend saw him sit down on
the concrete base and keel over.
Hery Hartanto thought he was already safe because he was back on the
Hery Hartanto, 21, fatally shot near bottom of stairs. |
university grounds. He had run far and fast, and he and a friend
stopped at the foot of the stairs in front of the M Building to catch
their breath and wash the tear gas from their faces with a bottle of
water when Hartanto fell forward suddenly.
"Oh, my God!" he cried. "I've been shot in the leg!" The friend looked
at him and said, "It's not your leg." The bullet had gone straight
into Hartanto's upper back lodging near his heart.
Hafidhin's friends could not say clearly where he was, because he had
stayed on campus for fear of being shot. But some witnesses said they
remember him making a call from a row of telephones near the Student
He had just replaced the receiver when a bullet tore into the right
side of his head, just above his ear, and came out his back. The path
of the bullet suggests that whoever shot him fired from above, from
the direction of the elevated toll road.
The students realized quickly that some of the bullets flying into
their campus were not rubber, but lethal ammunition. Elang took
responsibility for making sure others got to safety. He climbed to the
tile expanse at the top of the M Building steps and shouted to the
others to run inside.
"Get in! Get in! As fast as you can!" he was shouting, waving both
hands. Then the bullet entered his chest.
Two wounded students remain hospitalized. Tammu Abraham Alexander
Bulo, 20, who was shot in the neck, said he believes the Trisakti
students were targeted.
The bullet "definitely came from up top and came down," he said from
his hospital bed. "The people that died were clearly targeted in the
head, the neck area or the chest."
Elang's father visited the spot where his son was slain while the
white tiles were still fresh with blood.
"If you look at exactly where he was shot [in the chest], it could not
have been a random, accidental occurrence," he said. "It must have
been someone with weapons training. It was so precise."
Death on Campus
Student democracy demonstrations on the campus of Trisakti University
in Jakarta turned deadly May 12, when security forces fired into a
crowd of students, killing four and injuring three. Some of the troops
were stationed on an overpass outside campus, but it was unclear where
the fatal shots were fired from, or who gave the order for the
1. Elang Mulya Lesmana, 19, fatally shot at top of stairs.
2. Hery Hartanto, 21, fatally shot near bottom of stairs.
3. Henriawan, 20, fatally shot while running toward flagpole.
4. Hafidhin Royan, 21, fatally shot near phone booth.
5. Sofyan Rachman, 25, critically wounded near top of stairs.
6. Tammu Abraham Alexander Bulo, 20, seriously wounded as he ran
behind the Student Union.
7. Fero Prasteya, 22, grazed by two bullets as he entered the campus
Four dead after latest Indonesia protest
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hospital and university officials said
four corpses had been taken to a West Jakarta hospital following
a clash Tuesday between anti-government student demonstrators
and security forces.
An official at Trisakti University said two of the dead had
been identified as students. The other two had yet to be
identified, he said.An official in the emergency room of the Sumber Waras
hospital near the university said the four had been shot.
They had been shot in the head and back and their bodies
have been taken to the morgue, said the official, who declined
to be named.
Other officials said youths wearing university jackets had
brought the four to the hospital.
The university official said he had no details of how many
other people might have been hurt.
Indonesia, facing a severe financial crisis, has been
rocked by violent student protests against President Suharto in
Witnesses said police fired rubber bullets and charged
students at Jakarta's prestigious Trisakti University after the
demonstrators attacked a plain-clothes man said by some students
to be an intelligence agent.
The witnesses said the students then attacked the police,
who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and a baton charge.
Shell cases from automatic rifles littered the ground, but
it was not clear whether any live ammunition had been used.
Military sources have said police and troops had been ordered
not to use live ammunition in controlling student
Earlier, some 5,000 students had rallied at the university
to demand political reform. Around 1,000 tried to march on
parliament but were blocked by troops with armoured cars.
In the city center, members of an unofficial Indonesian
trade union marched on the offices of the International Monetary
Fund, urging it to hold back bail-out payments for Indonesia's
crippled economy until the government gave way to reform
demands.Renewed protests also were reported in Indonesia's second
city of Surabaya in East Java and the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.
(12 May 1998 10:46 EDT)
Students massacred in Indonesia
By the Editorial Board
14 May 1998
The murder of six student demonstrators Tuesday in Jakarta,
deliberately shot down by riot police mobilized by the Suharto
dictatorship, marks a new stage in the political crisis in Indonesia.
The six young people died of bullet wounds when police opened
fire on students who were peacefully demonstrating against price
increases ordered by the IMF and against the military dictatorship
which has ruled Indonesia for 32 years. At least 16 students and
teachers were wounded in the attack.
For three months the Indonesian regime has refrained from any
large-scale violent crackdown against the mounting student protests.
The victims of the May 12 massacre were the first students killed
in the wave of demonstrations which has hit most of Indonesia's
The sharp change in policy by the dictatorship was apparently
ordered by Suharto himself before he left the country to attend
a summit conference of Asian, African and Latin American heads
of state in Cairo, Egypt. Suharto warned, "The security forces
will take action against whoever disturbs and ruins national stability."
The decision to carry out the attack at Trisakti University
is a clear expression of the regime's desperation. Trisakti is
a private Christian college for the sons and daughters of Indonesia's
ruling elite. A mass protest against the government on that campus
signals that the popular opposition to the Suharto regime has
become so widespread that even youth from the most privileged
families have been pulled along by the tide.
There was more violence and more protest the day following
the massacre. Police opened fire on crowds in Jakarta after the
memorial service Wednesday for the victims of the previous day.
At least one youth was killed after he ran into the street, fleeing
police bullets, and was struck by a passing car.
Other student demonstrations took place in
Bandung, 90 miles
east of the capital, and in Kupang, 1,000 miles to the east. In
Surabaya, the country's second-largest city, students from dozens
of colleges and universities gathered at two campuses, then marched
through the city 30,000-strong, as police stood by without interfering.
In Yogyakarta, in central Java, some 5,000 students clashed with
police who fired water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.
The rising social anger over mass unemployment and the collapse
of living standards boiled over into mob attacks in the central
business district of Jakarta, in which the main targets were stores
owned by ethnic Chinese shopkeepers--who have been scapegoated
by the Suharto regime and by Moslem fundamentalist demagogues--as
well as several symbols of the ruling family. The car dealership
owned by one of Suharto's sons was gutted and the vehicles burned.
Workers organized by an unofficial trade union marched on the
downtown Jakarta offices of the International Monetary Fund, protesting
the terms of the adjustment program adopted by the Suharto government
under IMF pressure. Last week the government began slashing subsidies
on fuel and public transport, one of the key IMF demands. The
price of kerosene jumped by 40 percent, diesel by 35 percent,
gasoline by 70 percent, train tickets by 100 percent, bus fares
by 70 percent, and electricity by 20 percent.
Last year's collapse of the Asian "miracle" has undermined
Suharto's regime. The Indonesian economy is expected to shrink
by up to 15 percent this year, throwing millions into unemployment
and poverty. The rupiah has slumped to around one-third of its
value against the US dollar. At that level, few local companies
can trade or service their huge US-dollar denominated debts. Most
of the country's 220 banks are out of cash.
Talks in Tokyo with the international banks--Indonesia's major
creditors--have failed to produce a plan for restructuring private
loans, calculated to be at least $68 billion. Bad debts are estimated
at between 50 to 75 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
There are concerns in the international financial centers that
Suharto is incapable of imposing the IMF's measures and stemming
the opposition to his regime. An Indonesian economist, Syahrir,
told the Financial Times in Britain: "Stability is still
far away. You have a factor in the political situation. The money
market is in deep trouble. There is no investor confidence in
the bank restructuring."
The role of Washington
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright issued a statement
deploring the Jakarta killings and urging dialogue between the
Indonesian government and its political opponents. The cynicism
of the American position is demonstrated both by its role in the
IMF bailout and the whole history of US intervention in Indonesia.
The Clinton administration officially deplores the Jakarta
massacre and the Suharto regime's suppression of democratic rights.
Meanwhile it demands policies of slashing jobs, subsidies, living
standards and social benefits, to meet the conditions of the IMF
loan package, which cannot be imposed democratically, and in fact
require an even more savage dictatorship in Indonesia.
Suharto came to power with CIA backing in a bloody 1965-66
military coup in which one million workers and peasants were massacred.
For the past 30 years, with the full support of the United States
and the other imperialist powers, he has suppressed all popular
opposition while his own family members enriched themselves at
the expense of the state and the Indonesian people.
Over the past decade, however, the domination of the Indonesian
economy by Suharto and his business cronies has become a barrier
for the transnational banks and corporations. Globalization means
not only obtaining access to Indonesia's cheap labor and natural
resources, but opening up the country's markets in banking and
finance, telecommunications and information technology. Hence
the demands incorporated into the IMF austerity plan for the dismantling
of all forms of national economic regulation, particularly the
tax breaks, monopolies, and trade controls enjoyed by the Suharto
family and its associates.
The White House has reportedly held urgent discussions over
the options for dealing with the crisis, although official administration
statements denied there would be any US attempt to push Suharto
out. Nor is it clear that American imperialism has any ready-made
alternative to Suharto's one-man rule.
The bourgeois opposition to Suharto is rooted in those sections
of the Indonesian capitalist class who feel themselves shut out
of the most profitable sectors of the economy by the Suharto family.
These layers have looked to Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter
of Suharto's predecessor, Achmed Sukarno, and to Amien Rais, leader
of the country's main Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah.
Sukarnoputri has been compared to Corazon
Aquino, who became
the instrument of a successful US-backed operation to replace
the Philippine dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos with the current
regime, which provides a more democratic facade behind which American
imperialism and the Filipino capitalist class maintain their rule.
Other than sharing Aquino's sex and class, however, Sukarnoputri
has little prospect of copying the Filipino model.
In particular, the economic circumstances are the diametric
opposite. Aquino came to power in 1986, at the high point of the
economic upsurge in southeast Asia. While the Philippines trailed
well behind the so-called Asian Tigers, like Thailand and Malaysia,
its economy nonetheless showed considerable growth over the next
decade. Indonesia today is in the midst of an economic collapse
on a scale which has rarely been seen in history.
Suharto responded to the Jakarta massacre by cutting short
his visit to Egypt and returning home with an appeal for "calm."
It is not excluded that a few heads may roll in the police and
military if the longtime ruler feels the need to sacrifice a scapegoat
or two to appease popular outrage over the killings.
At the same time Sukarnoputri and Amien Rais stepped up their
public activity, speaking at the memorial service for the students
murdered by the police. The previous week Rais had urged Suharto
to step down as president, saying the government had lost the
trust of the people. In the crisis, however, he pulled back from
this statement, telling students at the memorial service, "The
president must change his attitude, or the people will force him
to change." Students answered him with the chant, "Down
Rais is clearly putting himself forward to head a "clean"
business regime to impose the IMF's requirements. "Indonesia
must implement big and comprehensive reforms in the fields of
the economy and finance with co-operation of the International
Monetary Fund," he said. "For this to be accomplished
we must make huge sacrifices."
During a visit to the US last month, Rais appeared before a
Congressional Human Rights Caucus and undoubtedly held private
talks with the Clinton administration and political and business
leaders. Since the beginning of the year Rais has held private
talks with senior Indonesian military leaders.
Students and workers in Indonesia can place no confidence in
either the bourgeois opposition leaders or the United States government.
Their maneuvers have only one purpose: to implement the IMF restructuring
and austerity measures while bringing to an end the strikes and
protests provoked by the economic crisis.
A pre-revolutionary situation
The elements of a revolutionary situation are accumulating
in Indonesia. The ruling class lives in constant fear that student
protests will trigger action by workers hit by inflation and high
levels of unemployment, leading to a social explosion. In recent
weeks, students have been joined by housewives, street vendors,
taxi drivers, workers, academics, and others. Strikes have broken
out against high prices.
The same economic processes which are undermining the Suharto
regime have created a powerful working class in Indonesia. Huge
new industrial centers exist in cities like Jakarta, Surabaya
and Medan, where factories have sprung up to produce parts and
products for international corporations. This working class, as
part of the international working class, is the only force capable
of challenging and overturning the economic system--that of private
profit--that has created the financial and social crisis gripping
Indonesia and the rest of Asia.
Just as the crisis in Indonesia is the outcome of global processes,
so it can only be resolved on a progressive basis by the adoption
of a global strategy. The needs of the peasants, rural and urban
poor, as well as workers, for democratic rights, agrarian reform
and improved living standards can only be met by unifying the
struggles of Indonesian workers with those of their fellow workers
The working class must begin to organize independently of,
and in opposition to, figures like Rais and Megawati, drawing
in the support of the unemployed, small farmers and smallholders
in the fight to take power and establish a workers' and peasants'
government that will reorganize society on the basis of social
need, not private profit.
A political party must be built to lead the fight for such
an international and socialist perspective. We urge students,
intellectuals and workers in Indonesia and elsewhere to seriously
consider these political issues and to open up a dialogue with
the International Committee of the Fourth International, the world
party of socialist revolution.
The police killings of six young protesters at an elite private
college has turned Trisakti University into the Kent State of Indonesia
Los Angeles Times
JAKARTA, Indonesia--The police killings of six young protesters at an elite private
college has turned Trisakti University into the Kent State of Indonesia,
giving students here a focus and a symbol in their cries for
revolutionary change, if not revolution.
"Something like this can be the embryo of real change," economics
professor Avendi Simangunsong said Wednesday, as students wearing black
armbands eulogized fallen friends and chanted for the end of President
Suharto's 32-year rule.
All day, national luminaries made their way through street crowds to
the campus to express their shock at Tuesday's killings. Among them were
Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's founding father, Sukarno;
popular Muslim leader Amien Rais; and the nation's poet laureate, W. S. Rendra.
All urged restraint on both sides, but violence continued. At
Trisakti, students hurled rocks at the security forces ringing the
campus. The police responded with tear gas. Protesters on Wednesday
evening looted and burned stores owned by ethnic Chinese in the Kota
neighborhood, three miles from the university. Security forces made no
attempt to stop the mob, which appeared to include more poor and
unemployed than students.
Fresh riots broke out this morning, and black smoke was reported
billowing out of the city's center as more shops and vehicles were set
Western diplomats said the situation was fast spinning out of control.
The State Department was preparing to issue a travel advisory, warning
U.S. citizens to avoid Indonesia, and announce plans to send home from
Jakarta nonessential U.S. Embassy employees and dependents, a Western
The moves were likely to snowball, with other industrial countries
following suit. The result, bankers said, will be devastating to the
Indonesian economy, already crippled by a lack of investor confidence.
The local currency, the rupiah, on Wednesday plunged 14%, and the stock
market fell 6% over the previous day.
Even as capitals from Washington to Canberra, Australia, condemned the
violence that led to the students' deaths, it remained unclear who gave
security forces the order to fire, who did the actual shooting and
whether police used "rubber" bullets or live ammunition.
But clearly the shootings upped the ante in the increasingly violent
standoff between protesters and the armed forces. The six were the first
students to die in nationwide demonstrations that have gone on for three
months. Four other people--two rioters in Medan, an undercover police
officer and a bystander--also have been killed.
Total Reform was demanded everywhere
"I think the students have been emboldened and are past the threshold
of fear," said Marzuki Darusman, vice chairman of the National Commission
on Human Rights. "They needed more concrete issues than price increases
to press demands for reform, and now they have one."
Suharto, 76, on a weeklong official visit to Egypt, was due to return
home Saturday but might cut short the trip, aides said. Western analysts
began saying for the first time that his days in office may be numbered.
"The opportunity for a gradual change from within has passed," said
Jeffrey Winters, a Northwestern University expert on Indonesian affairs.
One of the odd twists to Suharto's predicament is that among his
proudest achievements is the creation of an excellent educational system
in which 2.5 million students are enrolled in 1,400 universities. He is
said to be perplexed that the very people to whom he offered opportunity
are turning against him.
But with a family fortune estimated at $40 billion, Suharto's
bromides--how he understands the public concern with rising prices
because he was once poor--fall on deaf ears.
By the standards of the Vietnam War-era protests in the United
States--such as the 1970 disturbance quashed by National Guard troops who
killed four students and wounded eight at Kent State in Ohio--the
demonstrations by Indonesian students have been moderate. The students
don't rely on fiery rhetoric. They have no free speech partisan Mario
Savio or black militant Bobby Seale to energize them.
The situation is really out of control. Nobody can stop the burning of some buildings.|
Their one issue--political reform--is a fuzzy concept lacking the
galvanizing effect of the Vietnam War.
But the students already have brought about political debate
unimaginable in Indonesia just a few years ago.
Five anti-government student newspapers are flourishing on campuses;
that the Ministry of Information doesn't simply close them down may say
something about where bureaucrats' sentiments lie. Mainstream newspapers,
meanwhile, give prominence to demonstrations and calls for new national
leadership. People voice opinions about Suharto without whispering.
"Five years ago, if you even mentioned politics, people's eyes got
wide and they'd walk away," said Geoffrey Comben, an Australian risk
analyst who has lived in Indonesia for eight years. "Now politics is all
they want to talk about. The reality remains, though, that until real
opposition leadership emerges, the only force in Indonesia that really
counts is the military, and there can be no true political reform without
the military's consent."
Traditionally, the approximately 450,000-member armed forces--which
include about 195,000 police--have served a dual function known as dwifungsi: to protect against external attack and internal subversion and
to provide political equilibrium. Though uncompromisingly tough and
sometimes brutal, the military has not been used, as a matter of official
policy, to repress Indonesia's 200 million people.
"Considering the size of Indonesia, the army is not large," said Bruce
Gale, a risk analyst in Singapore. "If there were a national uprising,
the army couldn't control it."
Despite the military excesses, most Indonesians view the armed forces
favorably. The military led the fight for independence in the 1940s and
united with students in the mid-1960s to topple the unpopular Sukarno
regime. The military is still considered the country's most cohesive
Gen. Wiranto, commander of Indonesia's military, and his senior
officers appear loyal to Suharto. But it is not inconceivable, analysts
said, that at some point they could align themselves with the reformers,
placing the interests of the state ahead of those of the president.
Indonesian Soldier in the middle of chaos
Where there may be friction, military attaches said, is between
Wiranto and Suharto's son-in-law, Lt. Gen. Prabowo Soemitro Subianto.
Disliked by fellow officers and the public, the three-star general is
known to consider himself a post-Suharto presidential candidate.
As chief of the Strategic Reserves Command, a sort of elite
presidential guard of 27,000 troops, the 46-year-old Prabowo is widely
suspected of involvement with kidnapping activists and encouraging
disturbances that led to attacks on shops owned by ethnic Chinese, human
rights officials said.
Amnesty Slams Indonesia Over Student Killings
LONDON (Reuters) - Amnesty International Tuesday accused
Indonesian security forces of showing contempt for human life
after five people were killed in anti-government riots in
Funeral Day, 13th of May 1998. |
The London-based human rights organization said the killings
at Trisakti university in the Indonesian capital showed just how
far the government was willing to go to silence student
``This goes beyond maintaining order -- it shows contempt
for human life,'' Amnesty said in a statement.
Amnesty said it was launching an appeal to the Indonesian
armed forces to act with restraint.
The Indonesian security forces had a poor record in dealing
with both peaceful dissent and violent confrontations,
frequently resorting to excessive physical force rather than
acceptable crowd control methods, Amnesty said.
``Governments which have provided military training and
equipment to the Indonesian security forces -- aware of the way
in which dissent has been dealt with in the past -- must bear
some responsibility for today's events,'' Amnesty said.
``The killings at Trisakti University underline the urgent
need for the international community to demonstrate its support
for those Indonesians who are campaigning for reforms which will
protect basic human rights, including the right to life,''
Amnesty said. ``Now is the time to draw the line, not after
further tragic loss of life.''
Witnesses said violence flared at Trisakti University when
students attacked a man they said was a plain-clothes
intelligence officer and riot police moved to protect him.
The deaths came after three months of student demonstrations
across the country demanding an end to President Suharto's
Indonesia's crisis worsens as six protesters shot dead
'The police went crazy'
May 12, 1998
Web posted at: 10:55 p.m. EDT (0255 GMT)
JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) -- President Suharto's security forces finally made brutal reality Tuesday out of his threats to crush growing unrest, firing into a crowd of student protesters in Jakarta. Six students died before the eyes of their horrified companions.
At least 16 people were wounded, some seriously. It was by far the toughest
police action yet in weeks of intensifying protests sparked by the worst economic crisis of Suharto's 32-year rule.
Witnesses said officers fired continuously for several minutes -- first rubber bullets, then live ammunition -- after students beat up an undercover intelligence agent. An intelligence agent recently was beaten to death by students at a similar college protest in the nearby city of
Some of Tuesday's victims were hit as they tried to scramble back to the grounds of Trisakti University through clouds of tear gas.
"The police went crazy. They beat us up. They chased everybody while others were firing," said Iwan
Karimun, an economics student.
The killings could set off a backlash against the 76-year-old leader, whom much of the nation holds accountable for soaring prices and joblessness.
So far, the retired five-star army general, now attending an international conference in Egypt, has resisted mounting pressure at home and abroad for democratic reform.
Last week, Suharto warned that police and military troops would use force to quell unruly student protests.
The police and military confirmed the death and injury tolls at a news conference early Wednesday. However, Jakarta's police chief, Maj. Gen. Hamani
Nata, said each riot officer was supposed to have only 20 blank and 20 rubber bullets, which can be lethal at up to 130 feet.
Some witnesses claimed snipers had deliberately aimed at the heads of some of the victims. Student leaders later collected what they said were spent casings from live bullets.
Nata said nothing directly about the use of live ammunition, but said an investigation had been launched to see if the procedures set up had been followed correctly.
Riot police confront student protesters in Jakarta
Distraught students said the violence broke out after police, dressed in heavy riot gear, skirmished with protesters who had left their campus and blocked a busy road.
Students, family mourn the fallen
Hundreds of police surrounded the Trisakti campus after nightfall as grieving family members identified the dead at the Sumber Waras Hospital morgue.
"I know he did not take part in any demonstration. Why did it happen to him?" the mother of one of the dead screamed as others tried to console her.
A long line of students later paid their respects to the dead as others showed reporters casings from what they said was live ammunition.
Although news photographers accompanied students as they identified several bodies at the morgue, senior security personnel said there were no official reports of casualties and declined to comment further.
Stoking the fire?
"The student protests will go on and might become bigger," said the university's law dean, Adi
Andjoyo, a retired Supreme Court judge. "We are very, very sad this has happened."
Andjoyo said the total death toll was six. There was no word on arrests.
Student leaders in Jakarta and other cities vowed large-scale protests in response to Tuesday's bloodshed. Earlier in the day, police clubbed protesters during a face-off between 600 demonstrators and about 500 riot police in
Bandung, about 75 miles east of the capital. Police fired warning shots into the air.
Five protesters, including a student and a taxi driver, both bleeding from the head, were rushed to a nearby hospital.
And at least two protesters were injured when police shot tear gas and plastic bullets into a crowd of 300 people in the eastern city of
Family members in the emergency room of Sumber Waras Hospital
The nationwide protests have grown markedly in the last week, with ordinary Indonesians joining students who have extended their protests off-campus. The impetus for the surge of anger was the government's decision last week to do away with subsidies on gas, transport and electricity.
The measures were demanded by the International Monetary Fund, which is threatening to pull back billions of dollars in loans aimed at restoring Indonesia's economic health. Indonesia has been the hardest-hit by Asia's financial crisis, and
Suharto, the region's longest-serving ruler, has proven unable to reverse the slide.
Riots and looting left two people dead last week in the northern city of Medan and a bystander was killed during a student-police melee in
International human rights groups have long accused Suharto of using excessive force to stamp out periodic anti-government uprisings.
As Indonesia in recent decades has joined the ranks of Asia's economic dynamos, the government has jailed many of its critics. The rights groups have singled out the military's record in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later, as especially grievous.