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Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 13:24:32 GMT

The following statement was issued today by TAPOL, the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign:

14 November 1998



TAPOL has today called on the British Government and the European Union to make strong representations to the Indonesia Government condemning the bloodshed in Jakarta on 13 November when troops opened fire on defenceless demonstrators, killing at least six students and wounding scores of people.

As the horrific events unfolded, it was clear that heavily-armed troops were under orders to prevent tens of thousands of students and hundreds of thousands of citizens from getting anywhere near the building where the Supreme Consultative Assembly (MPR) was holding its four-day session.

The precise number of deaths during four days of demonstrations in Jakarta cannot yet be determined as many of the wounded are in a critical condition. Most of those killed on Friday died from gunshot wounds.

Troops opened fire in a number of places throughout Jakarta and continued for seven hours. For much of the time, troops fired straight into the crowds. Many demonstrators were beaten as they fell to the ground for cover or carried the wounded to safety. The troops also used water cannon and tear-gas in an attempt to disperse the huge crowds. While it has not yet been established whether live ammunition was used, it is clear is that even rubber-coated bullets are lethal when fired at close range.

Weeks before the MPR meeting took place, armed forces commander General Wiranto announced that he would deploy 30,000 troops to 'secure' the MPR meeting and mobilise 125,000 'civilian guards' to confront the demonstrators. Members of these gangs, armed with bamboo spears, operated throughout the city and were rebuffed in many places by local people. Scuffles broke out during which several people on both sides were killed or wounded. ABRI's attempt to pit armed civilians against defenceless peaceful demonstrators was a particularly contemptible aspect of its strategy to protect the MPR meeting

It was also clear that students from universities across Jakarta and from other cities would converge on the capital to protest against the MPR, a body composed largely of Suharto appointees, to demand an end to ABRI's role in political affairs and call for the country's former dictator, Suharto to go on trial for corruption and for his many crimes against the people of Indonesia, East Timor, Aceh and West Papua. The students were in defiant mood, no longer afraid of troops whose depravities over the past three decades have been widely exposed since Suharto was toppled by the student movement earlier this year.

Far from recognising the right of students and the common people to give expression to their demands and aspirations, the ABRI commander-in-chief opted for the security approach which has taken such a heavy toll during the 32 years of the Suharto dictatorship. From the outset, it was obvious that confrontation was inevitable and that the deployment of such huge forces would only increase the likelihood of violence.

The decision to convene a Special Session of the MPR had been condemned for months by the pro-democracy forces. They condemned the MPR as being incapable of introducing the democratic reforms necessary to bring about a transformation to a truly multi-party system following early general elections, to pave the way for a civilian government untainted by the militarism that has held the country in its grip since 1965. More than half the members of the MPR were appointed by Suharto, while the discredited GOLKAR, the political vehicle of Suharto, holds hold nearly 600 seats in the 1,000-strong assembly.

Responsibility for the events on Bloody Friday must be fully borne by the ABRI commander-in-chief, General Wiranto, who was in charge of the operation. He cannot hide behind excuses about 'rogue elements' exceeding their orders or acting outside procedures. The scenes on television relayed around the world throughout the day make it clear that the operation went on for hours with no attempt to restrain the troops. Indeed, while the dead and wounded were still being counted, Wiranto went on record today threatening 'even harsher and firmer' action against anyone demonstrating in Jakarta.

The results of the MPR session announced on Friday fully confirm the criticisms and ensure that the massive protests of the past few days will gather momentum in the days and weeks to come.

As pressure for Indonesia's transformation to democracy gathers strength, TAPOL has called on the British government and its partners in the European Union:

1. To condemn in the strongest terms the killings perpetrated by ABRI during the past week and to press for an independent inquiry. 2. To call for ABRI troops to be taken off the streets of Jakarta and other cities immediately, leaving public order in the hands of unarmed police under strict instructions to allow peaceful demonstrations. 3. To press for the dismissal of General Wiranto so that he can be called to account in a court of law for the events of the past few days. 4. To call for ABRI's withdrawal from political affairs. Western governments should recognise that as long as ABRI maintains its grip on political affairs, all attempts to promote democracy and solve the country's grave economic problems will come to naught.

TAPOL has also called on the British Government to abandon its policy of 'constructive partnership' with Indonesia. The Labour Government should recognise that just as 'constructive partnership' with the Suharto regime - which it has pursued since May last year - was an abomination, this remains true with a regime that has retained all the structures of Suharto's New Order and with the armed forces continuing to hold a dominant position.

TAPOL also calls upon solidarity groups around the world working on behalf of the people of Indonesia, East Timor and West Papua to press these demands on their own governments.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

Join us to celebrate TAPOL's 25th anniversary on 20 October 1998. Contact us for ticket details.

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