Uneasy Calm Follows Riots in Indonesian Capital

From Reuters

Jakarta was quiet today after civilians wielding sticks and daggers went on night neighborhood patrols to prevent new outbreaks of the looting and unrest ignited by deadly clashes between troops and students, witnesses said.

The private television station SCTV reported that 15 people had been killed in the past week during the clashes. Six of the victims were university students, four were pro-government activists and the rest were local people, including a senior high school student, it said.

Students led the protests to demand that the country’s highest legislative body, the People’s Consultative Assembly, institute deeper political reform.

This morning, dozens of people turned out as usual in central Freedom Square for open-air exercises, and many streets were deserted. Troops were stationed around the square, which is adjacent to the presidential palace.


The U.S. State Department on Saturday warned Americans to take particular care in crowded areas of Jakarta, the capital.

SCTV said that no students were seen outside the parliament building this morning and that many districts were quiet.

Tens of thousands of pro-reform protesters Saturday surged toward the building to protest the results of the assembly meeting.

The assembly, which ended a special four-day session Friday, went some way toward meeting student demands, with one glaring exception: the demand that the military withdraw from politics.

SCTV said 40 people were arrested in the Cengkareng area in west Jakarta for trying to loot a branch of the private Bank Central Asia early today.

Many people in the sprawling city of 10 million stayed awake to guard their homes after Jakarta Gov. Sutiyoso urged them to either stay at home or bolster community security.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International on Saturday described President B.J. Habibie’s calls for a crackdown on lawlessness as an “ominous signal” for human rights.

Habibie ordered the military to take action as Jakarta erupted into riots.


“President Habibie should be ordering greater restraint, not greater repression,” the London-based human rights group said in a statement. “What Indonesia needs now is space for the peaceful expression of popular anger and discontent.”