Soldiers Break Up Protest by Supporters of Sukarno Daughter; 73 Hurt
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Thousands of opposition party activists fought Thursday with troops in Jakarta, angered by the army’s attempt to provoke an internal revolt against their party leader. The bloody clash injured 73, the opposition said.
Soldiers swung clubs at rock-throwing demonstrators in a confrontation over the army’s backing of dissidents within the Indonesian Democratic Party who want to oust popular party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Shouting anti-military slogans, 5,000 Megawati loyalists marched 2 1/2 miles through the main streets of Jakarta before police barricades stopped them. When police failed at efforts to block the march, hundreds of soldiers moved in, backed by armored cars.
Brig. Gen. Bambang Sudono, chief of staff of the Jakarta military command, grabbed a red party flag from one young demonstrator and tore it apart.
``You dogs, you are only troublemakers!″ he shouted.
The demonstrators hurled stones and broke through police barricades before they were beaten back by the soldiers. Reporters saw dozens of protesters fall to the ground bleeding, including one person who was run over by a jeep carrying fleeing demonstrators.
Led by 16 party executives sacked by Megawati on Wednesday, the dissidents held a rival congress Thursday in the western town of Medan. Gen. Feisal Tanjung, commander of the armed forces, delivered the opening speech himself.
``Today is a day of tragedy for democracy,″ Megawati, 49, told supporters before the demonstration in Jakarta. She did not participate.
But Sophan Sophian did, and suffered for it.
``I was beaten by soldiers even when I was lying on the ground. The soldiers were brutal,″ he said.
A protest leader, Manggara Siahaan, said 73 people were injured, six of them seriously. Police said 52 people were arrested.
Indonesia’s military long has been active in politics. President Suharto is a former army general, and senior military officials hold top posts in all ministries. The government sets aside 100 of the 500 seats in Parliament for the military.
The army has blatantly promoted a rift in the Indonesia Democratic Party, apparently to thwart Megawati, who is seen as a likely challenger to President Suharto in the 1998 presidential elections.
Megawati is the daughter of Indonesia’s nationalist leader, the late President Sukarno. The flamboyant leader was pushed out of power in 1966 and replaced by Suharto after he crushed a coup attempt blamed on the Communists.
Suharto and Sukarno, like many Indonesians, have only one name.
In Medan, Tanjung said he wasn’t interfering in the party’s affairs, only supporting the rivals out of a ``concern ... to unite all the potentials and forces of the nation.″
Megawati has been seen as a threat by the government since she was elected party leader in 1994.