Australian students protest in Indonesian solidarity
South News May 15

Melbourne: Students around Australia  demonstrated today in soldarity with their Indonesian counterparts who had been at the centre of week long protests which had already claimed at least 22 lives.

At the Melbourne  protest has been organised outside the Indonesian Consulate, 72 Queens Road, Melbourne at midday university students have burned photos of President Suharto as mounted police guarding the gate kept a close watch on  demonstators who had previously chained themselves to the gates.

The Victorian president of Action in Solidarity, Vanessa Hearman, demanded Australia end financial and military ties with Indonesia, to force an end to the killing and torture of students.

"I originally came from Indonesia myself and certainly for me it's been a very harrowing time in terms of looking at what is going to happen to my family who are all ethnic Chinese Indonesians...and living in fear that tomorrow they could be massacred," she said.

National Union of Students (NUS) president Rose Tracey said rallies would also be held in, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. The rallies are a prelude to the Indonesian students' national day of protest against the Suharto government on May 20.

Today rallies come after Indonesian students in Australia yesterday demanded President Suharto's resignation over the deaths of student protesters. The unrest stems from the economic crisis which swept Asia in mid-February, taking a number of Asian economies to the brink of collapse.

The International Monetary Fund stepped in to bail Indonesia out, but its austere measures have led to hard times for the people, giving a focus for protests against President Suharto."The National Union of Students pledges its full support to the students organising in defence of basic civil liberties in Indonesia," Ms Tracey said. "We condemn the Suharto dictatorship for the 33 years of undemocratic and utterly repressive rule."

Indonesia's President Suharto cut short a trip to Egypt and returned to Jakarta early today amid calls from opposition groups and students for his resignation. Some 103 faculty members of the University of Indonesia  on Wednesday called on the Golkar faction of the House of Representatives to express their concern over the worsening socioeconomic and political situation in the country. 

This is the second time this week for university  faculty members to call on the House, following their meeting with the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) faction on Tuesday. Delegation members included Prof Emil Salim, Prof Saparinah Sadli, Prof Miriam Budiardjo, Prof Selo Soemardjan, Todung Mulya Lubis and Dr Sri Mulyani Indrawati,

This morning Australia's Deputy Opposition leader Gareth Evans said the time had arrived for the President to go. "Suharto's time has come, the first family's time has come," Mr Evans said.

"That's been a concensus view I think with all sorts of people within Jakarta for quite some time now," Evans said."The only question is whether a transition can be managed without too much more chaos and bloodshed or whether it can be done reasonably smoothly."

Yesterday, 15,000 troops, some of them in tanks, were ordered onto the streets of Jakarta to try to restore control. Armored personnel carriers were positioned around the city, including three outside the U.S. Embassy, which urged Americans to defer nonessential travel to Indonesia and decided to evacuate relatives of embassy staff. Some U.S., Japanese and other foreign companies temporarily closed offices and ordered employees home.

After landing at a military airport outside Jakarta, Suharto left in a convoy of more than 100 vehicles, including armored cars, military trucks and police motorcycles. Rioting has hit areas all over town, including near Suharto's private home and the presidential palace.