Suharto puts faith in force as riots spread

AFTER a remarkable week in which his senior supporters have spoken openly of Indonesia's imminent collapse, President Suharto warned yesterday that force would be used against any threat to "national stability".

He was speaking before leaving on a week-long trip to Cairo, hours after violent student demonstrations claimed their first confirmed victim, a 41-year-old bystander apparently beaten to death by police. Moses Gatutkaca, a businessman in the city of Yogyakarta in Java, died on his way to hospital late on Thursday night after getting caught up in a battle between police and students. Ordinary passers-by, as well as doctors, nurses, bus and taxi-drivers joined demonstrations in five cities in Java and Sulawesi.

Further demonstrations took place yesterday in the Javan cities of Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bandung, although there were no more disturbances in Medan in Sumatra, where mobs of looters ran out of control and terrorised ethnic Chinese families last week.

President Suharto's visit to Egypt, where he will attend a conference of developing countries, was being presented by the government as a sign of his confidence after a week in which his future has begun to look more doubtful than ever. "I am fully aware of the situation of the country," he said. "I hope the people of Indonesia will not sacrifice the national stability that we have achieved. The security forces will take action against whoever disturbs and ruins national stability."

"It shows that, far from the picture sometimes depicted of Indonesia being on the point of total breakdown, he feels things are ... still within the bounds of stability and can be dealt with," said Suharto's foreign minister, Ali Alatas, in Cairo.

In London, however, ministers of the leading industrial nations warned Mr Suharto that political reforms were needed to stave off social unrest. "The world is now watching Indonesia," said the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

Unease about the demonstrations - and above all about the mob violence in Medan, where at least six people are reported to have been shot dead by police - is clearly being felt among some of those closest to Mr Suharto.

Lieutenant General Syarwan Hamid, a senior officer and former military spokesman, was quoted in yesterday's Indonesian papers as saying that Indonesia was facing collapse unless reforms were carried out and the plunging economy was rescued. "If it continues going down, it will lead to our destruction," he told a meeting of senior journalists. "This is a fiery ball indeed."

Even Indonesia's House of Representatives, a normally docile assembly of government- approved candidates chosen through rigged elections, has made a show of disapproval at the fuel price rises which provoked the Medan riots last week. "Power is now very much concentrated in the hands of the president," said Hamzah Haz, of the Muslim United Development Party which is approved and controlled by the government. "We're reforming this."

Last week's disturbances have depressed the stock exchange and driven down the value of the Indonesian rupiah. In Tokyo, unease about the disturbances was prolonging negotiations over the rescheduling of $80bn owed to Japanese banks by Indonesian companies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Mechanic / Plant Fitter

£24000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Lancashire based engineeri...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders