Students protest university regiment harassment

Issue 

Students protest university regiment harassment

By Max Lane

On 19 August on the Wali Songo State University of Islamic Studies in the major central Java city of Semarang, over 200 students demonstrated against the arrest and beatings of their comrades who had been distributing leaflets on campus advertising a student meeting.

The students carried banners with slogans such as: "The campus is not a military barracks!" and "No Military Intervention on Campus!". After two hours of discussion and the singing of patriotic songs, a statement was read out demanding campus autonomy and criticising the use of the university student regiment (MENWA) as a tool of the military on campus.

The protest was in response to the arrest by MENWA of two students, Rahmat Benu and Final, on the morning of August 16. The two students had been handing out pamphlets in front of the library on the Diponegoro State University, the main university in Semarang. The MENWA members bashed and dragged the two students by their hair while shouting that the students were committing a disgrace on the campus. There are no laws or regulations of any kind giving the MENWA detachments on campuses any rights of arrest or detention.

The two students were taken back to the MENWA campus post where they were further beaten and intimidated. That evening, at around 9 p.m. they were taken under guard of other MENWA members to the local military command (KODIM). As of August 19 the two students were still under detention and nobody had been able to see them. The Semarang Student Solidarity organisation also reported that at one time they had also been taken to the Semarang Police Headquarters for interrogation.

On August 19, MENWA members attacked another student in the offices of Manunggal, the student newspaper of the Diponegoro University. One of the student editors, Arief A.K., had been to see the MENWA members at their post to ask about what had happened. Some time later, MENWA students turned up at the Manunggal offices and began beating Arief. Arief had also been beaten by MENWA members last May over the newspaper's critical articles. Arief had to be taken to the emergency ward of the Kaariadi Hospital in Semarang. He later went on to report the incident to the police.

The statements issued by Semarang Student Solidarity and the Student Solidarity Anti-Violence Committee condemned the use of violence against students, citing not only the cases of Rahmat Benu, Final and Arief on the Diponegoro Semarang campus but also the recent clashes at the Universitas Nasional and the National Institute of Science and Technology (ISTN). At ISTN tens of students were severely injured after being attacked by military and police following a protest over campus corruption.

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