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Monday, 11 October, 1999, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Indonesia suspends new army powers
Riot police administer ad hoc justice to a demonstrator
The Indonesian Government has postponed the implementation of a controversial law giving sweeping new powers to the army.

Fragile Archipelago
The decision follows two days of severe rioting in which six people were killed, and scores injured.

After the announcement, troops in the capital, Jakarta, began to return to their barracks and demonstrators dispersed.

An Indonesian cabinet spokesman said implementation of the law was being put on hold "until a suitable time" because half the people did not understand it.

The bill has already been approved by parliament, and was awaiting the signature of Indonesian President BJ Habibie.

BBC correspondent Jim Fish in Jakarta says the climb-down by the military - who sponsored the bill - is another humiliating defeat for the army, following its withdrawal from East Timor.

Violent clashes

Riot police in Jakarta used water cannon, plastic bullets and tear gas in an attempt to disperse hundreds of demonstrators, many of whom were armed with petrol bombs and stones.

Several police cars were torched, and at least five police officers suffered burns.

Some of the students were driven back onto the campus of the capital's Atma Jaya university, where a stand-off developed between the two sides.

About 90 demonstrators are reported to have been injured as the disturbances spread beyond Jakarta to Indonesia's second city, Surabaya, the resort island of Bali and the western province of Aceh.

Click here to see a map of the disturbances

In Surabaya, 420 miles (680km) east of the capital, more than 20 people were injured when protesters were baton-charged by riot police.

Protests were also reported in the central city of Semarang, as well as Yogjakarta and Ujung Pandang.

New powers

The Prevention of Danger law would give the army sweeping new powers of arrest and control under any "emergency situations" agreed with the president.

But the armed forces commander, General Wiranto, insisted that the law - which would allow the military to control the media and ban demonstrations - was "in line with democracy and human rights".

"The bill will be enacted not to serve the interests of the military but to safeguard the unity of the nation," he said before the legislation was suspended.

Political paralysis

Many Indonesians have feared a creeping coup by the army, and the reversal of the democratic gains made since President Suharto resigned in May last year.

A demonstrator gets some police attention
Some analysts argue that the military want to boost their position ahead of next week's inauguration of Indonesia's first democratically-elected parliament in 44 years.

There is also uncertainty over the presidency. Elections for a new head of state are due in November, and Mr Habibie is widely believed to have been fatally discredited by the handover of East Timor to international peacekeepers.


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
The BBC's Jim Fish in Jakarta: "It's been a long day of running street-battles"
Video
The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley: "The pressure for genuine democracy seems to be unstoppable"
Video
The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley: "The casualties are mounting by the hour"
Audio
The BBC's Jim Fish reports: "The decision follows days of mounting protests"
Video
The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley reports: "Casualties mounted"
See also:

14 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
24 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
21 Sep 99 | Monitoring
24 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
21 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
25 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
24 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
11 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
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