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Thursday, May 21, 1998 Published at 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK

Indonesian parliament to ask Suharto to go

Indonesian troops exercising in Jakarta after days of civil unrest

The Speaker of the Indonesian parliament says parliamentary leaders are to ask President Suharto to step down.

He said they would meet tomorrow to put the demand.

"The Speaker of the House, along with his deputies, hope for unity amongst the nation and that the president will wisely step down," Speaker Harmoko said in a statement handed to reporters outside parliament.

Indonesia's major cities, meanwhile, remained largely calm but nervous following days of rioting against President Suharto.

Student petition

BBC's Jonathan Head: "The wave of rioting has shocked students" (0'49")
A group of students and opposition activists travelled to the parliament building in Jakarta where they were allowed to hand over a joint demand calling for the president to step down.

The delegation was among hundreds of protesters from the University of Indonesia who planned a day of demonstrating in the capital.

But the students abandoned plans for a mass march on the parliament. They say their protests against the government had always meant to be peaceful and have tried to distance themselves from the rioting that broke out in several cities.

[ image: President Suharto's plans for a cabinet reshuffle remain unknown]
President Suharto's plans for a cabinet reshuffle remain unknown
Their action came as mass funerals got under way for the unclaimed bodies of several hundred people, believed to be looters, who were caught in fires started at the shops they were plundering.

There is still no word from the President Suharto about a planned cabinet reshuffle, which he promised last week to placate demands for reform.

But in what could be the first sign of a break in ranks, Tourism Minister Abdul Latief tendered his resignation.

Huge cost

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita put the total cost to the Indonesian economy of five days of anti-government rioting at well over $200m.

In Jakarta the authorities say nearly 5,000 buildings were damaged and more than 1,000 cars, trucks and buses were burned.

Country-wide, the human cost has been estimated at around 500 lives.

Thousands gather

In some areas the will to demonstrate is still strong.

In the second city of Surabaya, thousands of students and other civilians gathered to campaign against violence.

In Bandung, 80 miles east of Jakarta, some 50,000 students planned to march on the provincial parliament to demand that Suharto go, according to Reuters news agency.

Military 'will act to stop riots'

The student marchers in Jakarta were watched by military troops as they left the university campus in a convoy of four buses.

When they arrived at the parliament building they were met by yet more troops, backed up by armoured cars.

The Greater Jakarta military command issued a stern warning that after days of civil unrest on the capital's streets, no further violence would be tolerated, no matter who was responsible.

"We will deal with rioters without seeing who they are," said spokesman Lt Col D J Nachrowi.

"If those doing the rioting are students we won't see students, but rioters. If those doing the rioting are lecturers, we won't see lecturers but rioters."

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