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Students Protest Over Threatened Democratic Reform

John Howard reports that in the latest Jakarta developments, hundreds of Indonesian student demonstrators last night staged a last-ditch attempt to prevent the adoption of a new security law that threatens much of the democratic reform of the past year and opens up the door to military dictatorship.

Under heavy pressure from the military, the new law is expected to be approved by the outgoing Suharto-constituted National People's Assembly by tomorrow.

In its most far-reaching provision, the President is allowed to delegate his or her authority to the military, which is given free reign to put down any threats to national security.

In the event of a state of emergency, the new law would allow the military to resort to any measure to restore order, to take over the media and mail service and to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the country.

Activists believe the law will give the military an alibi for all its recent abuses in Aceh, East Timor and Irian Jaya and academics believe it could spell the end of reforms returning the country to state-wide terrorism by the military.

"It's deja vu," said Dr Muhammad Hikam a leading analyst, recalling the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the so-called communist coup attempt of 1965, which brought to power Suharto military dictatorship.


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