Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 1998

Middle of April, ten years ago at Salemba. My friend Latief Siregar (now he is a TV news producer for TPI-Jakarta) and I, along with several journalists sat down on the university’s fence, watching hundreds of yellow jacketed- students protested to the government. “Down, down, Soeharto...” their choir echoed in that dry-weather day. In front of them, only separated by gate, hundreds polices were ready to wait for the students. Anything could be happened.

“Do you think their movement will be successful?” Latief asked me. I never thought he asked me like that. How come? Although protests and demos took place every day since January, there was no sign at all that Soeharto’s power weakened.

“Uh, no way,” I said. Latief smiled and nodded, agreed with my answer. Other journalists who listened to our conversation also expressed the same agreement.

May 1998 (AP)

A month later we knew we were totally wrong. The situation suddenly became worse, reached its first culmination when four Trisakti University students shot in their campus by mysterious snipers, 12 May 1998. In the next day, during the funeral procession of Trisakti students, some journalists –including me- were trapped in the clash between unidentified mass and police or army in front of the university.

Army handling a looting in the May 1998 riot (pic: Tempo Interactive)

Two days later, Jakarta knocked over by riots; the worst riot ever had in Indonesia history. Lootings occurred everywhere. Many reports came to our news room, informed that hundred people died in burnt malls and department stores. I remember, when watching Jakarta from flyover at Slipi, black smokes seen in many spots of Jakarta area.

Our editorial management decided to close our news rooms and temporarily moved it into President Hotel (now becomes Nikko Hotel). We work from the hotel for three days. All of us stayed at hotel. I couldn’t go home to Bogor because the road was unsafe.

Thousands students occupied the DPR building

Meanwhile, national political situation escalated so fast. Thousands students ‘invaded’ the house of representative building. They stayed there and urged the politician to decide a significant political step regarding people’s demand: Soeharto must step down.

And on 21 May, after 32 years led this country, Soeharto announced he stepped down from the presidential seat. None predicted it before. Indonesia entering what people call as the reform era, replaced the 30 year of new era (Orde Baru) .

It's been ten years now from 1998 moment. Many things happened, many thing have changed. Some of them better, some become worse. For me, this is time for my country, for all of us, to rethink our aim and ways to reach the welfare. The welfare by empowering people, not exploiting them.

I think this is the time. (ah)

PS: government just announced the increase of fuel price last Friday (pic:

Are you happy now?

1 comment:

Bob McKerrow said...

Thanks Husein. I enjoyed your story. History is important to remember and learn from.