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Anti-Bush Rallies Erupt Across Indonesia

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Protests against USA President George W. Bush were staged in several cities across Indonesia today, one day ahead of his brief visit to Bali. In Jakarta, about 300 members of the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front (KAMMI) rallied outside the USA Embassy, torching pictures and an effigy of Bush, as well as American flags.

The protesters displayed banners and posters with slogans such as “Bush is a Liar”, “Bush - Vampire”, and “Bush ? Number One Terrorist”. The students also pelted the embassy compound with tomatoes and urged President Megawati Sukarnoputri to reject the visit.

Similar protests were also held in Yogyakarta, Bali, Jember (East Java), Palembang (West Java), Makassar (South Sulawesi), and Solo and Semarang (Central Java). In Palembang, dozens of students grouped in the so-called Anti Terrorism and Imperialism Movement (GANTI) branded Bush an “imperialist” for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. In Yogyakarta, students staged a long march, displaying banners with slogans such as “Say No to Bush”, and “Bush Do Not Disturb My Country”.

In Denpasar, the capital of Bali, scores of university students and supporters of various political parties rallied outside the USA consulate general office. In Jember, which the base of the 509th Army battalion, protesters called Bush a terrorist and demanded an end to USA restrictions on military contacts with Indonesia.

Bush is scheduled to visit Bali for four hours on Wednesday for meetings with Megawati and three moderate Muslim leaders. The visit is part of his six-day Asia-Pacific trip, which also takes in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Australia.

Security authorities have mobilized 5,000 troops and police to ensure Bush?s stopover in Bali proceeds smoothly. Seven warships and an aircraft carrier have been deployed off the resort island, while four USA-made F-16s will be on standby.

Several Muslim leaders have criticized the upcoming visit, labeling it a “waste of time”. They have also urged Megawati to explain to Bush that his policies are partly responsible for the rise in international terrorism.”

Megawati should explain to Bush that Islam is not a terrorist religion,” Achmad Sumargono, a legislator from the Islam-based Crescent Star Party (PBB), was quoted as saying. “Bush has to be aware that acts of terrorism have happened in some parts of the world lately because of the USA’s political attitude,” he added.

Chotibul Umam, a legislator from the National Awakening Party (PKB) said Megawati and Bush should discuss ways to overcome terrorism. “But Bush has to admit that what America has done to the Iraqi people is also an act of terrorism,” he was quoted as saying. “And that should be stopped, because what has been done by the United States against Iraq is not a merely occupation but colonization,” he added.

Leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah Islamic organizations said they would tell Bush that his policies in the Middle East, perceived as favoring Israel, are one of the main causes of terrorism in Asia.

“I will tell it like it is. In Indonesia, the majority are not happy with the USA stance in the Middle East conflict,” said NU leader Hasyim Muzadi. “But I will not pretend that the president will listen to me. I mean, who am I anyway? Just a representative of some group, when even the UN is being ignored,” he added.

Published Tuesday, October 21st, 2003 - 02:18pm GMT

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