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Indonesia Warns Against Anti-Government Protests Thousands Rally For Deposed Opposition Leader

Moving to squelch opposition rallies that have attracted thousands of people, a senior military officer warned Saturday that the armed forces will no longer tolerate anti-government protests.

Despite Lt. Gen. Syarwan Hamid’s warning, about 3,000 supporters of deposed opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri gathered at party headquarters Saturday, prompting police to close the street in front of the building.

Students and party members have rallied almost daily over the last month to protest the military-backed congress that ousted Megawati - daughter of the late president and independence hero Sukarno - as party leader.

The government picked a less threatening politician, Suryadi, to head Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party.

Her supporters have vowed to continue fighting to their deaths, in an opposition uprising unusual for the tightly controlled politics of Indonesia.

“We can conclude at last that the rally has become a wild stage,” Hamid said Saturday.

As the first party leader elected by popular vote, Megawati could pose a real challenge to President Suharto in the 1998 presidential elections.

Before being ousted, Megawati led one of only two opposition parties allowed in Indonesia, which Suharto and his Golkar party have ruled for 30 years.

Golkar backers have called on the military to crack down on all anti-government activities. It is unclear what the military has in mind.