More violence mars end of Ramadan in Indonesia
January 18, 1999

CNN Online

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- At least eight people were killed and dozens more injured in weekend clashes in Indonesia as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan came to a close.

Eight people died in a four-day drunken brawl between youths on Aru island, about 2,700 kilometers (1,677 miles) east of Jakarta, Indonesia's news agency Antara reported on Monday.

The island's telephone and electricity lines had been cut by angry mobs during the fighting, which ended on Sunday.

And on the eastern island of Sulawesi, dozens were injured in a weekend clash over land between two ethnic groups, witnesses said. The violence broke out on Sunday as local residents demanded the return of land owned by immigrant Torajans, they said.

The weekend deaths bring Indonesia's death toll from the holiday violence to 30. Most affected was the staunchly Muslim and restive province of Aceh in north Sumatra, where more than 20 died.

A leading newspaper condemned the attacks.

"It is hard to find another such reference in history where Muslims desecrate their holy month by trying to kill each other," the Jakarta Post said in an editorial. "With the rapid deterioration in the application of the virtues of tolerance and social solidarity and the apparent glorification of violence and brutality, this nation will lead itself nowhere but to self-destruction."

Shoppers not thwarted

Indonesia's worst economic crisis in 30 years has led to growing unrest throughout the sprawling archipelago.

But most people celebrated the end of Ramadan peacefully and wholeheartedly, despite the problems. About 85 percent of the country's 200 million people are Muslims.

Shoppers crowded into Jakarta stores over the weekend to make last-minute purchases.

"Our revenue has dropped only by 5 percent compared to last year's celebration," said a spokeswoman for Sarinah department store, which caters to middle-class shoppers. "There were still quite a lot of people buying food and clothing which are necessities for the celebration despite the crisis."

As Ramadan ended, the capital grew considerably quieter. Holiday makers poured out of the city to return to their provinces, and tropical rains swept through the empty streets. Transportation Minister Giri Suseno estimated that 17 million would leave the city as the celebrations ended.

Suharto visit sparks protest

Protests greeted former President Suharto when he arrived Monday in his wife's central Java hometown of Solo to celebrate the Muslim Idul Fitri holiday, which ends Ramadan.

Witnesses said a group of about 100 people held a noisy protest near the Kalitan Palace in Solo about half an hour before Suharto arrived. The demonstrators demanded that Suharto and his family be put on trial.

Suharto resigned last May amid growing protests against his 32-year authoritarian rule. He faces accusations that he built huge business empires for his family and friends at the expense of the state, and is the subject of an official corruption inquiry.

Suharto and his family plan to attend prayer services in Solo on Tuesday, but some activists said his presence was not welcome.

"It is clearly a humiliation to the Indonesian people," said Mudrik Setiawan Malkan Sangidu, a regional chairman of the Muslim-based United Development Party.

Suharto, 77, wants to pray beside the grave of his wife, Siti Hartinah, who died in May 1996. Prayers also were scheduled to be held on Thursday, the 1,000th day since her death.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.