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Friday, January 22, 2021

Students unite the resistance in Indonesia

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Students unite the resistance in Indonesia
Students unite the resistance in Indonesia

A 22 year-old university student has emerged as a key leader of protests in Indonesia.

Although mass rallies have lost some traction recently, Manik Marganamahendra isn't ready to give up, and is bringing in other activists challenging the government's social and political agenda.

Eve Johnson reports.

In Indonesia, the people leading the charge in months of violent civil unrest say they aren't giving up.

People like 22 year-old university student Manik Marganamahendra, who has emerged as the face of the movement.

He says he won't stop even though one of the biggest protest movements in decades has recently lost some traction.

(SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) STUDENT PROTESTER, MANIK MARGANAMAHENDRA SAYING: "We don't want this country to be corrupted because the next generation has the right to live a decent life in a better Indonesia." It all began in September when the government moved to strip the anti-corruption agency of some of its powers and pass a hardline criminal code.

Marganamahendra joined other students to rally against the changes.

Today, he's helped turn those protests into a much broader movement.

He's brought other groups on board: farmers, unions and feminist activists.

(SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) STUDENT PROTESTER, MANIK MARGANAMAHENDRA SAYING: "We want to show that a college student movement - any student movement - and a labor movement can unite.

We see the government is united in one political coalition, so the people must unite to fight against the government." Authoritarian rule in Indonesia under Suharto ended in the late 90s.

But critics say the governent is trying to reverse progress made since then.

The answer - for Marganamahendra and his fellow leaders - is organized resistance.

However, taking part has its risks.

Hundreds of protesters have been injured in clashes with police and five have died.

So far, President Joko Widodo has refused to back off changes to weaken the watchdog agency.

But the strict criminal code has been put on hold for now.

This week, Marganamahendra and protesters are pushing ahead with a Sunday rally.

And the movement could pick up more momentum.

One analyst said that depends on the government's next step.

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