Hyped Coup Falls Flat; Govt Accused of Misdirection

Some of the housewives who turned out for the protest that officials said could lead to a coup on Monday. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Some of the housewives who turned out for the protest that officials said could lead to a coup on Monday. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Jakarta/Medan. A much-trumpeted coup attempt on Monday fizzled out after the anti-government protest from which it was supposed to grow drew just a few hundred people, mostly women and children.

The Indonesian People’s Sovereignty Council (MKRI), the fringe group that organized the protest, had said it planned to gather around 3,000 people to demonstrate at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta against the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Instead, it never left its base on Jalan Diponegoro, Central Jakarta, where it doled out food parcels to the few hundred women and children who showed up, causing massive traffic gridlock in the area.

Rasman Haris Nasution, one of the MKRI leaders, claimed that his group never intended to carry out a coup attempt.

“To do that, we’d need massive military backing, and we don’t have that,” he said.

“All we want to do is to give the government a stern warning to seriously address the problems that the country is facing.”

Adi Masardi, another MKRI official, accused the government of hyping up the threat of a coup, saying his group had only demanded that the president step down.

“Now we’re hearing about how the government wants to crack down on us. Even the defense minister has threatened to attack us,” he said.

The MKRI has long railed against the Yudhoyono administration, but only regained attention after the president alluded earlier this month to a conspiracy to overthrow his administration.

Marciano Norman, the chief of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), later said there was reason to believe that its planned protest on Monday could be used to launch a coup attempt.

Having raised the specter of the coup, Marciano called on Jakarta residents on Monday not to let the possibility stop them from going about their daily activities.

He also flip-flopped on the government’s earlier forebodings, saying there was no chance of the protesters attempting a coup or posing a security threat.

Gandi Parapat, the coordinator of the Indonesian Political and Legal Monitoring Center, a government watchdog, said in Medan, North Sumatra, that the administration appeared to have trumpeted the threat to garner public support.

“It’s possible that they played this up to distract from other issues. That kind of thing happens all the time,” he said.