The Indonesian government said today it would delay implementation of a new security bill that has sparked two days of riots in which four people have been killed.
"The government has decided to postpone endorsement of this law until a suitable time," military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudrajat said on a local radio station.
Anti-military riots raged for a second day in the Indonesian capital today. At least one of the four people killed appeared to have been shot by a sniper who used ammunition normally available only to two elite military units.
A policeman was also killed when hit by a car, apparently intentionally.
It was an ugly reminder of the last mass anti-government protests almost a year ago in Jakarta, when at least a dozen people were killed, some by sniper fire.
Dozens were wounded in pitched street battles as radical students led protests against the "prevention of danger" bill, which they argue gives the military even more power to crush dissent.
The government and the military say the bill is in line with a more democratic Indonesia and is necessary to replace an outdated 1959 law.
"We don't have to worry, because we have . . . [the 1959 law], which is even more repressive," Sudrajat said.
He urged students, who have been at the forefront of the protests, not to be used. "Don't let yourself be exploited by thugs."
Used to having its own way during most of Indonesia's history, the military's star has fallen rapidly in the past 18 months of political turmoil. Most recently, it had to face international censure for supporting the rampage by pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor.
Last week, the military was humiliated by having to accept foreign troops in East Timor to calm violence it had been unable, or unwilling, to control.
The armed forces were widely criticized for trying to push through the new security bill, passed Thursday by parliament just before its final session. Many suspected the military of using its power in the final days of the current parliament--a relic of the discredited era of ousted president Suharto--to increase its power in the People's Consultative Assembly, which meets starting next month.
The assembly is to elect the new president and vice president.
The front-runner for the presidency, opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, had also urged President B.J. Habibie to delay signing the bill until conditions were right.
The rioting centered on Atma Jaya University, a short walk from parliament in the central business district. Local residents joined in the protest, supporting the students out of popular resentment against the security forces.