Fuel Protests Fizzle in Indonesian Capital
Massive protests against a proposed fuel price increase failed to materialize in Jakarta on Tuesday, but smaller rallies, some of them violent, took place across the country.
In Jakarta, students and police officers clashed near Gambir train station in Central Jakarta, leaving more than 10 people injured and leading to the arrest of 35 students.
The violence erupted after the police, saying the students had not notified them of their plan to demonstrated, attempted to to block their advance. Tear gas and rocks flew and officers fired water cannons.
In Makassar, South Sulawesi, students pelted stones at police officers and damaged a restaurant. The most serious clashes occurred in front of universities, including Makassar State University and Alauddin State Islamic University, after students attempted to block roads.
One student, Dian Fadli, was injured by a fired tear gas canister. “I was shot from a distance of five meters when I tried to stop the clash,” Dian said.
In Palu, Central Sulawesi, more than a dozen students were injured in a brawl between protesters and security officers outside a government building. The students were reportedly trying to force their way into the building when officers fired tear gas into the crowd.
The National Police reported 127 demonstrations, most of them peaceful, across the archipelago involving more that 88,200 protesters. East Java and Jakarta saw the highest number of protests, with 24 each.
There were 22,000 police officers and 8,000 soldiers out on the streets across the country.
Sastro Ma’ruf of the Indonesian Trade Union Alliance (Kasbi) said there were only about 2,000 protesters in Jakarta on Tuesday, much less than expected.
Jati Pramestianto, from Indonesian Students National Consolidation (Konami), said at least 1,500 students took part in the protests in Jakarta.
“We actually expected far more,” he said. “But many couldn’t enter Jakarta. They had problems getting in because of tight screening at ports and train stations.”
With the heavy security and frequent warnings of possibly violent rallies, the streets of the capital were quiet for much of Tuesday. But
Sastro promised bigger demonstrations on Thursday — the day the House of Representatives is expected to make a final decision on fuel prices.
“We will go inside and occupy the House on Thursday,” he said.
Fewer protesters showed up on Tuesday, he said, because they heard the House was going to pass the revised state budget, which includes the fuel price increase, on Thursday or Friday.
In addition to students and workers, members and supporters of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) held protests in several cities.
Jeppri Silalahi, PDI-P’s rally spokesman in Jakarta, said he was optimistic the people’s actions, including those of his party, would force the government to reconsider its plan.
“We can’t let this happen,” he said. “We are going to fight.”
Reporting by Anita Rachman, Rahmat, Ronna Nirmala & Farouk Arnaz