Indonesia Police Crack Down on Alleged Fuel Price Hike Provocateurs
Bayu Marhaenjati, Rahmat & Antara
Dozens of people remained in detention over the weekend for their involvement in violent demonstrations against the planned but postponed fuel price hike, as top police officials on Sunday pledged to crack down on the provocateurs.
The police said about 80,000 people rallied across the country on Friday in the biggest public protest since the government raised fuel prices four years ago.
In Jakarta, protesters aiming to storm deliberations at the House of Representatives that evening tore down sections of the fence around the facility. In other cities, government offices and police posts were also vandalized.
National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said on Sunday that he would enforce the law against those who have broken it, including those who damaged public property.
“Staging a demonstration is allowed under the law, but we can’t tolerate people who break the law,” he said.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said 22 people were arrested in relation to the violence in front of the House on Friday but refused to detail whether they were students, workers or activists.
“Those who staged protests at Gambir [train station] and in Salemba [in Central Jakarta] were the ones who provoked the riots,” he said. “They did not inform the police in advance about their plan and only looked for fights.”
Protesters used Molotov cocktails to provoke rioting, he said.
In South Sulawesi, the police said on Sunday that 33 people had been named suspects for violent protests in the province.
“All of them have been arrested,” said police spokesman Sr. Comr. Chevy Ahmad Sopari.
Chevy said the suspects allegedly burned down a police post and cars and engaged in violent brawls across Makassar.
In Samarinda, East Kalimantan, six students were arrested for setting a police post on fire on Friday. They were released on Sunday.
Though most cities that saw violent rallies on Friday were quiet on Sunday, when the price hike was supposed to have taken effect, there were still a few scattered protests as the possibility of a price increase still looms after legislators kept the door open to follow through with the plan in six months.
Despite criticism of the police’s excessive use of force, the Indonesia Police Watch praised the police on Sunday for showing restraint by only using tear gas to disperse protesters.
“We have no reports of fatal injuries or deaths,” IPW chairman Neta S. Pane said. “In such chaotic situations, the police chose to use tear gas rather than rubber bullets.”
Additional reporting by Tunggadewa Mattangkilang & Rangga Prakoso