Back to Home Page Print September 30, 2005

bahan bakar minyak (BBM) = fuel oil

Nation braces for massive protests

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

City police are tightening up security in the capital, especially at 14 places that are likely to be targets of protesters out to oppose a government plan to raise fuel prices on Oct. 1.

Besides securing the streets, police have also deployed several officers to guard each of some 200 gas stations in the capital to ensure that all of them serve motorists as usual.

City police chief Insp. Gen. Firman Gani said Wednesday that police have deployed around 5,500 personnel from various units, including the antiriot unit, mobile brigade, intelligence and detective units, at 14 strategic locations.

"Upon receiving intelligence reports we decided to focus on these 14 places as we believe that most protesters will concentrate at those places," he said.

The 14 places included the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta, which was guarded by some 1,200 personnel, and the House of Representatives (DPR) building, which was secured by 374 personnel.

State oil company Pertamina's station in Plumpang, North Jakarta, an area near the Christian University of Indonesia (UKI) in East Jakarta and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, were guarded by 440, 270 and 173 personnel respectively.

Other areas being given special security attention included the Golkar Party's national headquarters in Slipi, West Jakarta; the area near the Islamic State University (UIN) in Ciputat in South Jakarta; Semanggi and the Istiqlal Mosque, both in Central Jakarta; the Vice President's office and residence, both in Central Jakarta; and Tugu Tani, Harmoni and Pecenongan, all in Central Jakarta.

The House voted to raise fuel prices on Tuesday in order to save the country's budget from blowing out. Vice President Jusuf Kalla said earlier that prices of heavily-subsidized fuel would increase by up to 80 percent.

The plan, which is expected to come into effect on Oct. 1, has drawn strong opposition from students and labor activists.

Many student organizations and trade unions have warned that they would stage massive protests.

The Mandiri Workers Union, for instance, has announced that some 16,000 of its members would hold rally in front of the Presidential Palace on Thursday. Student organizations are also expected to join the group.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged those who oppose the policy to stage peaceful rallies without disrupting the daily activities of other people.

"We are not going to ban any protest rallies against the fuel price hike since this is a democratic country. You are free to voice your protests. But please do it peacefully, don't burn anything," said Susilo during a gathering of university heads and academicians including members of the Rector's Forum.

Susilo also urged protesters to clearly explain to the public the reasons for their objection to the fuel price increases, as well as providing reasonable solutions to address the problems.

"Please explain the objections clearly to the public in order to provide good political education. Don't just provoke the public with unreasonable solutions to the problem," said Susilo.

Meanwhile, Governor Sutiyoso said that his administration had prepared around 400 buses and trucks to anticipate dysfunctions in public transportation because of massive demonstrations.

"We have prepared our personnel and equipment for the worst scenario if people from the public transportation sector stage a rally and paralyze city's transportation," he said.