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Fuel protests turn violent JAKARTA - Protests against the fuel price hike again turned violent here as university students taking part in two separate demonstrations clashed with police. Students from the Indonesian Christian University (UKI) and Jayabaya University, both in East Jakarta, became involved in running battles with the police in front of their respective universities, resulting in at least five people being injured.
The altercation at UKI erupted after the students and police apparently lost patience with each other. Stone-throwing students were greeted by tear gas and warning shots. Police were seen chasing students who fled into the UKI campus, causing panic among pedestrians. A photo journalist was also injured in the violence at UKI. Antara reported that Reuters photographer Dadang Tri was injured after being struck by police as he was photographing a policeman firing tear gas.
Apparently perturbed that his face might make the front pages of the morning newspapers, the policeman and his colleagues then set upon the photographer. Among the students who were injured was one who was hit by a rubber bullet in the face. Similarly, police also had to fire warning shots and tear gas to break up a student protest in front of the Jayabaya University campus.
The latest incidents were manifestations of the tension created by the government's decision to raise fuel prices by 30 percent last week. The fuel price hike immediately prompted public minivan drivers to demand an increase in fares. Faced with the prospect of stranded commuters being unable to get to work, most local administrations quickly capitulated to these demands.
But the fuel price hike has also prompted rises in the prices of various consumer goods, the effects of which are quickly being felt by the public. The protests could continue as students have pledged not to give up the struggle. The University of Indonesia's Student Executive Body (BEM-UI) said on Thursday that it was seriously considering a protest move against the fuel price hike.
BEM-UI chairman Wisnu Sunandar told journalists that they were weighing up the move, but indicated that they were in contact with "a network of BEMs from other universities that have similar plans over the fuel price hike." Among these were student executive bodies from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, the Bandung Institute of Technology, the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, along with Muhammadiyah University and Trisakti University in Jakarta.
"We'll soon meet to discuss plans for a possible joint rally," he said. Meanwhile in Central Jakarta, around 30 activists marched along main thoroughfares on Thursday calling for the public to join protests against the increase in fuel prices. The protesters distributed leaflets to passers-by as they marched from Jl. Salemba, opposite the University of Indonesia campus, to the Kampung Melayu bus station and back to Jl. Matraman, where they dispersed peacefully.
The protest was conducted in an orderly manner and traffic along the busy roads was only slightly affected. The leaflets they handed out called on the people to organize themselves and to join a planned mass rally, the date of which has yet to be announced, to the House of Representatives. The protesters claimed they belonged to the Anti-New Order People's Front, a coalition of 19 organizations including the Jakarta chapter of the Democratic People's Party (PRD).
They called for the confiscation of the assets of Golkar, the ruling party under the New Order regime, and for them to be used to aid the poor, including paying for the fuel subsidy. In Semarang, Central Java, about 100 people grouped in the Semarang People's Forum (FBRS), staged a rally outside the provincial council, rejecting the fuel price hike and calling on fellow residents to strike.
They unfurled banners and delivered speeches expressing their concerns over the government's decision. The demonstrators also alleged that the security forces' were continuing to use repressive measures to curb protests. "The security forces should be on the public's side instead of serving as a government tool to repress those opposing government policy," protest coordinator Wahyu Saptiaji told reporters. The role of the police in clamping down on the various protests has increasingly come under the spotlight, with President Abdurrahman Wahid himself criticizing the methods used by the police in handling the protests.

Posted in Protests @ 21 June 2001 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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