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Protests and transport disruption over price hikes JAKARTA - Hundreds of Indonesians took to the streets here Monday to protest the government's decision to raise electricity and telephone rates and fuel prices, while elsewhere in the country higher fuel costs were likely to cause transport disruptions. More than 150 students from the Committee Against Price Rises and from the militant Democratic People's Party picketed the Merdeka Palace to protest the hikes.
"We reject the economic policies of the government of (President) Megawati and (Vice President) Hamzah Haz which are only adding to the sufferings of the people," one of the demonstrators said through a loudspeaker. The demonstrators carried posters rejecting last week's fuel price hike as scores of police looked on from the sprawling grounds of Monas Square across the street from the palace.
A few hundred meters away about 100 men, women and children from the Network of Urban Poor held a noisy rally inside the grounds of the office of the coordinating minister for welfare. On a main avenue leading to the palace, about 100 people from the Action Committee of Indonesian Muslim Students, marched towards Merdeka yelling, "Lower fuel prices" and "Stop the suffering of the people."
Some dragged empty jerrycans to symbolize the now unaffordable price of kerosene, still widely used as a domestic fuel. At the faculty of medicine of the state-owned Universitas Indonesia, students began to gather to rally against the prices. "We understand that with this increase,many now bear a heavier load so it is only fair for our people to be dissatisfied...but of course, we hope that this does not drag on for too long," top economy minister Yusuf Kalla told the ElShinta radio.
He said that the government would provide a mechanism for compensation for the poor after assessing public reaction. Meanwhile, the head of the organisation of land transportation in East Java, H. Mustofa, said about half of the 4,000 privately-owned public buses linking cities in the province would stop operation as a result of the price increase.
"This decision has been taken by several operators following the policy of the government to raise fuel prices," Mustofa said in Surabaya, the capital of East Java, according to Antara news agency. Press reports also said that fishermen have grounded their ships following the higher cost of diesel oils.
The government raised fuel prices by up to 22 percent Thursday, following on an increase in electricity and telephone surcharges by as much as 15 percent on Wednesday. The increases, which included a 12 percent rise in gas prices in December, were part of of the government's drive to reduce costly subsidies and contain the budget deficit. Electricity charges are slated to rise a further six percent each quarter.



Posted in Protests @ 07 January 2003 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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