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Fuel protests grow JAKARTA - Indonesians have held a third day of protests around the country against rises in fuel and utility charges, as students, labour and political groups called for bigger protests on Thursday. Hundreds of students in Palu, Central Sulawesi province, burnt portraits of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice President Hamzah Haz, the Detikcom online news service reported.
Protesters say the government has abandoned the poorFuel prices went up by 22% on 1 January, and electricity and telephone charges were increased at the same time. The government says it has no choice but to remove the hefty subsidies which have persisted in Indonesia for years. But as protests continued in at least 10 cities, there have been growing calls for the price rises to be cancelled.
In South Sulawesi, the provincial government called on the central administration to reject the increases, its vice president Edi Baramuli was quoted by Detikcom as saying. Bus and mini-van drivers have gone on strike in Badung in West Java, El Shinta radio said, with reports that 10 drivers have been arrested for inciting others to join them.
Some protesters have been calling for the president and vice president to resign. "Long live Queen Megawati, long live his Highness Hamzah Haz, we are hungry," shouted protesters outside the presidential palace, where about 40 students demonstrated. Students in East Jakarta burned tyres and briefly seized a tanker truck which they believed was carrying fuel. It was carrying cooking oil.

Strike called

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says public anger could lead to a potentially serious challenge for President Megawati, especially if a national strike called for Thursday goes ahead. Trade unions have called for a national stoppage, and the call has been taken up in towns and cities across the archipelago.
Sharp rises in fuel prices at the height of the financial crisis in May 1998 triggered rioting which contributed to the fall of the then-President Suharto. Since then, the government has brought in a series of further price hikes which have prompted protests, but not serious rioting. In addition to the 22% fuel hike, electricity charges went up by 6% on 1 January, with three further quarterly increases of 6% due this year. Telephone charges were also increased by an average of 15%.
The government has allocated 3.1 trillion rupiah ($346m) as financial aid for the poor to compensate for the price rises. Kerosene, widely used by the poor as a cooking fuel, remains heavily subsidised for domestic use.



Posted in Protests @ 09 January 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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