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Protesters and police clash; shootings reported JAKARTA - Indonesian police give chase during a brief scuffle with protesters in front of the presidential palace in JakartaProtests against price increases of up to 22 percent for basic services turned violent Thursday, with police shooting two demonstrators in one city and using batons against rock throwers in the capital. For the fourth day, thousands of students, workers and activists demonstrated in at least 15 cities against price increases for fuel, telephone and electricity. They chanted anti-government slogans, burned tires, hijacked an empty fuel truck and demanded the removal of the current government.
In the west Java town of Karawang, about 60 miles east of Jakarta, police shot and wounded two demonstrators. Police said they shot the demonstrators by accident while trying to disperse the crowd. Police in Jakarta attacked about 1,000 protesters outside the State Palace. No one was injured seriously in the clash, which took place while President Megawati Sukarnoputri met with her Cabinet.
In the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar, protesters briefly hijacked an empty fuel truck. On Wednesday, another group in the city seized a fuel truck and distributed kerosene to nearby neighborhoods, witnesses said. No one was hurt. Most protests, however, were peaceful, and smaller than expected. Threats of a nationwide strike never materialized.
Parliament last year approved price increases ranging from 6 percent for electricity to 22 percent for fuel to meet demands by foreign creditors for fiscal belt-tightening. Some estimates say the higher prices could force up to 3 million Indonesians into poverty. In the central Java city of Semarang, hundreds of public transport drivers joined student protests, while about 2,000 students in the central Sulawesi town of Palu called for the ouster of Megawati and Vice President Hamzah Haz. Police dispersed the crowd.
Hundreds of students in Denpasar, capital of the resort island of Bali, held a peaceful protest outside the local legislative building. ``The government has to cancel their stupid decision in raising the price of fuel,'' a protester shouted through a megaphone. The government said it plans to spend $450 million to offset expected increases in transportation prices and to keep rice prices steady. Rice is a staple food in Indonesia, especially among the poor.
Officials also said they were considering tax cuts to help businesses hurt by the price increases. The proposals include a plan to reduce the luxury tax on as many as 20 items. Former Indonesian dictator Suharto was overthrown in 1998 after violent protests over fuel price increases.



Posted in Protests @ 09 January 2003 00:03 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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