Jakarta riots: Jokowi announces zero tolerance to threats to unity

Jakarta riots: Jokowi announces zero tolerance to threats to unity

JAKARTA: Political tension over disputed election results spilled into angry clashes for a second consecutive night in Jakarta, with protesters hurling rocks and firecrackers at police, who in turn responded with tear gas.

Thousands gathered at Indonesia’s election supervisory agency on Wednesday, protesting against what they claim is widespread fraud in the 17 April presidential poll.

The election commission said on Tuesday that president Joko Widodo had won the re-election with 55% of the vote, in a poll that is widely regarded as free and fair.

In daylight hours Wednesday’s protest in Central Jakarta was peaceful, with supporters of defeated candidate, the former special forces general Prabowo Subianto, calling for an investigation and waving Islamic and Indonesian flags. Some held flowers and signs denouncing the deaths of six protestors the night before.

“We are peaceful, not treasonous,” said Rusli, 46, a Jakarta resident, who attended the rally. “The voting data has been manipulated and the rights of our voices has been diminished. We want justice.”

Parts of central Jakarta were in a security lockdown, with streets cordoned off with rolls of barbed wire, central transport stations shut, and 30,000 police and military troops on standby.

By nightfall many had left the demonstration, but authorities struggled to disperse a group of angry youths, who hurled rocks and fireworks over a razor-wire barricade. Police pushed back the main group of rioters after firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

In a televised address, the president said the volatile situation, some of the worst political violence Indonesia has seen in recent decades, was under control.

Flanked by the military chief and his vice president, Widodo said: “I will work together with anyone to advance this country, but I will not tolerate anyone who disrupts the security, democratic processes and unity of our beloved nation.”

On Wednesday, the national police chief confirmed that six people had died and dozens of others were injured.

Authorities have suggested the rioting was planned, and have not ruled out the possibility of ‘third-party provocateurs.’

Prabowo, who lost the 2014 election but this year declared himself the rightful winner, has said his team will contest the results through the constitutional court.

In the month since the election, key figures in his camp, some of who attended the Wednesday’s rally, called on supporters to put on a show of ‘people power’. As a result, at least two are now facing charges of treason.

Prabowo was a military commander during the fall of Indonesia’s long-time authoritarian leader Suharto in 1998, an event precipitated by the mass gathering of students.

The fiery general, also the former son-in-law of Suharto, was later dismissed for his conduct in 1998, specifically because he was accused of involvement in the kidnapping and torture of students, although this has never been proven and he has long denied it.

Early on Thursday Prabowo tried to set a conciliatory tone, calling for the protesters to go home, and again urging them to avoid violence.

“I plead to all elements of the people exercising their aspirations: the police, the armed forces, and everyone else to refrain from acts of physical harm,” he said, “We urge that the violence that happened last night and his dawn, which tarnished the dignity of the Indonesian nation, shall not repeat.”

Authorities also for the first-time blocked access to some social media sites in an attempt to stem the spread of fake news.

The Guardian

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