Indonesia beefs up security ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations; measures also taken to ease traffic congestion

Members of an Indonesian anti-terror police unit line up during a drill at the National Monument in Jakarta.
Members of an Indonesian anti-terror police unit line up during a drill at the National Monument in Jakarta.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Local administrations across Indonesia have been instructed to tighten their security measures and put fire departments on standby, ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said heightened security measures have been implemented across the country starting from Friday (Dec 22) till Jan 3.

The measures include installing security posts and preparing community health centres (Puskesmas) and hospitals to operate 24 hours during the year-end holiday season, the minister told journalists.

Instructions had been given to all local administrations in a circular telegram on Tuesday, he said.

"I ordered them to provide best services to all people, both those who celebrate Christmas and people of other faiths," said Tjahjo.

Echoing the minister's statement, Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Hadi Tjahjanto said it was the duty of police and military personnel to ensure all Indonesian citizens felt safe during the holidays.

"Every TNI and National Police (POLRI) officer has to respond firmly, quickly and proportionately to any unruly behaviour that may be perpetrated by some groups to provoke security disruptions," he said.

In Central Java, two thirds of the province's 35,000-strong police force have been deployed to protect 2,800 churches across the region. About 180 churches across 35 regencies and municipalities have been singled out for additional safety measures.

"We want everyone to celebrate Christmas in a safe and peaceful environment," said Central Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Condro Kirono.

In Surakarta, which has a significant proportion of the Christian population, 168 churches will receive 24-hour protection starting from Saturday until after the New Year's Eve celebration.

"As many as 1,120 personnel have been prepared," said Surakarta Police's operational head Comr. Arif Joko.

"There will be additional forces from the TNI, Polri and the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) as well," he added.

In Medan, North Sumatra, where more than 20 per cent of the population are Christians, 1,500 police officers have been prepared to secure 618 churches and man 11 security posts across the city.

"The safety measures will be focused on anticipating terror attacks and street crimes," Medan Police chief Sr. Comr. Dadang Hartanto said.

Traffic congestion is expected to worsen as travellers simultaneously depart for their end-of-year vacations. The authorities in regencies and municipalities across the country have prepared precautionary measures to reduce traffic.

The Riau Police, for instance, have deployed their personnel to 69 posts set up along the highways that link Riau with its neighbouring provinces.

"During the year-end holiday, which coincides with school vacation, people usually go out of town, either to West or North Sumatra," said Riau Police chief Insp. Gen. Nandang.

"That's why security and traveller services on highways are the priority," he added.

In West Java, the province's police and transportation agency are working together to impose a ban on freight vehicles on toll roads from Friday to Tuesday to reduce traffic.

The East Java branch of state railway operator Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) has prepared 87 train trips in anticipation of increased ridership.

Similarly, the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) branch of state ship operator Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia (Pelni) has six vessels, with a total capacity of 9,000 passengers, on standby in Kupang.

Meanwhile, airport authorities in Lombok, a popular tourist destination in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), have set up a special Christmas and New Year customer care centre.

"We have always seen an upward trend of travellers during long year-end holidays. This year, we predict a 10-per cent increase in passengers, but it could be more," Lombok International Airport general manager I Gusti Ngurah Ardita said.

"We hope the centre can provide comfort and safety for the passengers," he added.