Jokowi issues stern warning as riots rock Jakarta for second night

Rioters clashing with police officers on the streets of Jakarta last night. The Indonesian capital has seen mass protests after it was officially announced that President Joko Widodo won a second term with 55.5 per cent of the vote in the April 17 po
Rioters clashing with police officers on the streets of Jakarta last night. The Indonesian capital has seen mass protests after it was officially announced that President Joko Widodo won a second term with 55.5 per cent of the vote in the April 17 polls, beating rival Prabowo Subianto.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Military and police will take firm action, he says; six people killed and 200 hurt in riots

Police in full protective gear clashed with rioters at election supervisory agency Bawaslu's headquarters in Jakarta for a second consecutive night yesterday, with similar stand-offs in other parts of the capital continuing even as President Joko Widodo warned that the authorities would crack down on those seeking to disrupt the democratic process.

As of press time last night, police officers stood in a tight riot-control formation as their full body-length shields took on a barrage of Molotov cocktails, rocks, firecrackers and other projectiles thrown by rioters in downtown Jakarta.

Elsewhere, in West Jakarta, a separate battalion of troops, supplemented by marines from the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), camped out along a narrow street as the chief provocateurs of another riot there stalled negotiations with the authorities.

The President, better known as Jokowi, addressed the nation a day after election commission KPU announced he had secured a second term with 55.5 per cent of the votes in the April 17 polls, warning that he will "not tolerate anyone who disrupts our security, democracy and the unity of the nation we love, especially rioters".

"That is not an option - the military and police will take firm action in accordance with the appropriate laws," he said.

Mr Joko's victory has been marred by public protests against the results, amid allegations of electoral fraud by his challenger, Mr Prabowo Subianto.

Many in the capital Jakarta woke up yesterday to scenes of black smoke billowing from burnt vehicles and policemen in stand-offs with provocateurs on the outskirts of the city - leading to fears of a repeat of the 1998 unrest in Indonesia prior to the fall of the Suharto regime.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto, who like some Indonesians go by just one name, said "paid thugs" were behind the unrest that broke out yesterday morning.

 
 
 
 

"Based on our investigations, we are aware of the masterminds behind this unrest... and our security forces will take stern action based on the law," he said.

National police chief Tito Karnavian yesterday confirmed that his officers had seized envelopes stashed with cash from the rioters who were arrested during the clashes, which caused damage to 25 vehicles, including some belonging to the police.

"We found separate envelopes with a total of nearly six million rupiah (S$570) in cash," said the police general, adding that the suspects claimed they were paid to riot.

At least 257 men, including those suspected to be provocateurs of the violence, have been arrested so far and investigations are continuing, said General Tito.

Six people were reportedly killed and more than 200 sent to hospital for treatment during the riots, local media reported, quoting Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

Mr Wiranto yesterday defended the actions of the police, saying a country should always protect its people, after some had criticised the use of force.

He also said that the authorities will partially restrict social media usage for two to three days to prevent the spread of hoaxes that may provoke further violence.

"To avoid provocations, the spread of fake news among the people, we will limit access to certain features on social media," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2019, with the headline 'Jokowi issues stern warning as riots continue to rock Jakarta'. Print Edition | Subscribe