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PT Kahatex workers run amuck in Sumedang, Pontianak also paralysed

Kompas - February 1, 1997

Jakarta – PT Kahatex, one of the largest textile factories in West Java situated on Jl Rancaekek Km 25 (about 25 kilometers from Bandung), on Friday (31/1) was destroyed by some 7,000 of its workers. As a result of that riot, 5 office buildings, 8 factories, 4 storehouses, 1 employees mess, 68 trucks and employee operation cars were damaged and 60 cycles burned by the mob.

PT Kahatex is among the largest textile industries in West Java with a workforce of 9,600 persons. However, no loss of life has been reported in that incident, except for wounds suffered by dozens of workers and management members.

According to Kompas sources at the factory which stands on a plot of 34 hectares, the riot started around 05.30 West Indonesia time, when some 5,000 workers who had gathered around the factory, conducted a demonstration of concern with a number of posters, requesting that the company fulfill their rights as workers, such as pregnancy leave, monthly period leave, holiday allowances, wages, medical allowance and some other allowances.

Feeling that their concern attracted no attention from the factory management, hundreds of workers started to throw stones, followed by thousands of others of the night shift who numbered about 3,500 persons. Meanwhile the mess for foreign workers from Taiwan did not escape the raging of the mob. They did not only smash the windows of the mess, but also ransacked the house equipment of some 30 foreign workers. The accommodations for female workers with a capacity of 3,905 persons and the men's accommodations also suffered heavy damage.

The Priangan District Police Chief, Col. Drs Sudirman Ail, when on location mentioned that in that case, his side had detained seven suspects thought to be the instigators of the mob and two others were held because they were caught redhanded stealing factory property when the riot occurred.

This riot by the workers, besides causing loss to the company thought to amount to hundreds of millions of rupiahs, also paralysed traffic on the Bandung-Garut-Tasikmalaya southern main road for five hours. Hundreds of vehicles from the direction of Bandung and Garut as well as from the opposite direction had to be diverted to the alternative route of Wado and Cijapati. The riot was finally smothered by agents around 09.30.

Bandung deserted

Various issues which were circulating about the possibilities of rioting, caused a number of shops in Bandung to remain closed and parents to fetch their children from school. A number of main roads in Bandung also became deserted.

The owners of row upon row of shops along Jalan Oto Iskandardinata, Jalan Asia-Afrika and the areas around the grass park, chose to close their business premises. On the grass park, security agents, including two armored cars and a few Rapid Reaction Unit cars were seen in readiness.

Some of the areas rumored to be the target for rioting were Cimindi, Cicadas, Cimahi, Palasari and Dayeuhkolot. Further spreading to Jalan Oto Iskandardinata, Asia-Afrika, Jalan Lengkong, and Pasar Baru.

Some private schools were also forced to cease their teaching activities. "Actually there was no decision to have the school take the day off," said a school principal to Kompas. But many pupils were taken home by parents afraid for their children.

Pontianak paralysed

In Pontianak economic and trade activities along the main roads and central markets became paralysed starting Friday (31/1). Shop owners and shopping centers closed down simultaneously after a rumor started that a group was bent on revenge as an after-effect of the Sanggau Ledo rioting. As a result, market centers in the town of Pontianak became deserted. The head of the Socio-political Section, Lt.Col. Yacob Adrianto, representing Danrem 121/ABW West Kalimantan, yesterday in Pontianak admitted to the press that as a result of the rumor that attacks would be made by a group of people, shop owners became afraid and immediately closed their businesses. Authorities are looking for the person who spread the rumor.

Some shop owners who were questioned by Kompas said that they believed the rumor because on Friday morning there had been an altercation around the Kapuas Indah market.

Actually, according to information gathered by Kompas, the noisy group had been hire car drivers holding a demonstration, protesting the licensing of new hire cars by the Pontianak municipality. This protest action was a continuation of the strike by 140 hire cars, stationed at the Sungai Jawi terminal, on Thursday (30/1).

Pontianak blockaded

The town of Pomtianak since Thursday night had been practically blockaded by the guard posts set before the headquarters of the 643/Wanara Sakti Infantry Battalion in Anjungan Village, about 60 kilometers north of Pontianak.

Anjungan is crossed by the road connecting Pontianak with three regencies of the interior, namely the Regencies of Sanggau, Sintang and Kapuas Hulu. Night and day, this is the main road very densely packed with both passenger and freight transportation. Moreover, these three regencies are across from Kuching.

Armed Forces personnel – some armed with stenguns – stopped passenger buses and freighter trucks, especially those coming from Pontianak and going to the three mentioned regencies, because the further journey was risky. The buses finally returned to Pontianak, while the freighter trucks were temporarily parked on the grounds of the military headquarters.

On Thursday night, the military and police authorities of the area issued a statement that the development of the situation of late could disturb the stability of the security and development of the region.

The statement also appealed to the community to remain calm and not to be incited by rumors. The Armed Forces would take firm steps according to the law against all parties disturbing the stability of security in the region, and which could sever the unity and union of the nation, specifically in West Kalimantan.