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Five workers wounded in labor protest

Agence France Presse - February 12, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian police opened fire on thousands of workers staging a protest in East Java, wounding four people while another was injured by a rifle butt, a report said Friday.

Some 3,000 workers at PT Sinar Indo Megantara in Surabaya held a protest on Thursday to demand the personnel manager resigns, the Republika daily said.

But as 20 representatives of the workers were received by the management, thousands of workers from a nearby sister company, PT Polinesia, joined the protest in front of the factory.

Police tried to disperse the crowd and opened fire after they were pelted with stones and other objects. Four workers were wounded by the gunfire while another suffered a serious head injury after being hit by a rifle butt, the daily said.

The head of the Tandes subdistrict police said his men had only been authorized to fire warning shot in the air. Captain Onto Cahyono said "Our underlings did not fire their guns into the workers and the bullets given to them were all rubber-coated bullets," Republika reported.

The head of the armed forces, which also includes the police, General Wiranto, has ordered security forces to get firm on law violators, including protesters who fail to seek police permits for rallies.