Ramidi, Jakarta – Around 100 demonstrators from the People's Democratic Party (PRD) held a demonstration in front of the State Palace on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat on Monday December 20. The action which began at 11am was protesting proposed fuel price increases which they consider will burden ordinary people.
The demonstrators who were carrying PRD flags and posters took up almost a whole section of Jalan Medan Merdeka and as a result created a traffic jam. According to the action coordinator, Sudiarto, as well as the demonstration at the State Palace, simultaneous actions are also being held in a number of other cities. Sudiarto said that they disagree with the policy of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration to increase fuel prices on the grounds of saving money from the state budget.
"We view these increases as actually being made to pay off the debt and interest obligations for the re-capitalisation of the banking industry. What is obvious is that much of these funds are taken advantage for things which are unimportant such as allowances for state officials and corruption", said Sudiarto. The fuel price increases he said are of concern because they will trigger price rises while at the same time people's purchasing power remains low. "On the other hand, demands for [an adequate] regional minimum wage have also gone unheeded".
According to Sudiarto, the action was purposefully held at the State Palace because it is a symbol of the government of President Yudhoyono and Vice-president Jusuf Kalla. He said that in fact if Yudhoyono wants to work hard and consistently to serve the interests of the people there are many other cost saving measures which could be used. Firstly by setting a separate price level for vehicles which consume large amounts of fuel for the middle- and upper-classes, without having to increase the price of fuel for other vehicles. Secondly by prioritising conserving the consumption of fuel in stages by limiting the number of vehicles and consumption of fuel for the middle- and upper-classes though regulations, for example by limiting additional private vehicle though increasing the tariff on imported cars.
With regard to the Yudhoyono government's plans, the PRD said Sudiarto is of the view that if Yudhoyono increases the price of fuel the PRD will be calling on the Indonesian people to unite to bring down the government. It is better if the Yudhoyono administration is replaced with a new government, that is a united government of the people. This united government of the people would represent a unification of all classes, groups, social organisations and individuals who are pro-democracy and pro-people.
This government he said, would have a different approach to overcoming the problem of saving money from the budget including ending foreign debt payments for the benefit of ordinary people, canceling bank re-capitalisation obligations, arresting and trying and seizing the assets of corrupters, reducing budget expenditure by prioritising the reduction of allowances, state officials wages and the purchase of goods for the needs of the bureaucracy which are unnecessary.
They would also reduce the military budget by abolishing Kodam, Korem, Kodim, Koramil and Babinsa(1) and end further arms purchases, nationalise the business assets of the TNI (armed forces) and police, repeal the civil emergency in Aceh and restart negotiations with the Free Aceh Movement. The 5 trillion rupiah from the state budget which was used during the state of martial law and civil emergency can be used to subsidise fuel prices.
In order to build this united government of the people, in its pamphlet the PRD calls for all of the Indonesian people, students, teachers, drivers, owners of motorcycles, fisherpeople and high-school students to unite to form anti-price increase committees in every Indonesian city as a way to resist fuel price increases. They also call for all elements of society to unite and blockade government offices and occupy petrol stations and force them to sell fuel at the old price.
The action which was closely guarded by scores of police officers dispersed at around 1pm.
1. The TNI's territorial command structure mandates the deployment of military command posts and detachments at all levels of the civil administration: provincial, district, sub- district and village. This structure provides the organisational framework for the TNI to act as a political security force at all levels of society. The five respective commands are: Kodam - Komando Daerah Militer, Regional Military Command; Korem - Komando Resort Militer, Military Command at a level below the residency; Kodim - Komando Distrik Militer, District Military Command; Koramil - Komando Rayon Militer, Sub-District Military Command (Kecamatan) level and; Babinsa - Bintara Pembina Desa, Noncommissioned military officer posted in villages and wards and affiliated with the civilian administration.
[Translated by James Balowski.]