Erick Tanjung – Student groups in various parts of the country took to the streets on Monday September 5 to hold demonstrations protesting the recent fuel (BBM) price hike.
In Jakarta, an alliance of students from the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII) held a protest action against the price hike near the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta on Monday afternoon.
The action was closely guarded by police who had deployed tactical vehicles, water cannon and installed razor wire in the vicinity.
The protest quickly became chaotic with the students setting fire to tyres in front of the razor wire blockade. Following this, they gathered to unite their ranks.
A group of people then covered the razor wire with banners while other protesters trampled on the wire and pulled it away.
A group of PMII demonstrators managed to break through the police line forcing police to retreat several metres back to Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat. Fortunately, the scuffle did not last long after the police officers and students were separated.
Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat is still closed off to traffic and a Barracuda vehicle and water barrier have been prepared in the vicinity.
The PMII demonstrators also went to the nearby Arjuna or Horse Statue monument traffic circle to protest against the fuel price hike. The protesters, who brought two command vehicles with them, arrived at the location at around 3 pm.
The demonstrators initially held a long-march from the direction of Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan with the participants wearing their blue almamater jackets and carrying yellow flags with the initials PMII.
The front rank of the protesters was led by a group of bare-chested men with letters painted on their chests spelling out the message "TOLAK BBM" (Reject BBM [price hike]). From behind the command vehicles, the men appeared to enflame the demonstrators' spirits.
Upon arriving at the location, the protesters shouted "Gone up... Gone up... BBM has gone up... Gone up too high". The majority of the PMII demonstrators were men.
Container truck highjacked
In Kendari, South-East Sulawesi (Sultra), student protesters highjacked a container truck which was then used to blockade a road. They gave speeches declaring their opposition to the fuel price hike which will be followed by sharp increases in the price of basic goods (sembako).
As a result of the demonstration, traffic became congested because the body of the highjacked truck was parked in the middle of the road on the New Wuawua Market traffic intersection.
The chairperson of the PMII Kendari branch, Muhammad Alamsyah, gave assurances that the hijacking of the truck was only done as part of the student demonstrations against the fuel price hikes.
"This is an expression of our disappointment with government policy, a form of social pressure opposing the BBM price hike", he said as quoted by Telisik.com – part of the Suara.com network.
The road block was only maintained for several minutes. Police at the location immediately began mediating with the students to release the four-wheeled vehicle.
In the end the container truck was released and continued on its way. In the aftermath of the action, traffic had to be redirected to other roads.
Earlier, South-East Sulawesi Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) commission chairperson Suwandi Andi expressed his support for what was being articulated by those holding the demonstration.
"Of course, I very much support our friends' movement, I want to convey that all of the Sultra DPRD members have agreed to oppose it and [call for the] cancelation of the BBM price rise", he said.
Aceh parliament building occupied
Students from the Ar-Raniry Islamic State University (UIN) in the Acehnese provincial capital of Banda Aceh held a demonstration opposing the fuel price hike by taking over an Aceh DPRD plenary meeting on Monday.
Inside, they gave speeches while waiting for the Aceh DPRD leadership to meet with them over the fuel price hike.
Quoting from the state news agency Antara, inside the parliamentary building the students were given a close escort by police. There, the students also put up a number of banners with messages opposing the price hike.One of the speakers, Agus Sriwahyudin, said that the fuel price hike will have a bad impact on the Indonesian economy. "We won't go home until the price of BBM is brought down again, agree friends", shouted Sriwahyudin.
After waiting for about an hour in the plenary meeting room, the DPRD leadership, namely Speaker Pon Yahya and a number of other members, met with the students, who took turns in conveying their demand to fight for a reduction in fuel prices.
Tyres burnt in Makassar
A number of students held a protest action in which they closed the AP Pettarani highway near the Makassar DPRD office in South Sulawesi on Monday. They strongly protested the fuel price hike.
The students also highjacked a number of vehicles which were used as platforms to give speeches resulting in a traffic jam. Not only that, they also set fire to tyres in order to get the attention of road users.
Makassar metropolitan district police public relations chief Deputy Police Commissioner Lando said that they had already received a notification that a demonstration would take place in Makassar today. Some 1,995 or more personnel were deployed to provide security.
He asserted that conveying an opinion in public is a normal thing although he said he hoped that the demonstrations would remain orderly and follow prevailing regulations.
"Security personnel and related agencies will always provide security for public activities so they proceed safely and smoothly with the participation of all parties. Security personnel will carry out their security duties in a way that is humanist and persuasive, in accordance with standard operating procedures", he said.
In addition to this, a wave of demonstrations also occurred in front of the Hasanuddin University (Unhas), at the intersection of Jalan Sultan Alauddin and AP Pettarani, in front of the Lamacca Hotel, at the South Sulawesi DPRD offices, on Jalan Bontolempangan, in front of the Indonesian Education Foundation-Management College (STIM-LPI) campus on Jalan Bung and at Perintis Kemerdekaan.
Actions were also held in front of the Muhammadiyah University Makassar (Unismuh) campus on Jalan Sultan Alauddin and in front of the Makassar State University Phinisi Building.
Demonstrations in Palembang
Around 100 students from the South Sumatra People's Student Concern Alliance held a demonstration against the fuel price hike today in the South Sumatra city of Palembang.
The demonstrators began arriving and filling the streets in front of the South Sumatra DPRD offices bringing banners and posters with their demands and a pick-up truck complete with a sound system.
"Please friends close ranks to fight for the people's future, our parent's futures will be even more difficult because when BBM prices rise, [the price of] basic goods goes up, the cost of our education also goes up. The government and the people's representatives, listen to our complaints", said one of the students wearing a light-blue almamater jacket from the Raden Fatah Palembang State Islamic University.
The Greater Palembang city district police meanwhile setup a blockade of razor wire in front of the DPRD entrance gate along the length of Jalan POM IX in Lorok Pakjo Village, West Ilir I sub-district.
Fuel price hike
Earlier it was reported that the government officially announced an increase in the price of fuel including Pertalite, Pertamax and Solar. The announcement was made by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Saturday September 3.
Widodo said that shifting subsidies away from fuel is so that government subsidies are better targeted.
In his speech, as quoted by Selebtek on the Presidential Secretariat YouTube channel, Widodo said that the government had tried as much as possible to protect the ordinary people from the upheaval of global oil prices.
"I actually want the price of BBM domestically to remain affordable by providing subsidies from the state budget. But the budget for subsidies and BBM compensation in 2022 has risen three times from 152.5 trillion rupiah to 502.4 trillion and it will continue rising", said Widodo.
Widodo said that more than 70 percent of fuel subsidies are actually enjoyed by better off groups, namely private car owners. The state budget must prioritise providing subsidies to those who are less well off.
"This was the government's last option, namely shifting BBM subsidies. So that the price of the various types of BBM which have so far been subsidised will experience an adjustment. And a portion of the subsidies will be shifted to better targeted [social] aid", he said.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Gelombang Demo Mahasiswa Tolak Kenaikan BBM, Ricuh Dekat Istana Hingga Duduki Ruang Sidang DPRD".]