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Peaceful demo in Palu attacked by police, three students wounded

Tempo Interactive - March 7, 2005

Darlis M., Palu – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s warning not to act violently against demonstrations opposing fuel price increases appears to be only words. Police in the Central Sulawesi city of Palu were unable to restrain themselves, attacking and beating students who were demonstrating in the centre of the city. As a result, it caused traffic jams and chaos. “They are still militaristic in carrying out their duties”, said the action field coordinator M. Taufik.

The peaceful action by 300 students from across Palu started at 10am with demonstrators giving speeches in front of the Central Sulawesi parliament on Jalan Samratulang. They were demanding that the government’s policy to increase the price of fuel be reviewed because if they persists with the policy the Yudhoyono government will be taking a very serious political gamble. “SBY-Kalla [Yudhoynono-Vice-president Jusuf Kalla] must resign from their posts”, shouted the demonstrators.

The action was tightly guarded by a platoon of police officers. Suddenly, in the middle of the student’s speeches, a stone flew in the direction of the police. The provocation made police furious and they angrily chased and beat demonstrators, pursuing them onto the main road and causing a traffic jam on Jalan Protokol Kota.

Five students who were hit by truncheons were rushed to hospital with head wounds. One of them suffered serious injuries and had to be put on an artificial resperator. Police also arrested three students.

The action only ended after the three students were released with the assistance of members of the Central Sulawesi parliament. According to Taufik, who is also the chairperson of the Tadulako University Student Executive Council, they will take legal action over the incident. They are to appoint the Central Sulawesi Institute for Legal Development and Human Rights (LPSHAM) as their legal representative. “The security forces and police haven’s changed, [they are] still inclined towards violence”, he said.

According to Taufik, Palu students will not retreat from their opposition the fuel price increase policy, even if they are deal with violently. Students plan to remain at the parliament until council members agree to sign a document opposing the price increases. “On Tuesday, tomorrow, we will consolidate [our forces], we will go to the streets again and demonstrate”, he said

[Translated by James Balowski.]
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