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Workers and students descend on State Palace over fuel price hikes

Detik.com - May 29, 2008

Didi Syafirdi, Jakarta – Beep...! Beep....! The sound of vehicles beeping at each other reverberated along Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta. It was total gridlock from the Horse Statue to the State Palace as hundreds of workers and students prepared to descend upon the State Palace.

According to Detik’s observations on Thursday May 29 at around 3pm, some 300 demonstrators from the National Liberation Front (FPN), the Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) and the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) had gathered on the road in front of the Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) building.

The flags of the respective organisations and posters were also brought to the rally with messages such as “Thwart the fuel price hike”, “BLT [Direct Cash Assistance] = Subsidised Instant Death” and “SBY-JK [President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Vice President Jusuf Kalla] the anti-people political elite”.

The protesters remained in place for around half-an-hour with traffic going north in the direction of Harmoni coming to a complete standstill. Then at around 3.30 pm one of the demonstrators shouted, “Come on comrades, let’s go to the palace, we’ll break down the barbed wire fence”. Greeted by cheers from the other demonstrators they began crossing the road to the National Monument (Monas) with police closing off a section of road on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat and Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara.

Around 200 police then formed a line holding a white tether from the traffic lights on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat near the offices of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare preventing the protesters from getting too near the palace. The police blockade resulted in traffic coming in to Jl. Thamrin having to turn around and return in the direction of Harmoni.

When the protesters started to besiege Monas the police line also shifted to follow the demonstrators and the traffic from the Horse Statue heading towards Harmoni gradually began to flow smoothly.

When police refused to let the protesters approach the palace saying it violated the law an argument erupted between Yoyok from the ABM and Central Jakarta deputy police Chief Assistant Superintendent Heru Wibowo. Yoyok insisted that the protesters be allowed to demonstrate in front of the palace while Wibowo threatened to arrest the rally martials if they forced the issue.

“We are taking action not because there are political elite [behind the protest], hence we are being obstructed. We must try to reach the palace, the people must be courageous”, shouted Yoyok.

Following the demonstration at the State Palace, the protesters disbanded and marched back to the Horse Statue, again creating a traffic jam on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat and Jl. Thamrin, before going their separated ways.

On June 1, the FPM said it is planning similar actions but with even larger numbers. Before leaving FPM coordinator Anwar Sastro Ma'ruf said that they would be conducting the actions in a peaceful manner. “So don’t let there be repressive acts by security personnel”, he said.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski compiled from three reports in Detik.com on May 29.]

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