Moch. Andriansyah – A street protest opposing the recent fuel (BBM) price hike by scores of students from the Islamic Students Association (HMI) at the East Java governor’s office in the provincial capital of Surabaya on Wednesday November 19 ended in a clash.
As a result, police took firm action against several demonstrators who were arrested by a joint unit of officers from the Surabaya metropolitan district police (Polrestabes) and the East Java regional police (Polda).
Before the clash between demonstrators and police broke out, the demonstrators were giving speeches and setting fire to used tyres in front of the governor’s office, which was surrounded by barbed wire and closely guarded by police.
Police allowed the activists to protest up until the flames from the burning tyres were almost out. A clash however was unavoidable when the students began to try to tear down the barbed wire fence around the governor’s office.
The protesters however, who were voicing their opposition to the fuel price hike announced by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo at the State Place on evening of November 17 and came into effect at midnight on November 18, refused to heed warnings by police to stop damaging official equipment.
The demonstrators, who remained determined to meet with East Java governor Soekarwo, continued to damage the barbed wire. Not surprisingly, in the end the police forcibly disbursed the demonstrators.
Not only was the demonstration forcibly disbursed, but the fully armed joint unit of police also beat the demonstrators who had earlier held an action at the East Java Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).
The demonstrators scattered in disarray and several were arrested. According to information, five people were detained and taken to the Surabaya metropolitan district police office, although they were later released.
According to action coordinator Adi meanwhile, the fuel price hike is inappropriate because its impact would flow on to the little people.
“The government should increase taxes on cars and motorcycles, not increase fuel prices. The argument that the APBN [state budget] has collapsed really doesn’t make sense”, said the HMI member from the Airlangga University in Surabaya in a speech. [mtf]
[Translated by James Balowski.]