Six die, protests swell as Indonesia hit by post-election unrest

23 Mai, 2019, 07:39 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Indonesian police shoot tear gas to disperse protesters during a demonstration outside the Elections Oversight Body in Jakarta

At least six people were killed yesterday as Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, erupted in violence when police clashed with protesters opposed to the re-election of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Police pushed back the main group of rioters after firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators.

Prabowo and Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, his staunch supporter, claimed that at least six people were killed in violence early Wednesday, but authorities have not confirmed any fatalities.

The riots followed an announcement on Tuesday by the General Election Commission (KPU) confirming that President Joko Widodo had beaten his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, in the April 17 poll.

The election supervisory agency dismissed claims of systematic cheating, citing lack of evidence. Independent observers said the poll was free and fair.

Protesters tore up slabs of pavement, destroyed street signs and set fire to food stalls and security posts but their numbers thinned as the night wore on. Medical workers were seen treating dozens of protesters affected by tear gas and using oxygen to revive some who had passed out.

"I open myself to anyone who wants to develop this nation, but I won't tolerate anyone who tries to disrupt public security, the democratic process or the unity of our. country", Widodo said at a press briefing, flanked by his chief security minister and the head of the military.

"The access to social media will be shut off to prevent negative contents from spreading across society such as fake information and provocative contents", said Wiranto in a press conference at his office on Wednesday, May 22.

Authorities say 40,000 police and soldiers have been put on duty across Jakarta to maintain security this week.

Investigations against the rioters, including those suspected to be provocateurs of the violence on the first night, are ongoing, he said.

I would like to urge those who are still willing to listen to me, my supporters - please refrain from committing physical violence.

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Numerous protesters appeared to have come from outside Jakarta and police found envelopes containing money on some of the people they searched, national police spokesman Muhamad Iqbal told a news conference on Wednesday. "There are indications that the mobs are paid and bent on causing chaos", he said.

"After questioning, the suspects admitted that they were told to riot and that it was planned", Argo Yuwono, a spokesman for Jakarta police, told reporters.

But a key breakthrough for the police was when investigators found cash, ranging from 200,000 rupiah to 500,000 rupiah (S$19 to S$47), in white envelopes, each labelled with the names of the suspects.

Prabowo was speaking a day after he declared he does not accept the official vote count, alleging electoral fraud, and vowed to challenge the final vote tally before either the Constitutional Court or Bawaslu.

"We saw efforts to herd public opinion so that the peaceful protest would look like disturbing acts, with an end goal of discrediting Mr. Prabowo", Gerindra said on Twitter. The retired general has said he would challenge the results in court, as he did, unsuccessfully, against Widodo after losing the previous election five years ago.

Islamist groups, many of which support Prabowo, have in the past been able to mobilise mass support.

National police chief Tito Karnavian said security forces were not armed with live bullets.

Police said six people died and dozens were injured in rioting that began on Tuesday evening following the release of official election results showing Widodo had won a second term.

From late 2016, they organised a series of protests against then-Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the first ethnic-Chinese Christian to hold the job, who was subsequently jailed for insulting the Koran.

"Some had gunshot wounds, some blunt force wounds, but we still need to clarify this", he said.

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