Student rally against fuel-price hike turns ugly

Student rally against fuel-price hike turns ugly
A man runs with rocks as police and demonstrators clash during protests.

A protest on Friday against the planned fuel-price increase ended in a clash between students and police in front of the Makassar municipal council building in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

Students staged rallies in several points in the city, such as in front of the municipal council, Muhammadiyah University and the Indonesian Muslim University in Makassar.

Students also blockaded roads, burned used tires in the middle of the road and paralysed traffic on Jl. Andi Pengerang Pettarani, Jl. Sultan Alauddin and Jl. Urip Sumihardjo in Makassar.

As well, the students vandalized a traffic light and damaged the facilities at a gas station.

As of 6 p.m., angry residents also joined the clash against students from Muhammadiyah University who ran into their college building on Jl. Sultan Alauddin.

Hendra, one of the angry residents, said they really wanted to go home and were annoyed with the blockade and exhausted by being stuck on the street.

"We appreciate the students' efforts to oppose the fuel-price increase, but they are not supposed to block the road. Such an action only causes problems for ordinary people like us," he said.

Besides blockading Jl. Alauddin and Jl. Urip Sumihardjo, the students seized a trailer and parked it across the road.

The protesters were forcefully dispersed by hundreds of police personnel using tear gas and water cannon. During an incident in which students tossed rocks, bamboo and sticks at police, a number of students were arrested.

"As many as 600 personnel were deployed to secure the rallies," said South Sulawesi Police community affairs division chief Sr. Comr. Endi Sutendi.

Protests against the planned increase of fuel prices also took place in Medan, North Sumatra. Around 200 people from various community groups in Medan rallied at the state oil and gas company PT Pertamina and at the North Sumatra legislative council building on Friday.

The protesters, affiliated with the North Sumatra Corruption Eradication People's Movement (Gebrak) and the North Sumatra Community Presidium, urged the government, through PT Pertamina, to not raise fuel prices.

Rally coordinator Saharuddin said the policy of raising fuel prices would bring a rise in the price of food. This, he added, would impose economic hardship on the community, especially on those from low-income groups.

"Fuel prices have not yet increased, but the prices of goods in the market have risen. What will happen if the fuel prices are increased, the prices of goods will become even higher. This will obviously place a harsh burden on underprivileged families," Saharuddin said, addressing a crowd in front of the PT Pertamina office in Medan on Friday.

He said the administration of President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla should first work to prove the economy could grow by more than 7 per cent prior to raising fuel prices. Then, Saharuddin said, people would be able to afford to follow the increase in production costs in every sector that would occur as a consequence of the rise in fuel prices.

PT Pertamina Marketing Operation Region I spokesman Zainal Abidin said Pertamina was just a fuel distributor. He emphasised Pertamina had no authority to raise fuel prices.

"We don't have the authority to decide whether or not to raise fuel prices. Our stance is to wait for the government and abide by the law," he said.

"We appreciate the students' efforts to oppose the fuel-price increase, but they are not supposed to block the road. Such an action only causes problems for ordinary people like us."

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