Fri, 03 Mar 2000

Authorities told to halt 'becak' raids

JAKARTA (JP): An executive at the National Commission on Human Rights urged the city administration on Thursday to temporarily halt its operations to clear becak (pedicabs) from the capital and settle the problem through arbitration.

"The commission will facilitate a meeting between the disputing parties. It should be convened in the near future," Bambang W. Soeharto told representatives of some 100 pedicab drivers, who staged a protest in front of the commission building on Jl. Latuharhary in Central Jakarta.

The drivers, accompanied by activists from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) and the Indonesian Consumers Association (YLKI), demanded the commission help end the ongoing operation by the city administration against the becak.

Bambang said both the administration and the drivers should avoid any violent action.

"It's time for both parties to agree to a cease-fire until the problem is settled," he said.

Bambang was referring to a rampage that rocked the capital on Tuesday evening, as some 500 pedicab drivers and residents burned and damaged at least six vehicles and injured four city officials.

The rampage occurred after city public order officials carried out a coordinated pedicab-free operation on Jl. Mangga Besar Raya in West Jakarta.

The officials reportedly adopted a repressive approach during the raid, harshly removing pedicabs from owners or drivers.

The approach prompted criticism from some non-governmental organizations, including LBH Jakarta and the Bantaya Legal Aid Foundation.

The organizations demanded that the city administration halt its repressive becak-free campaign.

They accused the city administration of having violated the drivers' basic rights.

"The officials set aside the drivers' economic rights to work and to continue their lives," said the organizations in a joint statement, adding that the effort was creating poverty instead of solving the problem.

The organizations demanded the administration dismiss the city's Public Order Office, which was responsible for a series of violent raids against the pedicab drivers.

"The administration should settle the poverty problems through humanitarian approaches," said the statement.

Governor Sutiyoso said on Wednesday that the city administration would continue with its plan to clear the pedicabs from the streets, as mandated by the 1988 Bylaw no. 11 on Public Order. (06/asa)