Sat, 29 Mar 2003

Governor vows to protect foreign assets

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Governor Sutiyoso pledged on Friday that his administration, together with the police and military, would protect all non- nationals, their assets and interests in the city against possible violence by antiwar demonstrators.

Sutiyoso said around 4,000 security officers from the city police, city military headquarters and the city public order agency would be assigned to the job.

"We agreed during the meeting that we will do our utmost to protect foreigners and their interests," said Sutiyoso after chairing a meeting attended by police and military leaders here.

Sutiyoso did not elaborate on details.

Friday's meeting was held specially to anticipate the possible targeting of non-nationals by antiwar protesters who were angry over the attack by U.S. troops and its allies on Iraq.

The police on Monday arrested 10 members of the Islamic Youth Movement (GPI), when they were caught red-handed intimidating three non-national passengers of a passing taxi.

The police have arrested the 10, along with GPI chairman Suaib Didu, for their intent to commit violence. Suaib, in particular, threatened to plant a bomb at the U.S. Embassy. Police also released the names of the detainees: Edi Rusli, Sofyan Sunaryo, Irsan Fadila, Faisal, Zulfajri, Rasyid Ridwan Zunun, Dede Nurhimawan, Ahmad Saad, Nurul Ihsan and Bagus Tito Bastian.

Since the U.S. and its allies attacked Iraq, U.S. interests in the city, such as government buildings, corporations and fast food franchises like McDonald's, have become targets of the demonstrations.

On Wednesday, the protesters pelted the windows of the American Express Bank building on Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said, South Jakarta, with paint pellets and eggs.

On the same day, around 300 students from Syarief Hidayatullah State Islamic University also threw water balloons at the British Embassy and rotten tomatoes into the American Embassy compound.

Similar activities were also seen in a number of cities throughout the country, including Surabaya in East Java, Makassar in South Sulawesi, Bandung in West Java, Semarang in Central Java and in Yogyakarta.

The demonstrators also called on all Indonesians to boycott products from the U.S. and other countries involved in attacking Iraq.

Sutiyoso demanded the antiwar protesters in the city to express their sympathy for the Iraqi people through appropriate means, without resorting to violence, and not to threaten foreigners and their interests.

Meanwhile, Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Patmanagara also warned the protesters not to hold raids against Americans and other non-nationals, as such actions were considered criminal.

"The police will crack down against those who are involved in carrying out raids against foreigners," Makbul told the press after meeting with Sutiyoso.