Thu, 05 Oct 2000

Major's office besieged for return of pedicabs

JAKARTA (JP): The seizure of three becak (pedicabs) operating in a prohibited zone resulted in a headache for North Jakarta officials on Wednesday when their offices were surrounded by some 450 pedicab drivers, who demanded the return of the three vehicles.

The angry-looking becak drivers, as usual under the coordination of the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), a non- governmental organization, also threatened to invade the offices unless the mayoralty returned their colleagues' cash totaling Rp 90,000 (US$10.35), some tool kits and three cans of lubricating oil, which they said had gone missing from the pedicabs which were netted in a raid last week.

Fearing that the pedicab drivers would turn violent, the mayoralty met the demands even though the officials denied that they had found any such items in the pedicabs.

"We had to accede to their demands to stop them from taking further action," staffer Imam Supandi from the socio-political affairs section said.

The return of the cash was covered by the mayoralty's budget while the tools and oil were taken from the mayoralty's stock.

The pedicab drivers explained that each of the becak had a can of lubricating oil used for its wheels.

The drivers arrived at the mayoralty offices on Jl. Yos Sudarso in Tanjung Priok in some 300 pedicabs and on a truck at around 8:30 a.m.

The crowd left the scene immediately after their demands were met by the mayoralty officials. No damage was reported. Some police and military personnel were seen monitoring the protest from a distance.

According to Imam, the three pedicabs were seized last week on a major street near Kelapa Gading in line with a court ruling on July 31 which stipulated that pedicabs were prohibited from operating on main streets, except in residential complexes.

"These pedicabs were not only operating on a major road but were also going against the traffic flow.

It was absolutely against the rules," Imam added.

In the mayoralty, pedicabs are found in the Penjaringan and Tanjung Priok districts.

Wednesday's incident was the second time pedicab drivers in Jakarta, with the help of the UPC, have forced a local government to accede to their demands by assembling in large numbers and threatening mayoralty offices.

Several weeks ago, some 400 pedicab drivers attacked the East Jakarta mayoralty office, leaving the front gate of the office damaged and one mayoralty security officer injured, during a protest demanding that local authorities halt their operations against pedicabs.

"Actually, we feel that the UPC has created a major problem for us, and we really hope the city administration can do something about it," Imam said.

"The mayoralty has been very understanding with the pedicab drivers, but they act as if they're completely in the right and can do as they please anywhere in the capital," he remarked. (dja)