Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Matraman brawl causes Rp 10b losses

JAKARTA (JP): Recent brawling between residents in Matraman district of East Jakarta has caused Rp 10 billion (US$1.3 million) in financial losses and left 336 people jobless, an official disclosed on Friday.

Head of the data collecting unit of the city's Social Disturbance Control Center, Raya Siahaan, said no fatalities were recorded but five male Palmeriam residents were wounded during the series of fights with the neighboring Kebon Manggis from March 25 to April 2.

Four of the injured people were hit by rubber bullets, while another was wounded by an arrow, he said.

A second sergeant Marine officer was reportedly slashed across the face and body with a sword.

The Rp 10 billion losses included property and cars torched or vandalized by the angry mob.

At least 21 buildings were burnt down. They were primarily offices and shops, such as the Isuzu car showroom and the Sari Kuring restaurant.

Since owners of the buildings could no longer run their businesses, 336 of their employees lost their jobs.

"Most of the owners are now moving out, fearing that the fighting will happen again," Siahaan said.

The feuding between the two groups has been going on for a long time.

The latest clash flared up on March 25, prompted by a small incident between local teenagers over who could supervise a U- turn on Jl. Matraman, where local boys manage traffic and in return collect money from motorists.

In order to prevent another brawl, the city has started construction of a wall that would divide the two warring neighborhoods. Many have expressed their skepticism, saying this would be useless and that the wall would not be enough to stop the two parties from fighting in the future.

Separately on Friday, Governor Sutiyoso asked the congregation at a Friday prayer -- at the At-Taqwa mosque in Palmeriam -- to end the bloodshed.

He also urged the local religious leaders to help guide the local youths away from violence.

"Fighting only brings suffering. Look at those people who suddenly became unemployed," he said. "Local and foreign investors are more reluctant to invest their money here than ever before."

During his visit to the area, the governor received a warm welcome from 150 Palmeriam residents who enthusiastically rushed to shake Sutiyoso's hands.

"Please do something to prevent the brawls from happening again," said a local housewife.

On Thursday Sutiyoso warned head of the Matraman district, and the two subdistrict chiefs of Palmeriam and Kebon Manggis, that he would fire all three officials should the area witness a new clash.

But a resident who refused to give his identity doubted that the fighting would end.

"These clashes have been going on since the 1970s. It could only be stopped if residents of one of the neighborhoods, either Kebon Manggis or Palmeriam, were moved somewhere else," he said. (09)