Thu, 11 Mar 1999

Police hold off PSSI soccer playoff permit

JAKARTA (JP): The National Police are recommending postponement of the Indonesian soccer league playoffs until after the June 7 general election.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Togar M. Sianipar said on Wednesday thorough consideration of the security situation and Jakarta as the venue was made before issuing the recommendation.

"We know most soccer events here are always colored by disturbances and some end up with unrest so we have to be careful in holding such big events during the upcoming general election as we'll see political party campaigns and mounting protests," he said.

The All Indonesian Soccer Federation (PSSI) announced on Saturday it would stage the playoffs, scheduled from March 16 to March 26, at the main Senayan stadium in Central Jakarta. It said a contingency plan for unrest was already devised.

Togar noted the stadium's location in the downtown area, surrounded by many important state and private buildings.

"We (police) have to think twice to approve the plan due to many aspects, specially the security." He said the police would coordinate with PSSI on rescheduling the event.

Togar hoped the organizer would move the playoffs to other cities.

PSSI reportedly requested permission from the Jakarta Police, which deferred to the National Police.

"If the Jakarta Police think they can handle the security, they don't have to ask for our consideration. However, this is a different case," Togar said.

PSSI originally planned to stage the playoffs in three major cities of Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan, North Sumatra.

In contrast, State Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Agung Laksono urged PSSI to keep to its plan.

"The competition must take place because it's really important for our athlete development and for our national unity. If any soccer fans want to commit vandalism, don't come to Jakarta," he was quoted by Antara as saying after delivering a speech at the National Coordination Meeting on Youth Affairs and Sports.

Agung was optimistic the police would shortly issue the permit to stage the event.

Earlier on Wednesday, Jakarta Police chief Maj. Gen. Noegroho Djajoesman said he had yet to receive an instruction from the National Police on issuing a permit for the event.

Noegroho said he would deploy his officers to secure the playoffs if the permit was issued. About 500 police officers are currently deployed to secure the capital. (emf/yan)