Wed, 25 Sep 2002

Police raid nets firecracker worth millions of rupiah

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Tegal, Central Java

Police authorities seized hundreds of thousands of firecrackers worth millions of rupiah on Tuesday as the number of people killed in last week's firecracker blast rose to 19.

In a raid led by Tegal Police chief Adj. Sr. Comm. Condro Kirono in West Tegal and Margadana districts, police arrested five firecracker producers and a broker.

They allegedly told police authorities that they had distributed firecrackers throughout Java and Sumatra.

The firecrackers, which come in various types and sizes, were found in 26 containers.

The police also found dozens of containers of firecracker- making materials.

Meanwhile, three of the nine wounded victims of Saturday's fatal blast at a firecracker plant in Tegal passed away on Tuesday, raising the death toll to 19.

The three were identified as Siti Anisa, 30, Sri Puji Lestari, 34, and Sri Pujiati, 37, all residents of Balapulang district.

Six people are still in the hospital in Tegal due to severe injuries.

Tegal detective police chief Adj. Comr. Ahmad Zulfikar said on Tuesday that the police had questioned 25 witnesses in the case, most of them were workers at the plant.

Plant owner Edy Sukamto, also known as Kam Hok Seng, 45, and Kosasih, 60, a retired Navy colonel and former Tegal legislative speaker, had been declared suspects and were being held at Slawi Police station. They are facing a maximum jail term of five years if found guilty of violating Article 188 Criminal Code (KUHP) on the employers causing death and injuries to the employees.

"The suspects will also be sued over explosive materials possession like magnesium aluminum and potassium nitrate without license," Ahmad said.

Ahmad also said that the plant did not have an operating license but it obtained a building construction license from the regency administration.

He said that the police planned to question the Tegal Industry and Trade Office and Tegal Manpower Office over the plant's license. He said that the case would be brought to the Prosecutor's Office in one week.

The forensic team concluded that a chemical reaction of the firecrackers' raw materials was the cause of the explosion.

Separately, Central Java Police chief Ins. Gen. Erwin Mappaseng denied reports that his office had issued an operating license to the plant. His statement was somewhat contradictory to the statement of his deputy Brig. Gen. Dodi Sumantiawan the day before.