Tue, 15 Jan 2002

Protesters reject price hike

Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

More than 1,000 protesters from the Muslim organization Hizbut Tahrir and the left-wing League of National Students for Democracy (LMND) flocked to the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Central Jakarta on Monday to protest government plans to raise fuel prices, along with telephone and electricity fees, this month.

Nearly half of the protesters were women clad in Muslim attire and headscarves. During the protest, which began at 1:30 p.m., members of the Hizbut Tahir made speeches and staged an arts performance.

Muh. Ismail Yusanto, coordinator of the Hizbut Tahir, said his organization also demanded the implementation of economic regulations based on Muslim law, and the rejection of capitalism.

He also criticized the reduction of government's subsidies for fuel prices and electricity tariffs.

"Instead of reducing the subsidy, the government should make serious efforts to combat corruption, collusion and nepotism, to save money," he said.

Meanwhile, LMND members demanded the government raise the minimum wage, while calling for a reduction in prices of basic staples.

About 100 members of the LMND arrived at the roundabout about an hour after the Hizbut Tahir members. They joined the protest by riding bicycles and becak (pedicabs).

According to Aj.Sr.Com. Ramser E.S, the ranking police chief assigned to safeguard the Bundaran HI protests, seven organizations and political parties had informed the police about the planned protest.

The demonstration, which lasted just under two hours, was conducted in an orderly way, although traffic congestion did result when the protesters dispersed.

The government plans to increase basic fees for electricity by up to 15 percent by Jan. 1, 2002, while there will be an increase of between 20 and 25 percent for fuel by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, there will also be 15 percent increase in telephone fees, to effect around mid-January.