Fri, 16 Jun 2000

Situation remains tense in brawl-torn Matraman

JAKARTA (JP): Tension was the prevailing mood in the Matraman area, East Jakarta, on Thursday as residents of the bickering Kebon Manggis and Palmeriam subdistricts remained cautious of possible attacks following a fresh brawl on Tuesday night.

"I'm afraid to go home. I think I'll sleep at the market," Inem, 55, who lives in the Berlan area in Kebon Manggis, but sells small wood cupboards at the Palmeriam market, told The Jakarta Post.

Margo Pambudi, a marine officer who was helping locals calm down told the Post that the brawl began after two people from Berlan attacked a person who was standing in front of a Berlan bus stop with a machete.

"Rumors immediately spread that a Berlan resident was attacked by Palmeriam residents, and vice versa, which sparked the fresh fight," Margo said.

He said he had checked every house in both neighborhoods but found no casualties of a machete attack.

"I'm afraid that the injured victim is someone who was just passing by," Margo said adding that he had identified the two attackers, but needed witnesses to file a report to the police.

The fresh brawl broke on Tuesday night. But, there were no reports of injury or damage caused by the latest brawl in the area, the second this month.

Police said the brawl involved about 500 people from Palmeriam and Kebon Manggis, which are separated by busy Jl. Matraman.

Witnesses said residents pelted rocks and Molotov cocktails at each other. Some managed to climb over a two-meter by 400-meter fence which had been erected on the median strip by the authorities to keep the two groups apart. Others used nearby pedestrian bridges to attack the other side.

Some 100 members of the National Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) were deployed to disperse the crowd in the early hours of Wednesday and peace was restored immediately. They made no arrests.

East Jakarta Police detective Capt. Agus Irianto said his office was investigating the cause of the latest brawl.

Palmeriam residents said they were enjoying a bonfire when Berlan residents launched the attack.

Six people were injured in a previous brawl in the area on June 1.

Separately, Governor Sutiyoso expressed his disappointment over the fresh Matraman brawl.

"I'm very disappointed with it because they agreed last April to live together peacefully," he told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony to commemorate Earth Day at the Halim Perdanakusumah water dam in East Jakarta on Wednesday.

The construction itself has attracted much criticisms, many saying it wouldn't solve the problem.

Noted sociologist Sardjono Djatiman of the University of Indonesia said rivalry between the two villages was an old story.

"The city administration has to understand the roots of the problem to solve it comprehensively. Constructing a fence won't solve the problems," he said in a recent talk show at the City Council building.

"The Berlan area is known as a 'gedongan' (wealthy residents' houses made of brick and mortar, to contradict those of ordinary ones of woven bamboo) area, while Palmeriam is an ordinary residential area.

"Youths of both villages have warring enemies since then. It continued when Berlan was set up as a military housing complex," he added. (06/08/nvn)