Police in full protective gear clashed with rioters at election supervisory agency Bawaslu’s headquarters in Jakarta for a second consecutive night yesterday, with similar stand-offs in other parts of the capital continuing even as President Joko Widodo warned that the authorities would crack down on those seeking to disrupt the democratic process.
As of press time last night, police officers stood in a tight riot-control formation as their full body-length shields took on a barrage of Molotov cocktails, rocks, firecrackers and other projectiles thrown by rioters in downtown Jakarta.
Elsewhere, in West Jakarta, a separate battalion of troops, supplemented by marines from the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), camped out along a narrow street as the chief provocateurs of another riot there stalled negotiations with the authorities.
“That is not an option – the military and police will take firm action in accordance with the appropriate laws,” he said.
Mr Joko’s victory has been marred by public protests against the results, amid allegations of electoral fraud by his challenger, Mr Prabowo Subianto.
Many in the capital Jakarta woke up yesterday to scenes of black smoke billowing from burnt vehicles and policemen in stand-offs with provocateurs on the outskirts of the city – leading to fears of a repeat of the 1998 unrest in Indonesia prior to the fall of the Suharto regime.
Chief Security Minister Wiranto, who like some Indonesians go by just one name, said “paid thugs” were behind the unrest that broke out yesterday morning.
National police chief Tito Karnavian yesterday confirmed that his officers had seized envelopes stashed with cash from the rioters who were arrested during the clashes, which caused damage to 25 vehicles, including some belonging to the police.
“We found separate envelopes with a total of nearly six million rupiah (S$570) in cash,” said the police general, adding that the suspects claimed they were paid to riot.
At least 257 men, including those suspected to be provocateurs of the violence, have been arrested so far and investigations are continuing, said General Tito.
Six people were reportedly killed and more than 200 sent to hospital for treatment during the riots, local media reported, quoting Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.
Mr Wiranto yesterday defended the actions of the police, saying a country should always protect its people, after some had criticised the use of force.
He also said that the authorities will partially restrict social media usage for two to three days to prevent the spread of hoaxes that may provoke further violence.
“To avoid provocations, the spread of fake news among the people, we will limit access to certain features on social media,” he added.