Indonesians rally against fuel price hike

2012-03-29 15:04

Jakarta - Thousands of Indonesian protesters rallied on Thursday against a planned fuel price hike, ahead of a decision on cutting subsidies which the government says the nation can't afford.

After previous demonstrations turned violent, about 14 000 police and 8 000 soldiers were deployed at key locations in Jakarta, including parliament house, the presidential palace and the international airport.

Demonstrations have occurred almost daily in recent weeks ahead of the parliamentary vote on Friday which is expected to raise the heavily subsidised fuel price by a third, from Rp 4 500 (49c) to Rp 6 000.

The government has said that without hiking the fuel price, rising global oil prices will push the country's budget deficit above the three percent of GDP cap stipulated by law.

Rally organisers promised tens of thousands of protesters would take to the streets on Thursday. By mid-morning some 2 000 had gathered in front of the presidential palace, all members of hardline Muslim group Hizbut Tahrir.

Men wearing Muslim caps and women in headscarves chanted "Replace, replace this rubbish system" and carried banners saying "Reject the fuel price hike! Rulers are liars, wicked and traitors".

"Capitalism and imperialism will only put people in misery as foreigners have always exploited countries with rich natural resources like Indonesia," said the group's spokesman Ismail Yusnanto.

The Indonesian Trade Unions Alliance said thousands of its members would also join demonstrations in the capital.

"We demand that the government not hike the fuel price," union chairwoman Nining Elitos told AFP. "Everything will become more expensive, which will create a burden. It just means misery."

In Bandung city south of Jakarta, thousands of members of Hizbut Tahrir - a prominent religious group in Indonesia which is the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation - were already demonstrating by early morning.

Planned mass rallies in the capital fizzled on Tuesday, with 22 000 security personnel overseeing just 3 500 protesters. But almost 10 000 people showed up in other cities including Medan in Sumatra island and Surabaya in eastern Java.

Some rallies turned violent as hundreds of protesters pelted rocks, petrol bombs and sticks at police, who fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.