Uneasy calm in Jakarta following deadly protests

Thousands of police remain on the streets of the Indonesian capital
Uneasy calm in Jakarta following deadly protests

Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subiantoex protest in front of the Elections Supervisory Agency’s office in Central Jakarta on May 21, just several hours after the general election commission announced Joko Widodo’s electoral victory. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

Indonesian police say they have made hundreds of arrests following two nights of clashes in Jakarta with protesters that left at least six people dead and 300 injured.

Thousands of police remain on the streets of the Indonesian capital as protesters dispersed following a call by defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto for them to return home, reported the media.  

The violence flared after his supporters took to the streets of the capital to protest against the official result of the election that saw President Joko Widodo win a second term.

Prior to the announcement, Prabowo, a former general, had claimed the election was rigged, while some of his supporters had called for “people power” to delegitimize the poll result.

The head of national police information department Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo said on May 23 that despite the situation calming down, further protests could not be ruled out and that a heavy police presence was still in force around key sites, such as the presidential palace, parliament and the election commission.

Commenting on the reported deaths of the six people, Indonesian police chief General Tito Karnavian confirmed that some had been shot.

“An investigation will be launched to find out who shot these people,” he said.

Police spokesman, Argo Yuwono, earlier denied security forces could have been responsible, saying only rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon were used on protesters.

Indonesian religious leaders have called for calm and condemned the violence.

Archbishop Vincentius Sensi Potokota of Ende, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops' Commission for the Laity, called for a peaceful resolution to the election dispute.

"The use of violence not only injures democratic values but also goes against the values of the Indonesian people who always uphold harmony and brotherhood,” the archbishop said in a statement.

He said all parties must "respect and obey the constitution” and called on political figures and religious leaders to create an atmosphere of calm and peace and refrain from making provocative statements.

Ahmad Helmy Faishal Zaini, general secretary of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, said the demonstration had been driven by provocateurs.

"There are evil elements that want to disrupt Indonesia by creating chaos,” he said.

He invited his members to focus on living the Ramadan holy month for prayer and helping others.

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"We ask all our members not to be provoked," Zaini said.

Irma Riana Simanjuntak, the spokesperson of the Union of Churches in Indonesia, conveyed deep sorrow over the deaths and urged the police to conduct a thorough investigation.

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