Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo said on Thursday that he suspected provocateurs were primarily to blame for deadly clashes on April 14 in which more than 1,700 public order officers faced incensed demonstrators, some of them armed, in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.
The rioting, sparked by a misunderstanding with local residents who had turned out in the hundreds to protect the tomb of Mbah Priok, an 18th-century religious leader, left three officers from the city Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) dead and more than 150 people injured.
“Misinformation was already present [among locals]. There was even a Facebook page created before the incident occurred linked to the tearing down of the tomb. We had no intention to do that,” Fauzi said at City Council’s formal plenary session as he attempted to answer questions that had been posed by angry city councilors days ago at an initial session. “Big numbers of demonstrators turned up [and] they could have been provoked by certain parties.”
When the Jakarta Globe looked for the Facebook page Fauzi referred to, it found that a page had indeed been created to that effect but it was dated April 14, the day the incident occurred. Its first posting on the page was recorded at 2 p.m., hours after rioting had broken out.
Fauzi said the formal instructions issued by the city administration were aimed at tearing down illegal structures surrounding the tomb.
“The responsibility is in the hands of the governor even though the actual operations in the field were to be executed by the North Jakarta Mayor’s Office,” Fauzi said.
In response to a city councilor’s question about a permit that had not been officially stamped but was used by Satpol PP to execute the tearing down of structures, Fauzi said: “The instructions had been formally stamped. We shall investigate the matter.”
He did not elaborate, but implied once again that provocateurs had triggered the rioting. Fauzi also said the deployment of 1,750 public order officers, supported by the Jakarta Police, the National Police’s elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and the military, was not excessive because the city had expected “negative reaction” toward the tearing down of illegal structures around the tomb.
He did not elaborate on the disputed 5.4 hectares of land on which the tomb sits, though the North Jakarta District Court ruled in 2002 that state port operator PT Pelindo II held the rights to it.
Fauzi dismissed allegations that the city had received Rp 11 billion ($1.22 million) from Pelindo to deploy the public order officers. “The budget was just Rp 324 million,” he said, adding that the funding was in accordance to the 1993 gubernatorial decree.
Councilor Matnoor Tindoan, of the United Development Party (PPP), and councilor S Andyka, of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said they were dissatisfied with Fauzi’s answers, noting that Rp 324 million could not have covered the cost of deploying so many public order officers.
Meanwhile, Harianto Badjuri, who led the Satpol PP officers on April 14 and was subsequently suspended as chief of the agency, visited the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) for questioning over the incident.
He said he provided the full chronology, as well as pictures and videos, of the event to members of the commission.
Commissioner Ahmad Baso said that based on the questioning on Thursday, he concluded that “when conditions escalated and ended up in chaos, the Satpol PP chief had no concept as to how to lead his men in the midst of the violence.”