Democracy in flames: A police water cannon struggles to put out the fire engulfing the Palopo mayor’s office in South Sulawesi on Saturday. The office was one of many public buildings attacked by supporters of the losing candidate in last week’s mayoral election. Antara/Awaluddin
An angry mob ran amok on Sunday at the editorial office of the Palopo Pos as well as four other building offices in Palopo, South Sulawesi, after the local General Elections Commission (KPUD) announced the winner of the mayoral election.
The Palopo KPU announced Judas Amir and Akhmad Syarifuddin as mayor and vice mayor for the 2013-2018 period. The results are believed to have incited the rampage.
In addition to the Palopo Pos editorial office, hundreds of people also burned the Palopo mayor’s office, the Golkar Party’s branch office, the General Elections Supervisory Committee (Panswaslu) office and the East Wara district office.
The election’s second round on Wednesday pitted eventual winners Judas-Akhmad against Haidir Basir and his running mate Thamrin Djufri.
Judas-Ahmad garnered 37,469 votes, with a marginal lead of a mere 738 votes to the 36,731 votes won by Haidir-Thamrin.
It was reported when the Palopo KPUD held a plenary meeting to confirm the winners that some 500 Haidir-Thamrin supporters gathered around the KPUD office. After the winners were confirmed, the crowd attacked police officers stationed in front of the KPUD.
“Haidir-Thamrin supporters suddenly attacked police officers with stones and Molotov cocktails at about 1 p.m. local time [noon Jakarta time],” Palopo Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Endang Rasidin said on Sunday.
Endang added that police officers were then deployed to the KPUD office to prevent further anarchy but within minutes a fire had been spotted at the Golkar Party’s branch office.
The crowd moved onto the Panwaslu office and mayor office, vandalizing and burning both buildings, before heading for the Palopo Pos located some 500 meters from the mayor’s office. The East Wara district office was burned on Saturday evening.
“We are still investigating who vandalized and burned those offices because supporters from both camps and members of the public were present,” Endang said.
Palopo Pos managing editor Husain said the entire first floor of the newspaper, which belonged to the Jawa Pos Group, was set on fire.
“Luckily the editorial office is located on the second floor,” he said, adding that the newspaper had yet to assess the losses.
Husain denied the rumors that the newspaper was attacked because it had sided with one candidate rather than remaining neutral during the election, he stated that Palopo Pos represented all candidates fairly.
“We received threats of attack since the vote counting at the district level [began] but we played it down,” he said.
The situation in Palopo was calm by the evening as most of the crowd had dispersed. The police, however, were still on stand by especially in front of KPUD office, in anticipation of further riots.
The South Sulawesi Police chief spokesman, Sr. Comr. Endi Sutendi said that the police had deployed some 700 personnel in Palopo.
He added that officers from three Mobile Brigade (Brimob) companies had been sent from Makassar to Palopo.
“Reinforcements would be sent according to the situation in the field,” Endi said.