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Jakarta Post

Editorial: More than a protest

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Fri, May 3, 2013   /  10:01 am

The violent protest in Musi Rawas regency, South Sumatra on Monday is different from other cases of brutality reported in the media. Some 500 local protesters vented their anger upon learning of their repeated failure to get a new regency '€” Musi Rawas Utara (North Musi Rawas) '€” of their own, separate from the current host regency of Musi Rawas.

Following a peaceful protest in the morning, the crowd turned ugly in the evening, burning down two nearby police offices and destroying 10 vehicles. In the early hours of Tuesday, officers from Rupit police station opened fire on the mob, resulting in the death of four protesters. Dozens of protesters and five policemen were also injured in the clash.

The case is multi-faceted in nature as the protesters had been demanding the establishment of a new regency for a long time '€” the name Musi Rawas Utara itself has been in existence since 1962, while the proposal to establish the new regency was first submitted in 2007. However, the deliberation of the proposal has been rejected '€” at least twice '€” by the House of Representatives (DPR).

First when the House asked for a postponement of its deliberation until after the 2009 general elections. Second after the Home Ministry imposed a moratorium on the creation of new regional administrations in 2010. The proposal was resubmitted in 2012. This time, however, it failed to meet the administrative requirement set by the Home Ministry '€” that there be no border disputes between the proposed regency and its neighboring regions prior to their proposal being approved.

There have been overlapping territorial claims over an area called Suban IV, which is rich in natural gas. This area is claimed by both the North Musi Rawas regency to be and the Musi Banyuasin regency, located on the eastern side of Musi Rawas.

The reasons for the mob'€™s violence on Monday remain unclear. But, the fact that their proposal was repeatedly rejected is perhaps the major cause. Another possibility is that they might have spent all the resources they had, most likely financially, but ended up getting nothing in return (it is a public secret that billions of rupiah are a prerequisite for the smooth deliberation of regional divisions and eventual endorsement by the House).

Apart from the legal and administrative technicalities of the case, the violent protest and the eventual deadly clash with the police should not have happened if both parties had exercised restraint beforehand. It was reported that many of the protesters brandished sharp weapons and home-made firearms during the protest, while the police were reportedly trigger-happy during the shooting that left the four protesters dead.

Calm and order has been restored in the area but a subsequent thorough investigation is necessary in order to achieve clarity in the case. The police investigation should not only focus on the violent protest and ensuing clash, including the use of live rounds in the incident, but also into the root cause of the locals'€™ anger, including whether or not money was involved in the process of verification and deliberation of their proposal.

As for the locals, their dream of having a regency of their own might not produce '€œthe best fruits'€ even if their proposal is approved one day. Data published by the Home Ministry in 2012 revealed that of all new autonomous regions established after reformasi, only 58.71 percent of them had shown an outstanding performance, another 34.19 percent had an average performance and the remaining 4.16 percent had a poor showing. Meanwhile, data from the Disadvantaged Regions Ministry reveals that 34 new regions became disadvantaged or poor after they separated from their mother regions.

The moral of the story is that when it comes to people'€™s dreams of regional status, they should be careful of what they wish for, they might just get it.

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