The Jakarta Post
National Police chief Gen. Sutarman vowed to take stern action against violent protesters in the wake of a clash between Makassar State University (UNM) students and local police personnel in the capital city of South Sulawesi, which left the Makassar City Police's deputy chief seriously injured.
'This is a country of law. Everyone has the right to stage a rally, but if it turns into chaos, we will get tough in enforcing the law, including in the prosecution of the perpetrators,' he said in Depok, West Java on Friday.
The protest against the expected fuel-price hikes took an ugly turn when some students began shooting arrows at police personnel guarding the protest site. During the clash, the city's deputy police chief, Adj. Sr. Comr. Totok Lisdianto, was shot in the right armpit and was immediately rushed to a local hospital for a surgery.
The arrow attack prompted the police officers to beat and arrest some of the student protesters, who then fled the scene for the campus' classrooms.
Separately, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said that the protest did not represent the general view of Makassar students and universities on the government's plan to hike fuel prices.
'The majority of the protests are small-scale, joined by between 10 to 20 individuals. Yesterday's rally became noticeable thanks to the presence of the media. When mass media outlets covered them, they ran amok, but then subsided as the media crew left. That is Makassar's style,' Kalla, who hails from the city, told journalists at the vice-presidential palace.
The vice president also applauded the police's swift response in handling the violent protesters.
'I appreciate the [South Sulawesi] Police chief who is committed to acting against any individuals who attempt to stir up violence,' he said.
During the Makassar clash, police officers allegedly assaulted four photographers and television journalists, who were covering the arrest of the UMN students.
The police forcibly commandeered a memory card from a camera belonging to a photographer from the Koran Tempo newspaper and allegedly attacked a Metro TV correspondent, causing an injury to the latter's left temple. Sutarman regretted the incidents and promised an internal inquiry into the case.
'I apologize to my journalist friends. The actions can't be justified and we will uphold the law ['¦] It was a violation of the police's disciplinary rules and code of conduct,' he said, adding that the force was still working to identify the officers responsible for the assault.
A number of journalists' and photojournalists' associations have issued statements condemning the police's heavy-handed approach and demanding a thorough and fair investigation into the incident.
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