JAKARTA: Indonesia’s top security minister said yesterday he had received intelligence information about a plot to overthrow the government using protests against fuel and utility price increases.
“Who is behind this we don’t know, but that’s the finding. We’ve heard (political) figures speak of a presidium (to replace the present government),” Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.
The minister said the plotters might use protesters as martyrs for their cause.
“It’s possible there are attempts to victimise students or other protesters. This is very disconcerting,” he said after meeting national police chief Gen Da’i Bachtiar and intelligence chief Abdullah Hendropriyono.
Street protests opposing the increase in the cost of utilities have continued almost daily across the country since early January in the most widespread public challenge to the 18-month administration of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Susilo said they had asked police to enhance their alertness and take pro-active steps to prevent people from falling into the trap.
A Western diplomat agreed that Megawati’s political opponents had an interest in trying to take advantage of the dispute over price increases but said her position seemed secure.
“I still think she’s in pretty good shape,” said the diplomat, who declined to be named.
Susilo urged Indonesians to appreciate the government’s decision on late Wednesday in a meeting between government and parliament to postpone telephone rate increases and review fuel and electricity rates.
“This is a constructive response from the government and the parliament to the various protests, objections or criticism from the public.
“We hope those who protest can understand and exercise more restraint to give the government a chance to conduct an evaluation,” she said.
Top economy minister Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti said after a Cabinet meeting that the president had formed a team to review the increase in electricity charges and fuel prices.
He added that the team would hold a meeting today.
The results of the review and ensuing decisions will be jointly announced by Megawati and House Speaker Akbar Tanjung, he added without giving a date.
Susilo said although the national police chief had said officers handling protests would not be armed, “the possibility remains open,” warning security officers would take a firm line against any protests that turned anarchic or destructive.
Many protesters called for Megawati and vice-president Hamzah Haz to resign and urged the establishment of a presidium to replace her administration.
Hundreds of demonstrators attacked offices of Megawati’s political party in Palu, Central Sulawesi province, on Wednesday and students hijacked fuel tankers in several street rallies.
The government raised fuel prices by up to 22% on Jan 2 in attempts to reduce costly fuel subsidies and contain its budget deficit. – AFP