British water cannons used on marchers
Friday 23 May 1997
At least one person was shot dead during the street battle on Tuesday between Indonesian police and youths demonstrating in support of the United Development Party (PPP) in advance of next week's general elections. Tacticas, manufactured by the British firm GKN, were also used in Jakarta last summer in even bigger pro-democracy riots, but this is the first time they have been photographed in action against Indonesian civilians.
British arms exports to Indonesia include Scorpion tanks, Hawk fighter jets, and frigates, as well as armoured cars and armoured personnel carriers (APCs). Successive British governments have faced allegations that they have been used in human rights violations, particularly in East Timor where there have been persistent but unconfirmed reports that Hawks have been used against independence fighters.
The Indonesian government has given formal assurances that British equipment will not be used to suppress human rights, but these guarantees do not apply to Tacticas, which are designed for crowd control and not considered "defence equipment". After huge riots last July in support of the ousted democracy leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, however, the Indonesian Ambassador to London was summoned to the Foreign Office and warned that "inappropriate" use of APCs to suppress rights of peaceful assembly and expression would be frowned upon.
Tuesday's confrontation, between 1,000 armed police and some 10,000 supporters of the PPP, was far from peaceful - but in a pseudo-democracy like Indonesia, where dissidence is stamped out, and where President Suharto's ruling party has already announced the exact proportion of the vote it expects to poll (70.2 per cent), crude mob violence has become increasingly prevalent and is one of the few means of expressing political frustration.
After similar violent clashes last weekend, the leaders of the PPP, which draws its support from Indonesia's majority Muslim population, cancelled Tuesday's planned rally. By 1pm on Tuesday, however, large numbers of its supporters had turned up in Warung Buncit Raya, a six-lane main road linking Jakarta with its southern suburbs, through an area inhabited by many PPP supporters.
The demonstrators, many of them teenagers, set fire to tyres in the street and tore down a fence, according to eyewitnesses interviewed by The Independent. The police, armed with semi-automatic rifles, fired warning shots into the air and it was at this point, according to witnesses, that the demonstrators began throwing stones.
The police ordered demonstrators to disperse and counter-attacked with tear gas. Police fired their rifles into the crowd several times and Adam Khaer-uddin, a 20-year-old bystander, was shot dead.
At about 4.30pm at least two Tacticas arrived on the scene from the north of the city. Film shot by Associated Press Television shows them spraying water cannons over the crowd, apparently in an attempt to clear the streets before the evening rush hour.
Police quoted in the Jakarta Post claimed that 21 people had been arrested, but witnesses said that more than 50 had been taken away. The election campaign has been a focus of sporadic violence nationwide: on Tuesday there were violent disturbances in several other Indonesian cities, including Bandung, Semarang and Pekalongan, all on Java.
Since the pro-democracy riots last summer, it has been clear that the biggest threat to the 31-year old government of President Suharto comes not from without, but from its own people: there can be little doubt that vehicles like the Tactica will become an increasingly crucial component of the regime's armoury. In the last 10 months, there have been church burnings by Muslim mobs in Java, and massacres of settlers by tribesmen in Kalimantan on Borneo. The official reckoning of the Indonesian Armed Forces is that over 600 people have been killed or injured in incidents connected to the election campaign, since it began on 27 April.
Last year, student riots in Ujung Pandang on Sulawesi were put down with Saracens, an armoured car which, along with Saladins and Ferret Scouts, were obtained from Britain in the 1960s. Scorpion light tanks are deployed in Java, and the Indonesian navy has a number of British frigates. British Aerospace Hawk fighters, deployed on Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java, were sold as trainers, but rumours suggest they have been used against rebels fighting Indonesia's 21-year old occupation of East Timor.
MAIN ARMS EXPORTERS TO INDONESIA (US$M)
1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 Total
FRG 9 25 23 23 38 23 326 768 406 342 1983
UK 226 117 24 36 24 24 48 186 685
USA 14 14 120 177 10 6 341
NL 53 156 91 18 318
France 17 17 17 3 3 57
Spain 5 5 10 10 10 10 50
UAE 26 26
Totals 324 334 244 228 82 69 367 792 483 537 3460
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassing leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Mick Jagger denies being World Cup curse and reason for Brazil’s embarrassing defeat
Israel-Gaza crisis: ‘We just want it to end… We don’t deserve to live like this’
Israel-Gaza crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...