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TNI to monitor vulnerable sites ahead of possible fuel protests
Jakarta Post - March 23, 2012
"The TNI has yet to be involved in handling mass rallies. They are simply being moved to monitor strategic locations that may be targeted by such rallies," Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto told a press conference after closing the second Jakarta International Defense Dialogue (JIDD).
"Most of our military units are based outside Jakarta so it would take too long for them to help secure strategic locations [if trouble flares]. That's why we are mobilizing them to sites closer to those locations."
Accompanying Djoko at the press conference were Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, the Defense Ministry's secretary-general, Vice Marshal Eris Herryanto, TNI chief Adm. Agus Suhartono, deputy Navy chief-of-staff Vice Adm. Marsetio and the Indonesian Defense University's rector, Sjarifuddin Tippe.
Strategic locations in the Greater Jakarta area include the Presidential Palace, House of Representatives, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Tanjung Priok seaport, fuel bunkers belonging to state-owned oil and gas firm PT Pertamina in Plumpang, North Jakarta, as well as fuel stations.
Djoko emphasized that the TNI had not yet deployed its soldiers nor would it be seeking to usurp the command role belonging to the National Police (Polri).
"Article 30 of the TNI Law requires the military to assist Polri, while the Police Law allows Polri to request reinforcements from the TNI," he explained. "There is always close coordination between police chiefs at all levels and their military counterparts to handle certain situations," Djoko added.
He claimed to have received hundreds of short messages asking why the TNI did not deploy its soldiers during the recent toll-road blockades by workers demanding wage increases. "We are in difficult position [in determining whether or not to deploy soldiers]," he said.
Djoko said the government allowed the public to stage rallies so long as they did not violate the law or social norms, and were not anarchic. "The protesters must remember that there are other members of society who are affected by their rallies. So let's all respect one another's rights," he said.
He also called on the police to take tough action against anyone breaking the law and being anarchic, such as hijacking fuel tanks that were needed by the general public.
Meanwhile, the TNI's chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul, said any soldiers tasked to handle demonstrations would not be equipped with firearms.
"They will be using riot-control equipment, such as shields and batons," he told reporters after the press conference. However, he did not respond when asked if soldiers would be equipped with tear gas or rubber bullets.