JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) – Hundreds of conservative Muslims marched in Indonesia’s capital yesterday demanding that the government revoke its decision to raise fuel prices, saying it hurts people already reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic.
Authorities blocked streets leading to the Presidential Palace as the demonstrators, many wearing white robes, filled a major thoroughfare.
Many waved red and white national flags and flags bearing the Islamic declaration of faith.
Prices of gasoline and diesel fuel jumped by about 30 per cent last month after President Joko Widodo’s administration cut fuel subsidies to reduce the country’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit. The price of gasoline rose from about 51 cent to 67 cent per litre and diesel fuel from 35 cents to 46 cents.
Protests against the increases have been held across Indonesia, mostly by students and workers, but calm had largely returned to Jakarta, the capital, over the past three days before yesterday’s demonstration. The protest was organised by a conservative Muslim alliance that held mass demonstrations in 2016.
In a speech, Ahmad Khozinudin, a protest coordinator, condemned the government’s decision. He said people were already suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the price hikes would further increase their woes.
Widodo’s government “has failed in dealing with poverty in this country”, he said, standing on top of a truck. “Instead, he has lied to the people by breaking his promise not to increase fuel prices.”
Protesters chanted “God is great” and “We stand with workers” near the blocked roads.
“The government’s decision to cut the energy subsidy and raise fuel prices is unfair!” said Budi Darma, a protester. “The increase in fuel prices will trigger hikes in other prices, especially the price of basic foods which have a direct impact on the poor.”