All quiet in riot-prone areas of Jakarta

Troops on patrol in case of polling violence.

HAWKER Syarifuddin Teguh had an unusually quiet day yesterday, serving fried rice to a few customers – mostly military personnel.

“Most of my daily customers are voting or just do not want to turn up because they fear there could be violence,” said Mr Syarifuddin, who runs a food stall in the riot-prone Warung Buncit area in South Jakarta.

Instead, he said, groups of Indonesian Armed Forces (Abri) soldiers, armed with light assault weapons, had been patrolling the streets since 8 am yesterday.

Five kilometres from his stall, three armoured personnel carriers were parked outside the Graha Mustika Ratu office complex.

An Abri soldier, Lance-Corporal Endang, said: “It has been a peaceful day. But we have troops in place in case things go ugly.”

He added that troops had been ordered to patrol the area until midnight. “We do not want to take any risks after what happened in the last few weeks,” he said.

Warung Buncit was the scene of several clashes between rival supporters of the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) and the ruling Golkar party during the 27-day election campaign.

But yesterday was quiet, with most stores and banks shut.

The situation was the same in other parts of the capital, even though there were bomb threats and rumours of more violence.

In Otista, East Jakarta, where only last week security forces clashed with rioters who burnt tyres in the middle of the streets and pelted police cars with rocks, most Indonesians headed for the polling booth in the morning to avoid the afternoon rush hour.

Mr Prawito, head of a polling station in a village in Otista, said: “There is a festive atmosphere to the election. It is a family occasion.”

People trickled in with their families to vote for Golkar, PPP or the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).

Mr Prawito said that nearly all the 1,000 adults in the village had cast their votes. “No problems today. People voted in an orderly manner,” he said.

Polling stations closed at 2 pm.

Mr Hendra, a Chinese businessman selling clocks and watches in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, said that many stores closed yesterday to avoid being targeted by looters in the event of rioting. “They are all frightened after some shops were attacked during the election campaign,” he said.

Abri sources said that they did not expect any problems on polling day.

A military officer assigned to monitor election security said: “But the situation could get tense once the results are released in the next few days.”

He said that other than an early morning scare in the city centre when two vehicles were set ablaze, things “appeared normal”. “But I will be working around the clock – just in case.”

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