14 arrested after celebration on Madura triggers riots

INDONESIAN police have arrested 14 people after weekend riots on the island of Madura.

Indonesian armed forces (Abri) spokesman, Brigadier-General Slamet Supriadi, told The Straits Times yesterday that the riot-prone island was calm but security forces were on high alert after disturbances in the town of Bangkalan on Saturday night.

“The situation is under control. We are monitoring the situation very carefully and have arrested 14 people in connection with the riots. We are holding them on criminal charges,” he said.

He said the police were interrogating those arrested to try and determine what triggered the mob violence in the Muslim-populated town, which lies on the western tip of the Indonesian island.

He said a possible reason why hundreds of people rampaged through the town was because they were upset by the noise from celebrations to mark an award for town-cleanliness held too close to the city’s main mosque.

“They went out of control because they thought such actions were offensive to Islam,” he said.

Five people, including a police officer, were injured with knife wounds. Four stores and a local post office were destroyed in the violence. A Buddhist temple and a church were also torched.

BG Slamet said that another explanation for the riots was simmering unhappiness over the recent general election results.

Numerous supporters of the opposition United Development Party (PPP) are said to be unhappy with the results of the election and the way it was carried out in East Java, where the ruling Golkar party claimed victory.

The Bangkalan chapter of the Muslim-oriented PPP had accused local election officials of polls fraud during the May 29 election and refused to sign and endorse the official election results.

Angry PPP supporters had also gone on rampage in the eastern district of Sampang on polling day, when initial results had showed Golkar in the lead.

PPP sources in Bangkalan told The Straits Times yesterday that the celebrations provided an “excuse” for party supporters to vent their frustrations over the election results.

PPP member M. Suhan said the atmosphere in Bangkalan was still very tense with security forces keeping watch.

BG Slamet said that besides Bangkalan, security forces would also monitor other hot-spots on Madura, including Sampang and Sumenep.

Posted in Indonesia