Hoarders may face death penalty

Regional Economic CRUNCH

INDONESIANS found guilty of hoarding basic food items could face the death penalty, a senior official has warned, amid riots flaring up in the country over food shortages and rising prices.

When issuing the warning, Mr Barman Zahir of the Attorney-General’s office also said that warehouses would be subjected to stringent new controls to prevent them from stocking food to profit from higher prices at a later date.

“It is a crime to hoard essential goods and we will handle the case directly without waiting for police investigation,” the national Antara news agency quoted him yesterday as saying.

It is against the law to hoard any of the nine staple items, including rice, sugar, salt and cooking oil.

But current laws which banned such a practice only allowed for a maximum penalty of six months’ jail.

Mr Barman said the authorities were now looking at another law which could provide for a lifetime jail term or the death penalty, if hoarding affected the supply of basic commodities.

In the case of food warehouses, he said owners had to inform the Trade and Industry Ministry about their facilities and declare inventories, prices, purchases and sales.

Mr Barman’s comments took place against a backdrop of riots that have erupted in more than 25 towns and cities, because of rising food prices and shortages of staple items.

The hoarding of foodstuff has been cited as one of the triggers for increasing social unrest. Rioters in most cases have targetted shops that they believed were hoarding.

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