Jakarta ready to evacuate legislators

Armoured cars on standby and 42,000 troops mobilised in anticipation of street protests and clashes next week.

Police have deployed armoured cars to evacuate Indonesian legislators if next week’s parliamentary session turns violent.

Police sources said that the 42,000 troops mobilised for the event were also being stationed at different points in the capital, especially the border of south and north Jakarta where security forces expected supporters of rival groups to enter the city.

“There are indications that there could be problems,” Jakarta police spokesman Anton Bahrul Alam told The Straits Times. “But we are ready for whatever that happens.”

He added that the 90 French-made Renaut VAB and American-made Cadillac-Gage commando armoured personnel carriers were now stationed near the Jakarta National Monument where demonstrations were expected.

But a large number of them were also parked near Parliament to take out the 500 lawmakers if diehard supporters of the Indonesian leader occupied the complex and threatened to burn it down.

Yesterday, a Straits Times check showed a discernible increase in the number of security personnel in the city.

At the parliament complex, hundreds of elite police mobile brigade troops were seen setting up tents across the compound, a sight reminiscent of the days leading up to former President Suharto’s fall.

About 5,000 policemen, armed with automatic rifles and in full riot gear, were also stationed around the presidential palace. Soldiers in trucks could also be seen in the Kuningan business district and at different strategic points of the city.

However, political observers said that the show of force was unlikely to stop street protests and clashes.

For one, given their poor track record so far, there was little guarantee that police personnel would be effective against the rioters.

Several schools were closing for a week and people were keen to stay indoors as D-Day neared.

The Central Bank announced yesterday that it would continue normal operations, even if there were fears that rioters could target the building near the palace in demonstrations.

National assembly chairman Amien Rais, the most vocal critic of the President, intensified his attacks by accusing him of intimidating legislators with the threat of mob violence.

He said that despite this, Parliament would press ahead with a censure vote and that Mr Abdurrahman would be impeached after July.

Most parliamentary factions, including the largest two – the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (PDI-P) and Golkar – have decided to issue a second memorandum against the President, just one step away from impeaching him.

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